HUER’S CALL BY MIKE SAGAR-FENTON: Only one way a state burial for Thatcher can be justified
Does it matter how we deal with our famous dead?
How, for example, should we deal with the remains of the last Plantagenet King of England, Richard III? There's still some question as to whether the long-hidden secret of the Leicester car park is the real thing, but there's more evidence for its authenticity than for many of the reported deeds of Richard's lifetime.
Historians and amateur enthusiasts still argue passionately whether he was Shakespeare's villain or one of the most maligned characters in royal history. I stand firmly in the second camp, and like many others regard the outcome of Bosworth as a tragedy. The Tudors hated Cornwall and the feeling was entirely mutual. Three times the Cornish took up arms against them – the An Gof rebellion, the attempt to replace Henry VII with Perkin Warbeck, and the bloody Prayer Book Rebellion, which was repressed with such savagery it took Cornwall another 100 years to recover (and has consequences even to this day).
The Richard III issue is too divisive for any consensus after so long, but I hope that Francis Bacon's saying which inspired one of the best books on the subject will prevail, that "Truth is the daughter of time", and that proper honour will attend the last resting place of one of England's better kings.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
However, and not wishing to anticipate the event, the next time we are likely to be summoned to a state (as opposed to a Royal) funeral will be for an equally controversial leader. A huge rumble of suppressed anger ran through the country when it was announced that Gordon Brown and the Royal Family had agreed to bestow this honour on Margaret Thatcher. It was a decision made without any public consultation, and almost without precedent. Harold Macmillan was buried quietly in a Sussex churchyard after a family service. Edward Heath had a standard public funeral in Salisbury Cathedral, in whose grounds he had lived. Harold Wilson, as many of us remember, had a moving but modest procession to his final resting place in the Isles of Scilly he loved so well. Only Winston Churchill, of all 20th-century Prime Ministers, had a state funeral, a farewell gesture full of genuine mourning and gratitude and begrudged by nobody.
Mrs Thatcher warrants equal treatment, as far as anyone has been told, for being the first woman Prime Minister and for her achievements in office. The first point is undeniable and is a splendid milestone. But her achievements in office? Journalistic balance demands that I put the case: breaking the stranglehold of the Trade Unions, hauling Britain away from the post-industrial gloom to a 'modern' future, the Falklands War. A short enough list to be worthy of state honours, and none of it uncontroversial. On the other hand I see her legacy on the news almost every night. Tenants facing eviction from what's left of social housing, the enormous waiting list caused by the disposal of council housing which once bridged the gap between homelessness and private property. The latest crisis in the NHS? Mrs Thatcher pioneered its break-up with the pretence that each hospital and each doctor could function as some sort of discrete private business, the first of many disastrous reorganisations. The Libor scandal? She was first to the opinion that what financial speculators really needed was removal of the regulations that kept their greed and irresponsibility under control. Our industrial base? Starved of support and investment, thrown away. She certainly turned the tide by inspiring the creed that only private enterprise could run things efficiently and that it would develop a public conscience to protect those for whose welfare the government is responsible. The ruins of that notion are all around us.
"There is no such thing as society," that self-fulfilling prophecy. And so much more.
Perhaps the true justification for a state funeral lies in comparison with the other 20th-century recipients. Before Churchill they numbered Lord Carson, the Ulster Unionist firebrand who excluded the six counties of Ulster from Irish home rule; Earl Haig, who sent millions to a pointless death in the First World War; and Lord Roberts of Kabul and Kandahar, whose legacy, like the others, still poisons the air. Perhaps after all she deserves her place in such a pantheon. Truth is indeed the daughter of time.