How Labour turned the tables on the Tory Thatcher tribute

In fact she'll get a military funeral, which is just as expensive and unwanted by the majority of Britons. What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government's priorities have become.

In fact she’ll get a military funeral, which is just as expensive and unwanted by the majority of Britons. What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government’s priorities have become.

Can anyone imagine the kind of row we would have seen this week if Labour had blocked the recall of Parliament to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher?

It was well within Ed Miliband’s rights to put the mockers on it. Recalling Parliament is a move that has previously been reserved only for national emergencies, and past precedent states that tributes should have come when Parliament returned – as normal – next Monday. That was also the understanding of the Parliamentary officials charged with planning for the former Prime Minister’s death.

Did David Cameron really believe that the demise of his beloved ex-leader was a national emergency? Of course not. This was merely a chance to scrounge some more money off the taxpayer.

He turned the Blue Baroness into a cash cow.

According to the Daily Mirror, every MP returning to Westminster to take part in the debate could claim expenses totalling £3,750 each.

So, if all 650 MPs turned up, the cost to you and me would have been £2,437,500 – for a debate that could have happened next week, at no extra cost.

Was it a bribe, to get more Members to turn up? If so, it didn’t work very well. Sure, the government benches were packed with Tories, climbing over themselves to orate on how great Nanny was – but the Opposition benches were conspicuously empty. It seems 150 Labour MPs had better things to do.

We should all be grateful for that – it took the bill down to £1,875,000.

Should Labour have opposed the recall? The speaker, John Bercow, was reportedly – let’s say – less than enthusiastic about the matter, especially the way it was conducted: The request came in a telephone call from a mid-ranking 10 Downing Street staff member, rather than in writing, according to The Guardian. The Speaker had to remind the Prime Minister that he must follow protocol and it was only then that Cameron formalised his request in writing.

(Cameron seems to have a problem with following the rules. The first time he got up in Parliament as the Prime Minister, he appeared to forget that he must address his comments to the Speaker and put many of them directly to some of the Members opposite – until a few sharp comments from Mr Bercow put him back in his place.)

Bercow then sought a reaction from the Opposition, and it seems the decision not to oppose it was political, in order not to cause a row in which they were bound to be vilified for failing to show due respect.

Given the facts that street parties broke out in several major British cities on the day she died, while ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ appeared at number 10 in the midweek charts, it seems unlikely that any Parliamentary party needs to lower itself in that way. The British people have spoken.

So Mr Miliband trotted out a speech about how the Blue Baroness was a woman of strong convictions who held to her ideals (even if he didn’t agree with them) or some such.

Then he sat down and listened, for hours, to the other speeches, including this from Glenda Jackson:

“We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism, was in fact a virtue. Greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker… they were the way forward. We have heard much, and will continue to hear over the next week, of the barriers that were broken down by Thatcherism, the Establishment that was destroyed. What we actually saw – the word that has been circling around with stars around it, is that she created an ‘aspirational’ society. It ‘aspired’ for ‘things’… One of the former Prime Ministers, who himself had been elevated to the House of Lords, spoke about selling off the family silver, and people knowing under those years the price of everything and the value of nothing. What concerns me is that I am beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basic, spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side.”

And this, from David Anderson:

“She came to power promising to bring harmony where there was discord. In the mining communities up and down the country, she brought the opposite. She believed we were no longer any use to the nation because we were deemed to be uneconomic… because we insisted on running safe coal mines in this country. One of the great disgraces of this country today is we import over 50 million tonnes of coal a year from countries where men are killed, literally in the thousands, and we closed our industry that was the safest, the most technologically-advanced, in the world.

“The other area where the so-called economic justification falls down was the failure of Margaret Thatcher and her government to take into account the social cost… where no alternative employment was put forward for those people who were losing their jobs – and particularly for their children. The village where I lived had seen coal mining for almost two centuries. In a matter of months after closure, we were gripped by a wave of petty crime, burglary, car crime – mostly related to drugs. We have never recovered from it.

“We’ve seen the reaction of people whose frustration is heartfelt because they’ve lost their sense of place in society; they’ve been made to feel worthless; they’ve been cast aside like a pair of worn-out pit boots. They’ve seen their community fall apart. They’ve seen their children’s opportunities disappear. And they’ve not been listened to.

“Mrs Thatcher’s lack of empathy, her intransigence, her failure to see the other side, her refusal to even look at the other side, has left them bitter, and resentful, and hitting out in a way that is uncharacteristic of the miners in our community. Her accusation that the “enemy within” was in the mining areas of this country still rankles people. I wasn’t the “enemy within”… All we wanted was the right to work. We didn’t just want it for ourselves; we wanted it for our kids, and that was taken away.”

