At four o’clock this morning the ‘royal’ bit of London rattled discreetly to the sound of sabres as the Household Cavalry gave Baroness Thatcher’s funeral a ‘dry run’ (with strict instructions, one assumes, to bring her back when they were finished). The real deal comes up on Wednesday.
Margaret Thatcher wasn’t everyone’s idea of a Prime Minister – her passing has excited the indecent to demonstrate their loathing indecently. The ‘Socialist Worker’ announced her passing with a one-word banner headline: ‘Rejoice’. Certain individuals loosely answering the description of ‘people’ were filmed stamping upon her photograph. ‘Ding,Dong, the Witch is Dead’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has reached number two in the charts.
Now personally I couldn’t applaud those things. Respect for the dead, no matter what you privately think of them, is something I was taught: whether for or against her, I would prefer to think she was treated with dignity. The trouble is, the dignity bit has rather gone overboard. A funeral with military honours on the face of it would seem appropriate (at 11 years the longest-serving 20th Century Prime Minister, the leader at the time of the Falklands Expeditionary Force, etc.), were it not for the British obsession with pomp, which turns these solemn occasions into something of a tourist attraction.
Which also raises problems of security, folks, but it’s all right. As a sign of dissent it’s OK to turn your back as the cortège passes, the police have announced. You won’t get arrested for doing that. Ah, the land of the free! It makes me wonder what you could get arrested for – is it alright to buy ice creams, wear a Labour Party rosette, or sing ‘The Red Flag’? I suppose we get the freedom the worst of us deserve, don’t we?