News Column

Thatcher Tribute Lambasted in Parliament

April 10, 2013

British opposition lawmakers on Wednesday criticized the recalling of parliament from its Easter break to hold a special tribute session for late former premier Margaret Thatcher.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was using the session for "narrow political gain," said John Healey, a former minister in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Cameron called the special session on Monday, after Thatcher's death.

Britain's first female premier was a divisive figure.

She was lauded by some as having saved the nation from economic decline and restoring it as a global power with victory in the 1982 Falklands conflict.

But others saw her as heartless and destructive, and have blamed her for hastening the demise of the once dominant mining industry and the resulting mass unemployment in the communities which depended on it.

"The Commons 'debate' won't be - and can't be - balanced," wrote Healey on the PoliticsHome website, saying that "basic British decency" would prevent lawmakers from being critical.

He pointed out that parliament has only been recalled in recess 25 times since World War II "to debate events like the Suez Crisis, Kuwait invasion, Omagh bombing, terrorist attack on the Twin Towers."

Labour parliamentarian John Mann also said he would not attend the session, saying that it was a waste of money and that he would be going to the dentist. Like Healey, Mann represents a northern former mining constituency.

Respect lawmaker George Galloway called the session a "state-organized eulogy."

Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to speak after Cameron and will reportedly touch on the controversial parts of her legacy.

Foreign Secretary William Hague defended the session, telling the BBC: "It's right parliament meets and commemorates such a leader of historic proportions in our country's history."

He also defended the cost of her funeral, saying Britain could afford it.

"When it comes to money, the rebate she negotiated for this country from the EU has brought us so far 75 billion pounds (115 billion dollars) - which is twice the size of our annual defence budget," he said.

Thatcher is to have a ceremonial funeral with full military honours - like that of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother - on April 17.


ADD ON: Former actress Glenda Jackson, a member of Parliament for some 20 years now, was particularly eloquent in her contempt for the idea of paying tribute to Thatcher:

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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