Matthew Norman on Monday: Introducing Maggie - the consensual PM

Francis Maude gave a contender for the Most Balanced Thatcher eulogy this weekend. Plus, why Lady T was an (almost) total supporter of democracy

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The Independent Online

A frantic weekend leaves the race for Best Balanced And Most Credible Thatcher Eulogy wide open. Two days before the ceremony in St Paul’s, funeral supremo Francis Maude is installed as 11-4 favourite after a typically versatile cameo on Dermot Murnaghan’s sabbath show, on Sky News. Smiling a little twitchily when reminded that he was the first ultra-loyalist to tell her to resign, Frankie claimed that rather than sticking in the first blade in that Orient Express-style political murder, he had a duty to speak the God’s honest.

He then underscored his devotion to the simple truth by lauding the one aspect of the Thatcher persona on which everyone, from eulogist to “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” downloader, may agree. We are a more socially-liberal nation today, he said, thanks to her. “She was not someone who was censorious,” he posited of the late Section 28 champion, “or intolerant. She was broad-minded and respectful of the way people wanted to live their lives.” Yes, yes, yes. If one trait stands out, it is her pathological distaste for hectoring others about how to conduct themselves. Margaret Thatcher, The Please Yourselves PM... now there’s a legend, borrowed from an earlier comic hero called Frankie, for Mr Maude to consider if he is asked to oversee a statue for the fourth Trafalgar Square plinth over kitchen supper in No 10.

A very liberal democrat

Paddy Ashdown  was quick to throw down the gauntlet, meanwhile, popping up on the programme moments later to opine that Lady T would be the last person to oppose protests at the funeral, since lawful protest is a sovereign democratic right. “I am absolutely clear,” he insisted, “that she was an utter and total supporter of democracy.” As he spoke these wise words, you could hear the roar of approval in Santiago, as Chileans recalled the expression of democratic will (the CIA-orchestrated military coup of 1973) that replaced the democratically elected Salvador Allende with the cuddly General Pinochet.

Only someone with Paddy’s rich experience of foreign affairs could fully comprehend that Mrs Thatcher was never a more utter and total supporter of democracy than in her adoring friendship with the dictator, with whom she took tea while he was under house arrest on the Wentworth estate.

Tricky Dicky, a friend to the very last

While we can discount the possibility that Paddy’s contribution was influenced by perception-altering drugs, doubts centre on a commentator from across the ocean. Has Louise Mensch, so admirably frank about her youthful appetite for Class As, slipped off the wagon since leaving us to spend more time with her media career in New York? “Here in America,” wrote the Sun on Sunday columnist, “Sun readers would have been heartened to see the wall-to-wall news coverage. Every living President paid tribute.” Well, you’d expect no less. But do go on. “Richard Nixon, George Bush one and two, and Bill Clinton added their respects.”  Sweet of them all to take the trouble, but particularly in the case of Nixon, who must have come through from the other side having died in 1994. I am very worried about Louise, and plan to fly to the Big Apple within days to rally her friends. An urgent intervention seems required.

Of tits and taboos

Elsewhere in the Sun came a long-awaited breakthrough when pectoral slang was finally stripped of its sanitary asterisk. Until now, even when it appeared within millimetres of a picture of the real thing, the styling was invariably “t*ts”. Yesterday a headline, referring to Sharon Osbourne’s marital relations since cosmetic surgery, ran “Ozzy Is Getting On My New Tits”. Already we see the effects on public morality of Lady Thatcher’s passing. However uncensorious she was, would Rupert Murdoch have countenanced such an outrage while  she lived?


The suggestion in last week’s column that Petronella Wyatt had been paid £35,000 to model some underwear in the Mail was misplaced.  My apologies.