Coffee House

MPs line up to pay respects to – and criticise – Margaret Thatcher

10 April 2013

9:17 AM

10 April 2013

9:17 AM

This afternoon’s tribute debate in the House of Commons will continue until 10pm, with many MPs wanting to pay their respects to Margaret Thatcher. There will be many speeches about how the former Prime Minister inspired and shaped the politics of those speaking. But there will also inevitably be those who want to talk about the negative aspects of her legacy.

Ed Miliband, who gave a measured tribute on Monday, faces the challenge of giving a speech that isn’t insincere but that remains respectful too. Some of his MPs, such as John Healey, who has written a forceful piece for PoliticsHome, are boycotting the event. Others, such as David Winnick, say they will attend and criticise Thatcher. Interestingly, I understand from Labour MPs that their leadership hasn’t been trying to advise any of them on what they should or shouldn’t say in the session. Fortunately George Galloway has decided not to turn up – hardly unusual given the Respect MP’s dismal attendance record, but still a relief.

But part of the success of today’s debate depends not only on respect shown by those on the left but on the patience of those on the right. Not everyone in the Tory party thinks Thatcher was perfect, although they are unlikely to say much about that today. But she was well aware, and proud, that she was someone who divided opinion, and not universally popular. Ever since her death was announced, many have been lying in wait for the first critic to step out of line. It will be tempting today for those who adored Thatcher to shout down criticisms of her legacy. But as Conor Burns suggested on the Today programme this morning, she might have been more dismayed by a Chamber united in praise: after all, she was the politician who said: ‘I love argument. I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me – that’s not their job.’

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    You keep deleting my comments, Spectator. Are you trying to tell me something? No? Well, I’ve got quite a lot to tell you.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    What happened to my restrained comment, Spectator?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    With the broadsheets in lockdown for any comment on Margaret Thatcher, it’s refreshing to see the Spectator facilitating comment. In the Telegraph Blogs from Tom the token Atheist to Thompson the Catholic ferret, absolutely no comment is permitted. Only obeying orders, DT? Point is, whose orders?
    I’m starting to wonder if all the vitriolic hostility from the far left lunatic fringe will back fire. There must be a lot of moderates who are thinking, “I just can’t continue to support this horrible mob”. So will Thatcher’s death and funeral translate to a sudden fall in Labour support? I do hope so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.patriarca Steve Patriarca

    I think it is important to say why Glenda Jackson is so offensive…it is not actually because she is horrid about the Lady…who is past caring .but because what she says is offensive to women – women are only allowed equality on Ms Jackson’s terns….womanhood can only be defined against Ms Jackson’s political beliefs. True equality must mean women can be Tories as well as socialists and they can present themselves as attractive women rather than (let me be polite, Ms Jackson’s approach) without in some way feeling that women have to either sacrifice their feminity or their rights to compete with men…Much the same debate now rages over gay rights..it is not about treating gay hairdressers and Camp Queens as having equal rights, but in establishing the rights of gay men to be footballers or soldiers…and gay women to be mothers should they so wish. Ms Jackson is a genuine old fashioned and unreformed British socialist; she does not believe in equal rights because she confuses equality of opportunity with equality of outcome. As Shaw said – do not treat your neighbour as yourself, their tastes may not be the same.

  • souptonuts

    Glendal Jackson, pathetic.

  • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

    If that worthless little sh*t Bercow isn’t finished after today I will be astonished.

  • David Lindsay

    It’s the Lords debate that I’m looking forward to. All of her bitterest old enemies. And I don’t mean on the Labour benches.

    • Russell

      No doubt if you are ‘looking forward’ to her bitterest enemies speaking against her, you will be attending a celebration party with the other anarchists.

      • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

        Not really, the people she disagreed with in the Tory party have the most interesting stories about her.

    • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

      But they are all people who were raised to have manners.

      • David Lindsay

        Howe is there. Lawson might be. Heseltine probably isn’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were. They don’t need to say anything. The mere sight of them makes their point more than any words ever could.

  • Smithersjones2013

    if anything the last fews days have reminded how much I despise the left for the foul sewer dwellers that they are. Its almost enough to make me vote for Cameron again!

    You can drag the left out of the sewers but you can’t drag the sewer out of the left!

  • http://georgeigler.com/ George Igler

    Fascinating, isn’t it? Criticize gay “marriage” measures which took place this year, or the mass immigration which took place in the last eight years, and you are a backward reactionary, someone permanently living in the past who wants to turn the clock back; a person who just needs “get over it”, “deal with it” and “move on”.

