Heads up: Top comment and controversy

Margaret Thatcher: What the papers said today

There is not a shadow of doubt in today’s papers that Margaret Thatcher changed the country, for better or for worse. In death, she has joined the political pantheon with comparisons from across the board to Britain’s greatest leaders:  Churchill, Gladstone, Atlee.

The Telegraph

Hats off to The Telegraph obituary writers, who had their ten-part memorial published within a few hours. Elsewhere, Peter Oborne asked us to ‘marvel’ at ‘the outsider who beat the system’: “She burned with passion, certainty and belief. She could not comprehend the meaning of defeat. She felt passionately proud to be British. It was this pride which enabled her to change not just Britain, but eventually the world.”

Lord Norman Lamont says: “it was her handling of the Falklands war and the miners’ strike that illustrated to the nation her remarkable determination and tactical skill.” While warning her hard work could yet be undone: “The task of the present Government, and of future governments of our country, must be to make sure we do not slip back into the state from which she rescued us.”

And Anne Applebaum offers some transatlantic perspective: “In American eyes, or at least in the eyes of those on the centre and centre-Right, she represented a set of ideals: freedom, anti-communism and the transatlantic alliance”.

The Guardian

The Guardian leader is unflinching in its summary of her achievements as well as her more brutal policies. The Falklands were “astonishing and absurd”, poll tax was “disastorous, unjust” and she presided over a “winner-takes-all financial model whose failure haunts the choices still facing this country today”. In closing: “There should be no dancing on her grave but it is right there is no state funeral either. Her legacy is of public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed, which together shackle far more of the human spirit than they ever set free.”

Polly Toynbee keeps the focus firmly on today’s Britain: “The Cameron and Osborne circle are crude copies carried away with the dangerous idea that conviction is all it takes to run a country.” And Glenn Greenwald offers a handy piece on death etiquette and contentious public figures: “"Respecting the grief" of Thatcher's family members is appropriate if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person's life and political acts.”

Daily Mail

Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail feels certain protocols have not been met. He’s angry that Thatcher has not been granted a state funeral, of which there have been 12 for ‘commoners’ in the past 427 years. Instead, the service will be ‘ceremonial’, a decision Heffer puts down to: “the resentment of the Left at her unquestioned triumph as a leader, visionary and statesman, and the fear of the Right at provoking dissent and re-opening the wounds of the 1980s.” He says we must ignore her wishes not to lay in state: “Lady Thatcher was, like Dickens, the property of far more than just her family.”

Historian Dominic Sandbrook is damning of social media, not least tweets from George Galloway and Frankie Boyle. The Facebook campaign to get Judy Garland’s ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ gets short shrift too. It’s all down to classist contempt, he says. What’s more: “Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. This is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and nine per cent among unskilled workers – usually so loyal to Labour.’ Jonathan Aitken offers a personal, and at points terrifying, account of his three decades as the great Lady’s son-in-law.

The Times

Meanwhile, George Osborne gives his own account of living in Maggie’s shadow in The Times: “Sometimes that sense of historical greatness risks being overpowering for the two generations of politicians who have come after her, including my own. Whatever we try to achieve and whatever parliamentary battles we fight, all seem to shrink in size alongside the struggles and triumphs of Margaret Thatcher.”

Maurice Saatchi gushes over her economic policies and intellectual hegemony, “triumphantly crowned at the end of the century when its old adversary made the historic announcement that Labour, too, would adopt Conservative economics.”

While David Aaronovitch remembers those on the receiving end of the Iron Lady’s ‘sour, sectarian side’, which he terms as being “Thatchered”: “Ideological Thatcherites, seemingly with her approval, engaged in a narrowing down of who exactly belonged. There was Section 28 on “promoting homosexuality in schools”. There was Tebbit’s cricket test. There came to be many citizens who felt themselves unloved by their own government.”

Financial Times

In the Financial Times, Niall Ferguson is unequivocal: “Margaret Thatcher was right about most things,” foreign policy included. She was right on the Falklands, right on Kuwait and right on the cold war. “Above all, however, Thatcher was right about Europe. She was right to push Europe in the direction of real free trade by backing and signing the Single European Act of 1986. Yet she was equally right to oppose the idea of a single European currency.”

Kenneth Baker says her legacy was national pride and international standing. While Brian Groom calls for wariness of a proposed one-day general strike in protest at austerity: “Margaret Thatcher has died just as the most famous dragon she slew, militant trade unionism, peeps its head warily above the parapet”.

The Tabloids

The tabloids are divided. The Sun asks: “Indeed, isn’t her clarity of purpose what voters cry out for today?”, while Brian Reade in the Mirror is cut-throat: “The words I would chisel on her headstone are: “She was a right-wing fanatic who surrounded herself with morally bankrupt lackeys and ripped the very heart out of this country.” While Nigel Nelson of the Sunday People reflects on her ability to turn men to jelly: “Margaret Thatcher was the most frightening woman I ever met. The Iron Lady would fix you with her steel blue eyes leaving men quivering jellies.”

This round-up was written by Oscar Quine (@OscarQuine)

React Now

Read Next

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower