Labour leadership asks MPs to 'respect' Margaret Thatcher tributes
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 10 April 2013
Labour MPs have been urged by their party leadership to show “respect and restraint” when the House of Commons discusses Baroness Thatcher’s legacy today.
The message, relayed to Labour backbenchers informally by party whips, reflects the Opposition’s desire not to alienate some voters by overshadowing Conservative tributes to Lady Thatcher by attacking her record so soon after her death on Monday.
Labour frontbenchers have been asked by whips to attend today’s special sitting of Parliament, for which MPs and peers have been recalled from their Easter recess. Labour sources said they expected a “large number” of the party’s MPs to turn up for what would be a major Parliamentary occasion.
But there is no edict to backbenchers to attend and it appears that Labour leaders would rather their MPs stayed away rather than queued up to criticise Lady Thatcher. Labour’s official line was set by Ed Miliband, who said his party disagreed with much of what she did and that she would always remain a controversial figure. But he added that Labour also greatly respected the political achievements and personal strength of someone who “reshaped the politics of a whole generation.”
Mr Miliband acknowledges that she was seen as a divisive figure in the party’s northern heartlands. But he wants his party to show respect for Lady Thatcher’s family so soon after their loss.
Some Labour MPs will remain on holiday or in their constituencies. Ronnie Campbell, a former miner and MP for Blyth Valley, said: “I have got better things to do in the office here, looking after the interests of the people of Blyth Valley than listening to people singing her praises. Some MPs might think it is their duty to be there — I certainly do not. Her legacy here was the destruction of thousands of jobs.
John Mann questioned the spending of taxpayers' money omn recalling Parliament, when tributes could be paid next week. He said Lady Thatcher was a “strong leader” but that her policies were “wholly wrong for the country [and] devastating for former mining communities” like his Bassetlaw constituency in Nottinghamshire. He said he would be working there and would be “at the dentist.”
Mr Miliband joined Tony Blair in criticising celebrations of Lady Thatcher's death. “Even if you disagree with someone very strongly, you can still particularly at the moment of their passing, you should show some respect,“ Mr Blair said. A senior Labour source said: ”Ed Miliband categorically condemns any celebration of Lady Thatcher’s death. As he made clear yesterday she was a huge figure in British politics and on the world stage.”
David Cameron will lead today’s Commons tributes and Mr Miliband will respond before backbenchers are called.
The debate over the Thatcher legacy has already begun. Yesterday Kenneth Clarke, the Minister Without Portfolio who served as a minister under Lady Thatcher, accused both the left and right of peddling “myths” about the former Prime Minister. He said she was “pro-European” but added: “She wasn’t a right-wing ideologue at all, she had lots of incurable old wets like me in the Government.”
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
Earthworms rain down from skies over Norway, puzzling scientists
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...