    But Baroness Thatcher dies and the precise same people who say the above, and presumably think that coal is the most dirty and environmentally damaging kind of fossil fuel energy generation which should be eradicated (e.g. Caroline Lucas) can’t help but drone endlessly on about the twenty pits the divisive Maggie wanted to close in the 80s (Labour closed 300 in the 60s); or even more hilariously how as Education Secretary she “stole the milk from our kids” while Education Secretary back in 1971!

    It’s almost as if some people’s supposed commitment to modernity, is just a sham hiding the fact that they can only hope to win an argument, if they get to silence the opinion’s of others by defining what can and cannot be said during debate.

  • BigAl

    Turned off the latest 5Live Pravda report on Mrs T when the left wingers on the programme questioned funeral costs. Perhaps they should look more closely at the extra money Labour provided to the Eu while in office rather than begrudging an ex
    Prime Minister a funeral which is being attended by The Queen. Thatcher never asked for that.

  • Augustus

    Only Thatcher’s harsh reforms extricated Britain from its deep economic crisis
    of the 1970s. How had the country’s economy declined to such a sorry
    state? This was an economy where unions launched strikes at the drop of a hat.
    Everything had been nationalized and the state paid a salary to a large part of the population. Thatcher projected determination and power, combined with the elegance of a true
    British lady. Her reforms were bitter medicine that had to be swallowed. Ultimately, they saved Britain’s
    economy and allowed it to thrive. Thatcher’s legacy is about doing the right thing, not
    balking, and keeping one’s eye on the horizon when steering a large ship like the
    national economy. Once again, today, we need men and women of steel, not socialists who are red and mushy, like soft tomatoes.

  • Daviejohn

    Time the BBC was sold off and broken up, the service is a disgrace,it no longer represents me.

    • panfacedave

      well isn’t that a shame, i’m sure the bbc will be heatbroken

  • Hexhamgeezer

    We can let the left and the Beeb label Mrs T as divisive but lets look forward to the death of T Blair Esq – an event which will unite us all in street parties throughout the land.

    • Russell

      I detest Brown and Blair, but would not stoop as low as to ‘celebrate’ their death and throw a party like the police estimated 800 low lifes across the UK.

    • panfacedave

      don’t be silly. cameron the toerag will most likely give blair a state funeral

      • David Lindsay

        Blair will only turn 60 next month. Somehow, I doubt that he will be dead within the following two years.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          We can but hope.

  • A-Polly-Tickle

    Speaking as someone who grew up in another Lincolnshire town, I never did like her. Like all politicians, her legacy is mixed. The Falklands War had to happen once the Argentine troops occupied the islands. The excessive union power had to be dealt with, although I’m sure her confrontational stance, although ultimately effective, was most unwise. We are still paying for it. Her later stance on the creeping EU powers over former nation states was good, though far too late. And we are still living with the consequences of having virtually no British owned manufacturing industry, and relying way, way too heavily on the city of London. She saved this country? Well, she saved the country for SOME people. Not me.

    • Barakzai

      ”The Falklands War had to happen once the Argentine troops occupied the islands.”

      Completely wrong.

      • Colin

        We should have just asked them nicely, to leave. I’m sure they’d have complied.

        • Barakzai

          You miss my point, which is that there was nothing inevitable – as A-P-P suggests – of our fighting a war to recover the islands.

          Had someone other than Margaret Thatcher been in No 10 in 1982 we might have chosen to negotiate the Falklands away through the egregious Al Haig’s shuttle diplomacy.

    • Russell

      Do you really mean “we are still paying for it” wrt the miners? You mean it is preferable to have thousands of miners suffering lung disease and dying early to mine coal which costs far more than open cast coal shipped from Australia?
      Do you mean it is preferable for taxpayers to subsidise a totally rubbish car manufacturer like British Leyland who were on strike every other week and produced cars which nobody wanted?

      • Davey4Lyfe

        do you mean its preferable to take away thousands of jobs, creating mass unemployment and a large benefits bill, destroying communities and lives?

        • Russell

          Taxpayer subsidised ‘jobs’ are not jobs, they are just an expensive means of keeping unemployed people occupied. Thankfully the majority in this country are not IQ2’s, and see jobs as doing productive work for companies which make a profit and pay taxes, actually reducing the burden on the taxpayers, (providing a safety net for people out of work and on hard times and paying for the benefits bill..

          • JamesdelaMare

            Russell – jobs are jobs and incomes are incomes, whoever pays for them. Money is intended to circulate and people mostly prefer to have jobs which make them feel useful, rather than remain idle. Many business ventures have very limited (or no) usefulness in terms of the waste they create, the “demand” they absurdly ratchet up, and the divisions they create in society. There was a time a couple of centuries ago when trying to “make money” from others by trade and speculation wasn’t considered a desirable way to spend a lifetime (and Jews were considered offenders) but now it’s probably gone too far the other way for our own good – or for humanity’s eventual survival. Greed is insatiable. Few businesses can live without it.

      • telemachus

        So the Tories gave BL to the Krauts to run into the ground

    • JamesdelaMare

      APTickle – Really the only sensible, balanced, non-party political, objective comment on here so far. Thank you. The rest are regrettably part of the same sort of obsequious direction that the Telegraph’s owners and the Mail’s readers want to hear – and which bear no relation at all to anything but unscrupulously using her death to bolster up the illusion that Conservatism is good for this country in its present form. It hasn’t been good for this country since we gave way at Suez 55 years ago and disposed of Imperial assets and public assets (as well as private assets) like confetti for years afterwards.

      The late Lady Thatcher was divisive. Deeply divisive, and there’s no point whatsoever in commenters here slagging off the BBC for saying so. The BBC does have shrewd, well educated staff on Radios 3 and 4, and is thankfully a very welcome alternative to the junk broadcasting of the commercial channels. It is the limitation of its critics that its quality is not appreciated by them.

      She was also a limited woman compared (as she is often compared) to Churchill. There is no real comparison. Look at Churchill’s life and abilities. His travels in southern Africa as a young man, a journalist, prisoner, army officer. Then MP, Home Secretary before 1914, running the Navy and an army officer in the trenches during the Great War, and afterwards other posts in government and his historical writings, and warnings of a resurgent Germany. Then his leadership, not of a minor campaign of a few weeks over some islands, but leading whole nations in a vast global, lethal struggle for survival for six years. Mrs Thatcher, a chemist, worked on ice cream before she took to politics and then was responsible for some of the worst social and financial divisions the county has been for a century.

      For many of us traditional Conservatives (as I am over a 60 year period), that sycophancy was no way to go, this is no way to hype up and exaggerate her reputation. It is no way to pretend she was a specially valuable member of the political class. It can only be done, perhaps, because among pygmies, a normal person is a giant.

      • A-Polly-Tickle

        And may I say, James, a very well considered response from yourself, too.
        Yes, Churchill was probably our last, truly great, politician. Mrs Thatcher served longer but how can we compare her to him? Heaven knows we could do with someone with his leadership qualities today, not for fighting wars perhaps, but for doing the right thing. Churchill was far from being infallible, he made mistakes – but he had vision. We are lacking true vision and common sense. Where are our leaders?

      • toco10

        If you really are an old fashioned Conservative with over 60 years experience your inept and crude assessment of Lady Thatcher suggests that perhaps you should refrain from voicing your unsafe and delusional views with immediate effect to avoid embarrassing yourself further.Methinks however you are a disgruntled and embittered failed socialist like Kinnock or Livingstone.

        • JamesdelaMare

          Toco10 – I don’t usually bother to reply to the very, very few absurd personal attacks on me such as yours, but I shall on this occasion correct you. I’m not a socialist, embittered or any other kind. I am always, when commenting on Spectator articles or any others, careful to be accurate, objective and fair. Unlike others who hide away behind codenames, I always comment openly under my own identity – which is of course the correct thing to do, as it always has been in writing letters to newspapers. I’ve been in and around Westminster and conservative politics for a very long time (as is well known to many people) and there’s no justification whatsoever for trying to pretend I have “unsafe and delusional views” – whatever that’s supposed to mean.

          • toco10

            I suggest you read your piece again and then check out the definitions of ‘unsafe’ and ‘delusional’ in your dictionary before lecturing others on behavioural matters and boasting about your ‘apparent’ credentials.

            • JamesdelaMare

              Toco10 – Every time you put up some offensive personal comment here, it seem to exemplify precisely the intransigence and reasons why modern Conservatism is so deeply detested around the country. Even to the extent, thirty years after Thatcher, that Cameron couldn’t win a General election in the most favourable circumstances.

              I wrote about comparing Lady Thatcher to Churchill. I don’t think anything I said about Churchill was incorrect and the huge obvious difference between the value and quality of them remains. Her death, while inevitable, cannot possibly be regarded as a suitable occasion for so much media and political overstatement.

