Where there has been discord, Mrs Thatcher’s funeral brought harmony. From my seat in the gods at St. Paul’s, I watched as Westminster’s lesser mortals gathered in front of the altar to shoot the breeze in the hour before Lady Thatcher’s coffin arrived.
Gordon and Sarah Brown were first to arrive. They plonked themselves down, but soon jumped up to chat to a passer-by. Quick as a flash, Ed Miliband and his wife Justine pinched the Browns’ vacated chairs. Time rolled by, and Miliband found it impossible to shake the shadow of his old master as he walked around the nave. How’s that for art imitating life?
The pews soon filled up with cabinet ministers. Some debonair souls had donned full tails, while the class warriors, like Ken Clarke and Chris Grayling, wore suits and dodgy shirt tie combinations. Mrs Miliband chatted politely to Miriam Clegg and Gordon, while Mr Miliband braved Cherie Blair. Tony was not to be seen at this point; presumably he was handing out business cards in the area reserved for foreign dignitaries.
The closer you are to power, the higher your real-estate value: so Lord Ashcroft broke his talk with William Hague to pursue Ed Miliband. The Labour leader was shy; but Ashcroft, the billionaire politico, knows a likely future prime minister when he sees one, and he didn’t give up easily.
Then the Prime Minister and his wife Samantha pitched up, and the circus diverted its attention to them. John Major and Cherie Blair offered salutations, and out popped a hot hand from Tony. Cameron gave a friendly nod to Miliband, Clegg and the rest of the gang. Then his eyes met Gordon’s. There was a pause. We happy few in the balcony drew our breath. After a period in which all those bitter memories were doubtless relived in Gordon’s enormous mind, his great clunking fist was extended for a cold and heavy reunion with his successor.
In death, Maggie can hardly be called divisive.
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