Today parts of London will come to a standstill as the casket of Margaret Thatcher makes its way around the capital en route to a ceremonial funeral at St Paul’s, its journey facilitated by some 4,000 police officers and £10million of taxpayers’ money.
At a time when David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith preside over austerity politics that will see thousands of families go hungry, and working disabled people pushed out of work by PIP reforms just as those incapable of work are pushed into it, all in the name of saving money, you'd be forgiven for thinking we might just have something better to spend £10million on.
Of course, it wouldn’t begin to place a fiscal sticky plaster on the gaping estimated £95billion a year lost due to the tax evasion and avoidance of the wealthy, but let’s face it, not much will.
It could pay the salaries of 465 student nurses for one year, on an average salary of £21,500, or 320 teachers, on an average salary of £31,185. People who actually make a difference to the day to day wellbeing of sick people and children, people who are being consistently disregarded and pushed out of work as the Coalition privatises and downsizes vital services.
£10million could build local authority flats and houses for those who will be displaced by the Bedroom Tax. In Newcastle, there are 50 one-bed properties available for an overwhelming 7,000 tenants who are being forced to seek smaller homes. Of course, some might say that the mass selling-off of local authority property and the chipping-away effect of the right-to-buy scheme are at least partly responsible for this lack in the first place. They’d be right, too.
At 49p a pint, you could buy 20,408,163 pints of milk from any leading supermarket. That’s a lot of milk.
Thatcher was a working class girl done good, rising above humble (but not as humble as Tory mythology would have us believe) roots to attend Oxford. At £9,000 a year, university fees discourage poor young people from applying, stopping their education short and keeping them from challenging the status quo. £10million could pay for 370 3-year degree courses.
Dying as she did in a bed at The Ritz, with access to the best private health care available, Thatcher didn’t have to rely on the NHS (and that’s probably for the best, seeing as she hated it). But what about stroke survivors who do rely on NHS treatment? It can cost the taxpayer £30,000 to support and rehabilitate a stroke survivor for five years. £10million could support 333 survivors.
Though Thatcher’s thoughts on feminism were hardly favourable, surely she didn’t just completely hate women? £10.5million was given to Rape Crisis last year to spend over a period of three years. The government spends approximately £7million a year on helping victims of domestic violence. Feminism might have been “poison” to Thatcher, but surely even she could have seen how spending more on one day for her than in a whole year for countless abused women, is far more toxic?
Thatcher’s funeral will be lavish and bombastic, and in sharp contrast to Aneurin Bevan’s quiet, family-and-friends funeral in the 60s. Bevan built the NHS, a building block of our society. Thatcher didn’t believe in society, and yet here it is, paying for her funeral to be the most lavish since Churchill’s. She sought to dismantle the state, and the state is paying to celebrate her while her legacy continues to kill the poor and fill the coffers of the wealthy.
With £10million burning a hole in your pocket, you could certainly throw one hell of a tasteless, themed Thatcher death party. Why, you could hire military troops to march about firing weapons in a public place. You could pay a bunch of policemen to harass and intimidate anyone who dares raise a voice of dissent. You could probably hire Thatcher’s “proudest achievement” Tony Blair to come along and say something fatuous for a few bob, after all he only charged a toilet roll conference £50,000 for a speech back in 2010. You could top the whole thing off in style by giving it a snazzy Falklands War theme, if you were truly heartless.
Of course, that’s what’s actually happening today. Big Ben will be controversially silent as Margaret Thatcher is eulogised. Protestors will be arrested and likely beaten by police for disrespecting the memory of one person just as a funeral themed after the Falklands disrespects the memory of the 649 Argentinian dead. People will be arrested for celebrating the death of a person who exhorted the press to “rejoice” when the Belgrano sank. Revisionists will continue to push their hagiographies of Thatcher on whoever will listen, and the Coalition will push forward with yet more horrifying cuts and sanctions while we’re all sitting around fuming at the injustice of it all.
And it’s costing us £10million. Bargain.