David Cameron wanted to pay his MPs huge amounts of money to come back and spend seven and a half hours – and remember, Winston Churchill only got 45 minutes after his death – singing the praises of the Blue Baroness – to the high heavens. He got what he wanted, and it is fair to say his Party members enjoyed telling their little stories.

But the contributions of Labour members like Glenda Jackson and David Anderson are the ones that will be remembered.

25 thoughts on “How Labour turned the tables on the Tory Thatcher tribute

  1. Bill Garnett

    when Thatcher made the statement to the effect that there is no such thing as society, social costs were also conveniently deniable…using this reductionist belief trade unions and other protesters were labelled as lawbreakers, Nelson Mandela a terrorist, the unemployed as slackers who should get on their bikes… is it naive to believe that manipulation of facts and figures, lies and distorted narratives, selfishness and greed, lack of compassion and the spiritual elements that Glenda Jackson refers to should have no place in politics? Perhaps…but what an impoverished and cynical world we live in once this is generally accepted.

    1. R33

      So this right-wing idea of society is: you work long and hard, you pay your tax, you wave the flag, you bow to the queen and her spawn, you stand to attention and bellow out the national anthem with pride and gusto, you serve your community by providing the public services for free that we already pay for through our taxes (Big Society), you salute the troops, you get maimed and die in their wars, but if you fall on hard times, you get made redundant and can’t find another job, you become homeless, you become sick or disabled and too incapacitated to work, then there is no such thing as society “we’re all just “individual men and women with families” so you’re on your own.

    1. Mike Sivier

      If you’re referring to the image, the caption clarifies that in fact she’ll get a military funeral, which costs just as much. I ‘borrowed’ the image from Facebook, so it was the creator’s mistake, and I had to correct it as well as I was able.

  2. R33

    It says it all about the wall-to-wall propaganda that exists in this country and how unrepresented the British people are by the thieves and liars in parliament known as politicians, that they have to resort to buying a song called “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” to make their feelings of revulsion for the fawning deification of the recently deceased individual by the sycophantic compliant ‘free’ press known. Even though the song has made it into the top 10 and climbing, the BBC in their typically servile manner, are saying they will not play the song or acknowledge its position in the charts in any way.

  3. Smiling Carcass

    “What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government’s priorities have become.”- Mike, to put this into a sort of perspective. We of the left do as we do not for reward, not for flamboyant and over-extravagant praise; we do not do it for state- or ceremonial funerals, or long speeches none but the toadying right want to hear and make, in hope they might be similarly rewarded.

    We don’t do it to be remembered, or to be raised to high or ceremonial office. We do it because it is RIGHT, fair and just.

    Conversely, those on the right believe kissing the arse of the rich and powerful, denigrating and robbing the poor to further swell the coffers of those same rich and powerful, fornicating and lying to these parasites, while all the time planning the stab in the back that will lift them one inch higher in their eyes do it for self promotion, to maintain the status quo and to ensure the riches do not somehow leech back into the society they stole it from.

    That’s the difference and that is what will hold Clement Atlee and his ilk higher in spiritual worth every time.

  4. Jim

    Hard to believe isn’t it that people like Malcolm Rifkind make a shitload of money by giving after dinner speeches and talks? I wouldn’t pay buttons to hear shit like this. I wouldn’t want to hear it again even if somebody paid me a small fortune to.

  5. Silver

    A Military Funeral for a Dictator,sounds apt I suppose for someone who was a fan of General Pinochet.

    What gets me,about Mad Maggie and the Falklands War,which raised her to a so called modern day Boadicea.Is it was the defence cuts,brought about by her Government,Minister of Defence John Knott which she and her Cabinet backed.That resulted in the Argentines thinking we were not really that bothered about the Falklands,and the defence cuts probably meant we could do little about it,in their eyes anyway.

    The Royal Navy had intended to decommission the vessel HMS Endurance in 1982, following the defence review of John Nott, but the Falklands War intervened.So they probably thought we were none to bothered about Atlantic Exploration in the area anyway.

    But as with most Tory cuts,they end up costing us more in the end.A costly war in both lives and money.A permanent garrison on the Falklands.How many Billions has that cost us.

    If the Tories want a big HuHa for Thatcher,fine as long as they pay for it,and its not done in my name as a British Subject.

    A Statue for her,well I think we can all imagine that would need twenty four hour protection.Permanently.

