Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Some Britons raise a glass to Thatcher's end

Would be a different story if a royal had died, says analyst

  • Print

LONDON -- While some Britons mourned the passing of Margaret Thatcher, others raised glasses of champagne in impromptu street parties. And The Wizard of Oz song Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead is surging up the U.K. singles charts.

A Guardian newspaper cartoon depicted Thatcher descending into hell, the Socialist Worker front page said "Rejoice," and a movie marquee was rearranged to read: "Margaret Thatchers Dead LOL."

Many societies soften their take on divisive leaders as they age -- notably the United States, where even unpopular presidents are warmly eulogized in death -- but emotions in Britain are as raw as they were when the Iron Lady was in power.

Yes, Thatcher was an unusually divisive figure blamed by many for crippling Britain's labour unions and sabotaging workers' rights, but the willingness of small groups of Britons to publicly mock a longtime national leader hours after her death reflects a British contempt for power and its practitioners that many believe stands in contrast to attitudes in the United States.

There were no similar scenes of jubilation after the 1994 death of Richard Nixon, a polarizing figure who is the only U.S. president to resign from office, said Robert McGeehan, an associate fellow at the Institute for the Study of Americas.

"This really shows the dissimilarity between the two countries," said McGeehan, a dual national who worked with Thatcher in academia after she left office. "One does not recall, with the passing of controversial figures in the U.S., anything remotely resembling the really crude approach we've seen over here," he said. "There is a class ingredient here that we simply don't have in America. They like to perpetuate this; the bitterness goes from father to son."

In contrast, he said, Nixon -- disgraced by the Watergate scandal and facing impeachment -- eventually rehabilitated his public image and was treated as a respected elder statesman by the time of his death.

There are key differences between the two political systems, despite their common roots. In Britain, the prime minister is not the head of state -- a position filled by the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who is also the head of the Church of England -- while in the U.S. the president fills the dual role as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

While some Britons are comfortable condemning a prime minister they detested, they would not act that way after the death of the queen or a senior royal, said Robert Worcester, an American who founded MORI, one of Britain's leading polling firms.

"Any member of the Royal Family will be revered, but few prime ministers are," he said, pointing out that thousands of people stood in line for hours in the middle of the night for a chance to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, when she died in 2002 at age 101.

Worcester said there is general affection for Thatcher in many quarters but that it would not be possible, for example, to name a major naval vessel after her because shipbuilders would "put down their tools" rather than honour the woman blamed by many for destroying the labour movement.

The anti-Thatcher movement spread to Northern Ireland, with celebrations of her death in several cities and taunting graffiti appearing overnight. "Rot in hell Maggie Thatcher" was one offering in Belfast.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 A10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Scottish independence referendum will have an effect in Canada?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google