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Margaret Thatcher's funeral will be Who's Who of surviving Cold War warriors

But current foreign leaders are less well represented at service

Oliver Wright
Wednesday 17 April 2013 08:58 BST
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Margaret Thatcher as it arrives to be laid at the Crypt Chapel of St Mary Undercoft in the Houses of Parliament
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Margaret Thatcher as it arrives to be laid at the Crypt Chapel of St Mary Undercoft in the Houses of Parliament (Getty Images)

Old Cold War warriors from both sides of the Atlantic will be reunited for perhaps the last time today as they gather to pay respects to one of their most significant figures.

While many current leaders have chosen to not to attend Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, the service represents what is likely to be the last gathering of elder statesmen of the period before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

President Obama will be represented by President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz and his Chief of Staff James Baker. Perhaps America’s most famous Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has also accepted an invitation, as has the former US Vice-President Dick Cheney – who was Defence Secretary at the end of Lady Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister. Senior Conservatives expressed irritation that no one from the current Obama administration will make the trip across the Atlantic.

South Africa’s last apartheid President F W de Clerk will be in London, as will Canada’s Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister for the second half of the 1980s.

Europe’s Cold War history will also be represented by Poland’s former President Lech Walesa – one of the few trade unionists with an admiration for Lady Thatcher – and Vaclav Klaus, the former President of the Czech Republic. From Britain, all of Lady Thatcher’s surviving foreign and defence secretaries are expected to attend.

But current foreign leaders are less well represented. Just two heads of state and 11 serving prime ministers will attend – perhaps a reminder of Lady Thatcher’s often difficult relationship with the Commonwealth.

In total 170 countries are sending representatives to the funeral, with the exceptions of Iran, North Korea and Argentina. Argentina’s ambassador to London declined an invitation to attend, after Downing Street failed to extend an invitation to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, said: “I think a lot of people will be disappointed and surprised, given the way President Obama praised Margaret Thatcher, no one will be there. I find that quite sad.”

It had been expected that President Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might attend – she was among the first names to be invited – but she has declined.

However there are unlikely to be any empty seats for today’s service. More than 2,300 guests have confirmed they will attend, including all of the current Cabinet and 30 members of Baroness Thatcher’s cabinets.

Downing Street also released more details of British guests. These include the head of the BBC Trust and former Tory chairman Lord Patten, as well as the Director-General of the BBC Lord Hall.

The former BBC journalist John Sergeant is also invited. He famously interviewed a defiant Baroness Thatcher moments after she learnt that she had lost her battle to see off her Tory leadership challenge.

Other guests include the London Olympics mastermind Lord Coe, the former Speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Boothroyd and the former Northern Ireland First Minister Lord David Trimble.

There will be two receptions following the service. The Foreign Secretary will host a reception at the Mansion House in the City for representatives of foreign states. At the Guildhall, also in the City, there will be a reception for friends and family of Lady Thatcher.

Security will be increased in response to the terrorist attack on the Boston marathon, Scotland Yard said.

Mandelson: We ‘overinhaled’ on inherited policy

Tony Blair accepted too many of Margaret Thatcher’s reforms, Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, has said. “With hindsight I think New Labour, if anything, over-inhaled” on her policies.

The former Cabinet minister admitted Baroness Thatcher’s electoral success helped bring Labour to its senses but insisted that Labour also changed itself. “We were not Thatcher clones,” he told a Policy Exchange think tank debate.

Lord Mandelson also criticised today’s “quasi-state funeral”, saying he would have recommended against it because “Mrs T is not Churchill”.

Andrew Grice

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