              • toco10

                You really are terribly confused but if you believe attempting to pompously lecture others to conceal your shortcomings aids your case then you are indulging in gross self deception.

      • David Lindsay

        Well said. Although he was less directly involved in the changes than she was in hers (in fact, he did not much care at all for several of them), Britain changed just as much under Harold Wilson as it did under Margaret Thatcher. And Ted Heath took Britain into Europe, a colossal change in the national character. There is simply no need or excuse for any of this fuss. At public expense, of course. Like Ayn Rand ending up on welfare.

        • JamesdelaMare

          David – Yes, most true. Good comment, but they’ve got a lot of readers on here (as in the Telegraph and Mail now) that hardly understand that others have changed things too, but that in time changes are watered down or destroyed by others trying to make their own mark on political life later on. Probably the biggest changes of all (far greater than Thatcher’s) were made by Attlee long before most of these commenters were probably alive!

          • David Lindsay

            Oh, I don’t know. He didn’t leave office until 1951. 62 years is but the blinking of an eye to anyone who thinks that those dancing in the streets (as they ought not to be doing) must all have been born after 1990.

    • Makroon

      You were doing OK until you started repeating the myths about the economy ….

    • http://twitter.com/heraclesblack Heracles Black

      So, she got rid of manufacturing, expanded the City, brought money from the EU, recovered the Falklands and gave up Hong-Kong.

  • Barakzai

    On the subject of overpaid newsreaders, I’m always relieved when we’re spared the sententious, lip-curling Huw Edwards at 10pm. I’d be interested to know why he’s the BBC’s ”star” presenter. Presumably, it’s because he’s considered the most Dimbleby-esque? Doubtless, we’ll have Edwards ‘anchoring’ commentary on the funeral. Incidentally, sending him to Rome for five minutes to pronounce, live (as if that buzzword appearing on the screen bestows any additional authenticity to mere factual statements), that Pope Benedict had retired was an unforgivable waste of money. On radio, it’s not only Mair who doesn’t disguise his leftiness; Naughtie has never done so either, but as he’s incapable of giving a time-check twice in succession without cocking it up I never take him seriously anyway.

    • Makroon

      I like Huw Edwards, (I think his Welsh accent makes him sound a bit ‘sententious’).
      His “History of Wales” was a good, informative, and nicely informal, piece of television, on a part of the UK, about which we should know more – much better than the witterings of Marr, the Dimbledroids, or Paxman.

    • James Strong

      The best comment I’ve heard about all this came from John Mann, a Labour MP.
      He said that the taxpayer should not pay for the funeral of a politician.
      And, in anticipation of ‘down’ votes for this comment, and my comment above I would bet that I am more right-wing than 90% of commenters here since I want to see a much smaller state, much less state spending and absolutely no veneration of politicians. Courtesy and respect ,yes. Deference and adulation, no.
      And deal in facts. When the BBC doesn’t present things as you would that does not, immediately meanh that the BBC is biased.
      I renew a challenge I’ve put out before: quotations and timings. Stoking the fires by commenters coming on here screeaming about BBC bias is not evidence. Quotations and timings, please.
      And I don’t think you can do it.
      Last time I issued this challenge I was told to find out for myself; well I’m not going to.Those who make the claim can provide the evidence.

      • Barakzai

        That’s the same Naughtie who said ‘we’ when interviewing Balls back in 2005. If you’ve forgotten, then look up the details yourself.

        “I would bet that I am more right-wing than 90% . . . ” That sounds like a variation of the stock socialist expostulation ‘I’ve always voted Tory, but . . .’

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘But there will also inevitably be those who want to talk about the negative aspects of her legacy’

    I’m sure you do Ms H. Get on with it.

    • telemachus

      Disingenuous
      Isabel highlighted mealy mouthed John Healey
      “Cameron is using the Commons as a warm-up act to the ceremonial funeral next Wednesday, complete with gun carriage, military procession and service at St Paul’s. It’s a full-scale state funeral in all but name when only one ex-Prime Minister in the last 100 years has been accorded such national honour and respect – Winston Churchill.”
      It is a time to venerate this hero while highlighting the defects

  • kyalami

    The Beeb constantly claim she was a “divisive” figure. It would appear nothing else matters.

    • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

      It only because none of the people who write the autocue can understand the difference between “divisive” and “polarising”

  • toco10

    The criticisms of the BBC’s coverage of Lady Thatcher’s life and achievements are well founded but the socialist and left wing bias is only to be expected.Giving extended coverage to embittered losers like Kinnock and Red Ken Livingstone to voice their warped opinions is a disgrace.Those tax avoiding news hacks who use limited companies to avoid contributions the rest of us are obliged to pay should be exposed for what they are-biased,shallow and mean minded individuals.

    • Russell

      Almost every news broadcast started with ‘The Divisive Margaret Thatcher’ as if what the bbc say is fact. Many millions do not think she was divisive, albeit many labour supporters disagreed with her views and the policies she introduced.
      The bbc is disgraceful with non stop interviews with anarchists singing hate songs at celebratory ‘parties’, trade union representatives, mining village critics etc. Totally unbalanced reporting again. Labour governments closed pits,labour oversaw chronic nationalised services and companies like British Leyland but the bbc do not report that they were divisive!
      Time for this government to really get a grip and sell off the bbc.

      • Makroon

        But Margaret Thatcher WAS highly “divisive”.
        Like Churchill, she caused ‘collateral damage’ and made some mistakes.
        Also like Churchill, she won nearly all of the key arguments.
        Again, like Churchill, her overall achievement was vastly greater than that of any of her detractors.
        The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
        My issue with the news coverage is that the “detractors” get far too much air time, given that they were wrong on nearly every count – they are basically bitter old losers or silly, ignorant, attention-seeking kids.

        • Russell

          I would argue that it was the Unions and Labour who were divisive, not the 3 times majority elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

          • martinvickers

            Russell, it doesn’t help the believability of your argument when you tell easily verifiable porkies.

            Margaret had three large commons majorities. but she was never ‘majority elected’ – 43.9% in 79, 42.4% in 83 and 42.2% in 87 – pluralities, rather than majorities, in all three.

            • Russell

              As you well know she won convincing majorities over the other political parties having a significant majority of MP’s than all of them together.
              And a lot more votes had to be won to elect conservative MP’s than Labour MP’s.
              The electoral system here doesn’t require more than 50% as you well know.

              • martinvickers

                Of course I know those things. Doesn’t change the fact she was never ‘majority elected’. If you meant something else, you should have said something else.

      • James Strong

        This is nonsense.
        Whether you are a fan of Baroness Thatcher or not, it is ludictous, and I respectfully suggest, sir, dishonest, to deny that she was divisive.
        What were the riots in Brixton and Toxteth, among other places, evidence of?
        Do you remember the miners’ strike. Where I was in South Wales there were collections for food oputside major supermarkets for miners’ families and they were supported. In most of southern England voters sided with the government, not the NUM. You should already know that and if you don’t remember it you can research it.
        Why has the song about ‘The Witch Is Dead’ sold so many units so soon?
        Of course she was divisive. It is unlikely that she herself would have denied it.
        So tell me why the BBC shouldn’t describe her as such. And you being approving of her policies is not sufficient reason to deny the facts.

        • Russell

          The riots in Brixton and Toxteth were evidence of badly educated out of control scum/criminals looting shops and carrying out mindless violence. Some of those scum from well heeled households.
          How many pits did labour close down? Answer that and compare to how many were closed under Mrs Thatcher!
          The pits were closed as they were uneconomic the same as British Rail/British Airways/British leyland and all the other basket case Nationalised services/manufacturers.
          It is the labour party and the loony left that is divisive as can be seen by the disgraceful scenes by 800 (out of a population of over 60million) across the Uk, instigated by anarchists.
          And you being against her policies is not sufficient reason to call her divisive.

    • GUBU

      To be fair, it’s not just the Beeb who have taken up this theme. Yesterday afternoon, I endured the spectacle of the utterly inept Kay Burleigh on Sky News failing to challenge Bea Campbell’s assertion that Thatcher was anti wimmin – judging by her clothes Campbell is not just just a writer and feminist activist but also earns a few quid as part of a Flock of Seagulls tribute act.

      • Russell

        Nothing fair about it. Sky has become almost as anti Conservative as the bbc since Leveson, obviously Murdochs revenge against Cameron for calling for Leveson.

        • telemachus

          Difficult is it not
          All the media are attacking the coalition
          Could that be because they are pursuing the wrong policies for the country

        • Makroon

          It is painfully obvious (emphasised by Murdoch’s fulsome tribute to Margaret Thatcher), that (minority shareholder 39%) News Corp, has very little to no influence on Sky. The news output is run by Sophie Turner Laing and her pet Kay Burley.

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