  6. WritersServices

    My Labour MP Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) made this speech, then made special mention of three Tory speeches he had particularly admired during the debate. He has pleaded the case in the commons for the local football club, The Pars, who failed to pay their taxes, but he says nothing to, about, or on behalf of, the thousands of families and disabled people affected by the Tory cuts. He is definitely not representing the area, the people, or the people who elected him. I feel he might be with us until he can find a nice Tory seat. He is not from this area and seems completely uninterested in the issues and the mining history.

    1. Mike Sivier

      If all that is correct, then if you’re a member of the local party, you might want to get him de-selected and a proper candidate put in to replace him next time.

      1. WritersServices

        Read the speech, it’s all there including the link to it. Look at his website, the content on there is what he puts in the local paper every week. :He applauded Malcolm Rifkind, John Redwood and Conor Burns on their ridiculous speeches. I am not a member of any party and MPs don’t just represent their party members. The previous ConDem MP Willie Rennie agrees with the welfare reforms including the bedroom tax and he has written to tell me so. We have no Tories, so we have no one.

    2. merelyimputed

      Crikey, makes a mockery of the party political system doesn’t it? I think it’s criminal that we have no poweroif recall, and election manifestos are not contractual. Theres always petitions and local press… Use any tools you can to embarrass him.

  7. Disgruntled Knome

    God I did not even know about the expenses they could claim! HOW MUCH!!

    Talk about a money spinner, if it were not seeing Cameron, Osborne and his cronies beaming with joy every time there was a pleasant word about thatcher then I would only be able to conclude that is all they had called the emergency hearing for.

    I truly take my hat off to Glenda Jackson though, as I have put elsewhere she described the classrooms in pit villages (and various other industrial communities) even decades after closure and the broken communities, crime, and everything else that followed and continues today with the passion and conviction the facts deserved.

    What is annoying though is the right wing will just brand her as a disrespectful to the dead and her views to anyone except us that know better will be just seen as petty.

    Even though she summarized everything a person in a position of comfort and isolation has never experience and is unwilling to do so while criticising the poor (or shirkers as they are now known).

    Finally, what a shame our words of discontent for her praise singing by the ignorant are blacked out and erased anywhere but in these fortresses of solitude where we have to look for others only to convince ourselves that we are not alone in our experiences that define us and our views.

  8. Jj

    So a year of Jobseeker’s allowance at £3692 is ill-gotten gains but £3750 to show up to chat about your fallen idol, for one day, isn’t?
    It’s ridiculous!

  9. NMac

    Right wing reactionaries are never slow to heap scorn on left wing leaders and vilify them after death, but when the same thing happens to their own extremely unpopular and divisive political leader who, most hypocritically they are attempting deify, then they quickly bawl and shout about disrespect for the dead.

  10. Mike Sivier

    Paul C Dickie posted what follows as a comment to another blog element (a picture), but I think it’s worth airing here. He wrote:

    Sent to [email protected]

    Subject: Nation shall speak lies unto itself?


    I am utterly disgusted with the craven decision only to play a few seconds – if that – of the song “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead!” on the Radio One Chart Show.

    The rationalisation that it was “disrespectful” to Baroness Kestevan – which was her actual title, rather than “Baroness Thatcher” – is pathetic and paltry, as the dead plainly cannot be affected by anything one might say about them. It was a poor excuse for the putative Head of Radio One and the Head of Radio Programming having succumbed to political pressure from those who would cheerfully eulogise someone who, regardless of what one might think of her, was surely the most divisive Prime Minister of the 20th century.

    The BBC is not the Ministry of Truth. The BBC does not have the duty – or even the right – to limit what news is reported. It does not matter one iota that this song was revived this week because it was “featured in a Facebook campaign from 2007″, as that would simply not have been possible if only a few thousand people had mild or moderate antipathy towards that woman and her right-wing legacy. However much her supporters and hagiographers might pretend to the contrary, she was not universally loved or revered and the BBC will become increasingly ridiculous and irrelevant if it continues to pander to those politicians who would cheerfully censor the news.

    Succinctly, the song should be played in its entirety, whereupon it would be immediately obvious that it has nothing whatever to do with a recently dead stateswoman.

    Have you even read the lyrics?

    You may find them at

    I rather doubt that you have bothered to read the lyrics, or you would surely have remembered “As Mayor of the Munchkin City, In the County of the Land of Oz…”.

    Just how do you suppose a fictitious land in L Frank Baum’s story might be related to the United Kingdom?

  11. Mike

    The money could and should have been given to the communites she helped destory No doubt the Mail,Telegrah, and The Scum, will be writing tributes for days and weeks to come and all their dopey readers will come out and attack the left for disagreeing with anything that is balanced.

  12. Pingback: Some things I remember about Margaret Thatcher

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