It was like an Establishment version of the BBC’s crime procedural Ashes To Ashes: David Mellor, David Steel, David Owen, some people who were not called David; Terry Wogan, Joan Collins, F W De Clerk, Norman Tebbit, Shirley Williams, Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine, John Major, Betty Boothroyd, Simon Weston, Peter Carrington. The Eighties were writ large again at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral – appropriate enough given that the old arguments have been rekindled.
Some guests were less obvious: Lech Walesa? Some were notable by their absence: no Hillary Clinton, let alone John Kerry. But, while cameras lingered on Katherine Jenkins, the real story was in the streets. There were scattered, peaceful protests but the Lady’s fans won out. The applause along the route is un-funereal to me, albeit British in its politeness. That applause and “three cheers for Maggie” were not fake.
Meanwhile, in former pit towns in the North, there were Thatcher funeral parties, complete with effigies. The anger and hurt there is as real and honest as the admiration shown in London; yet another manifestation of the ever more divided Britain that is a significant part of her legacy.
The sombre service – despite George Osborne’s unexpected tears – was dignified but not overly emotional, as befits the death of an 87-year-old woman who had been ill for so long.
But her family reclaimed Lady Thatcher in the end. The composed, yet emotional, reading from her 19-year-old granddaughter Amanda, before 3,000 in St Paul’s and millions on television, gave this quasi state funeral a poignant humanity that no politicians’ or journalists’ words could. I am glad Thatcher’s funeral was peaceful and dignified. Let the arguments about her legacy now rage. That is how it should be.