Mrs. Thatcher’s attempt after leaving office to “secure her legacy” by setting up the Thatcher Foundation was partially thwarted when it was refused charitable status (and thus tax-deductible contributions) by the Charity Commission. Perhaps it was indicative of overweening pride in the first place to imagine that disseminating Thatcherism could be deemed a charitable activity. But for all her fretting and speechifying and backseat-driving, the Thatcher legacy has been perfectly secure for the last two decades. The four subsequent prime ministers (two Conservative and two Labour) have all followed her broad agenda. As Peter Mandelson, for years the main policy whisperer in Blair’s ear, put it in 2002, “We are all Thatcherites now.” Indeed, some commentators have noted that Thatcher was often more pragmatic than her reputation, and quite possibly less “Thatcherite” than the present Tory-led government.
The Iron Lady has also set off a round of pre-obituaries, and a readying for the day of Mrs. T’s departure (though her physical health has always been robust—“They can’t find anything wrong with me,” she boasted during the 1979 election campaign, after having her blood pressure and heart rate tested. “They never can”). The recent news that she will be given a state funeral—the first since that of Winston Churchill in 1965—has provoked an ironic e-petition to Parliament. (This is a recent innovation in British democracy: rack up 100,000 e-signatures and your request will be considered, if not necessarily heeded.) In a cute parody of government-speak, the petition proposes:
In keeping with the great lady’s legacy, Margaret Thatcher’s state funeral should be funded and managed by the private sector to offer the best value and choice for end users and other stakeholders. The undersigned believe that the legacy of the former PM deserves nothing less and that offering this unique opportunity is an ideal way to cut government expense and further prove the merits of liberalised economics Baroness Thatcher spearheaded.
Online signatures have so far reached 28,000. Only another 72,000 needed by October. After all, it wouldn’t be right if Mrs. Thatcher failed to divide the nation in death, having done so for so very long in life.