Since learning her name, I have been trying to establish some true feelings for Margaret Thatcher. As a baby born in her final year as Prime Minister, I grew up knowing very little of her other than seeing Spitting Image do that parody with those puppets when I was allowed to stay up some nights.
A few months back, I watched The Iron Lady. (I know, it’s annoying when people think they know everything because they’ve watched the film…) As I watched it, I felt like I was supposed to hate her, and yet all I actually felt was admiration and sympathy. “But I’m meant to think that she was a despicable woman…”, so I started to do some proper research.
I very quickly discovered that it’s impossible to find an unbiased account of her time at Number 10, so I tried to form my own confused opinion. Yes, sure, she caused lots of miners to become unemployed, but she helped people to own their own homes. But she stopped the kids milk, yes, but then she was the first and only woman to politically lead this country in a world full of men. But…
I couldn’t draw a realistic conclusion. And then she died. And I was devastated.
I’m not sure where it all came from, but all I could think of was the heroic way that she had strived as such a strong woman. She was a wife, a mother and so very committed to her work, everything that I hope to be, how could I not admire her?
Without a moment’s consideration, I decided that I would go to her funeral. As I left the subway of Bank tube station, I was met with silent, empty streets, with the odd policeman or office worker running across the road. I’d expected huge crowds, to struggle to make it to the cathedral, to be frustrated with the masses, and instead I was saddened by that lack of welcome that Mrs Thatcher was to receive just an hour later.
On I went, passing the cafes with special deals on teas and coffees to supply the grieving troops with hot beverages on this chilly April morning. It wasn’t until I arrived at St Paul’s Churchyard did I start to see the numbers that I was expecting. But it was full of protesters dressed as corpses in coffins promising police that they weren’t there to cause trouble, and tourists referring to our former PM as ‘Mrs Hatcher’. Where were all the mourners?
I managed to get a spot right at the front, to the side of the cathedral, in between an American couple and a sneezy Japanese woman. Holding their phones, video cameras, even voice recorders, the atmosphere was detached, it felt like we were all waiting for a parade or something, not the arrival of a dead political leader. “Oooh, look, it’s Tony Blair! Quick, take a picture, you used to love him!”
Fifteen minutes before the service was due to start, the crowds began to build up with local office workers and old women with the power to dropkick the youth in order to get to the front barrier, people who seemed to be actual mourners.
And then the Queen arrived. Ah, the Queen! And she fixed the whole thing. Suddenly a roar of applause and cheers erupted as thousands sang along with the band playing God Save the Queen. And there was that feeling I had been expecting. Such unity.
But there’s always one to ruin it as protesters kicked off in the crowd behind me and paramedics were called. Tuts and huffs exclaimed as it started to lightly rain. How bloody British is this, I thought.
And then, from across the crowd fell silence, and there she was, Mrs Thatcher, being brought to the cathedral with this wonderful procession of horses and carriages and a band playing the Funeral March. The crowds began to cheer and applaud and everything felt so warm. There was a truly amazing feeling of love and respect that I found totally overwhelming.
As the hordes of people there to pay their final respects cheered, I just couldn’t help but think of this woman as a wonder.
After all, what woman since then has shown such power and strength in our political parties, or in fact any part of our world? She proved that women can be what they want and that no man can stand in the way of that. And yes, there were flaws in her plans and I understand the grievances of those affected, but I simply can’t hate a person who stirred such a feeling of respect and admiration inside me. To those who loved her, I’m with you.