LONDON (Reuters) – Plans for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral turned into a security headache and a national talking point on Wednesday as the former prime minister divided Britain in death as she did in life.
Parties in several cities to celebrate the conservative politician’s death on Monday ended in arrests and newspapers reported police may pre-emptively arrest known trouble-makers before they travel to her funeral next week.
Codenamed “Operation True Blue”, the ceremonial funeral with military honours on Wednesday will begin with a procession through central London to a service at Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
In a break with protocol marking Thatcher’s exceptional stature, The Queen and her husband Prince Philip will attend. The last time the monarch attended a prime minister’s funeral was when Winston Churchill died in 1965.
But many opposed to Thatcher’s free-market ideology say she was too divisive a figure to be sent off in a style usually reserved for royals like Princess Diana or the Queen Mother.
“Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she’d have wanted,” said filmmaker Ken Loach, whose movies denounce the impact of Thatcher’s policies on working class communities.
Members of the public launched an e-petition on a government website calling for the funeral to be privatised as “an ideal way to cut government expense and further prove the merits of liberalised economics Baroness Thatcher spearheaded”.
The petition gathered close to 34,000 signatures before it was shut down without explanation on Wednesday morning.
Left-leaning tabloid the Daily Mirror denounced the cost to taxpayers of what it called “the 10-million-pound goodbye”. Downing Street said the figure was “pure speculation” and the cost of the funeral would be published after the event.
“THE WITCH IS DEAD”
The Daily Telegraph, a right-wing paper that was among the most reverential in its coverage, said it shut down internet comments on Thatcher stories due to “foul abuse”.