Margaret Thatcher funeral: Procession passes Downing Street

 

In life she was a symbol of this small but significant London location and now, in death, Baroness Thatcher passed Downing Street for the last time today.

It was here - following in the footsteps of Walpole and Pitt and Gladstone and Churchill - that she tasted triumph, and finally disaster, during 11 tumultuous years.

Now, as crowds clapped in polite applause on a chilly, grey April day, Lady Thatcher's flower-and-flag draped coffin was driven past the entrance to Downing Street and up Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square and, finally, St Paul's.

Some watching the procession working its way up Whitehall, like 19-year-old Edinburgh University students Jake Pearson, Geetika Raman and Hayley Keon were not even born on that famous day of May 4 1979 when the Grantham grocer's daughter stood on the steps outside number 10 and quoted St Francis of Assisi.

Others looking on such as Trevor Fearon, 83, and his wife, Doreen, 85, had lived through all the Thatcher political years and for nearly all the former prime minister's life.

The Fearons, from West Kensington in London, had arrived more than three hours before the funeral procession started.

They would certainly have had good memories of that May 1979 day.

Mrs Thatcher had just beaten Jim Callaghan's Labour to take the Tories to victory.

Now, preparing to go inside number 10 for the first time as Prime Minister, she said: "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.

"Where there is error, may we bring truth.

"Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.

"And where there is despair, may we bring hope."

Going inside she said: "There is now work to be done."

Just under four years later, Mrs Thatcher was standing outside number 10 with her Defence Secretary John Knott.

The date was April 25 1982 and UK forces had just retaken South Georgia in the Falklands War.

When one of the journalists started to ask a question, Mrs Thatcher had, famously, cut him short with a reminder of the military victory.

"Just rejoice at that news," she said.

It was here that she was to return - again in triumph - after routing Michael Foot's Labour Party in the General Election of May 1983.

Then, nearly two years later, as journalists shivered in the February cold, she ushered the media inside to give them her thoughts on completing 10 years as Tory leader.

The successes celebrated in Downing Street were to go on.

In June 1987, Mrs Thatcher was able to stand outside number 10 to take the plaudits after another crushing General Election victory.

Within months she was addressing the Press again in Downing Street, with January 3 1988 marking the day she became Britain's longest-serving 20th century prime minister.

By May 1989 she was chalking up 10 years as prime minister.

The same year, she had emerged from Number 10 to declare, somewhat regally, "We have become a grandmother" when her son Mark's own son, Michael, was born.

And it was here that her final, tragic last Downing Street act was played out on November 28 1990.

Accepting she could not win a Tory leadership battle, Mrs Thatcher blinked back the tears as she quit Number 10 after what she described as "11 wonderful years".

Having triumphed three times at the polls she was finally brought down by those on her own side of the House.

On that November day, she said goodbye to Downing Street and today almost a quarter of a century on, the crowds in Whitehall gathered to say goodbye to her.

PA

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