Speaking ill of the dead

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, née Roberts, as the Conservative candidate for Dartford, Kent, before she married husband Denis. (Getty)

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, née Roberts, as the Conservative candidate for Dartford, Kent, before she married husband Denis. (Getty)

With the death of Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert seemingly universally mourned without a nasty word being spoken about him, it seems out of place--at least in Chicago--to hear the unvarnished nastiness raining down on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Here's a sample from the Guardian columnist :

But most shocking are the secret preparations now being made to give Thatcher a state funeral. In the 20th century only one former prime minister, Winston Churchill, was given such a ceremonial send-off. Churchill had his own share of political enemies, of course, from the south Wales valleys to India. But his role as war leader when Britain was threatened with Nazi invasion meant he was accepted as a national figure at his death. Thatcher, who cloaked herself in the political spoils of a vicious colonial war in the South Atlantic, has no such status, and is the most divisive British politician of our time.

Gordon Brown absurdly floated a state funeral in a fruitless attempt to appease the Daily Mail. But the coalition would be even more foolish if it were to press ahead with what is currently planned. A state funeral for Thatcher would not be regarded as any kind of national occasion by millions of people, but as a partisan Conservative event and an affront to large parts of the country.

Not only in former mining communities and industrial areas laid waste by her government, but across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted – and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatisation and social breakdown. Now protests are taking the form of satirical e-petitions for the funeral to be privatised: if it goes ahead, there are likely to be protests and demonstrations.

This is a politician, after all, who never won the votes of more than a third of the electorate; destroyed communities; created mass unemployment; deindustrialised Britain; redistributed from poor to rich; and, by her deregulation of the City, laid the basis for the crisis that has engulfed us 25 years later.

Thatcher was a prime minister who denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, defended the Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, ratcheted up the cold war, and unleashed militarised police on trade unionists and black communities alike. She was Britain's first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, like Cameron's today.

I should note that the Guardian is England's quintessential liberal rag and that Thatcher was a conservative.

I don't know about all that other allegedly bad stuff that Milne accused Thatcher of doing, but as far as Thatcher ratcheting up the cold war, it should be pointed out that she, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II are the three people most often credited with ending the cold war. Personally, I credit the fact that communism carried the seeds of its own destruction and would ultimately lose out to democracy and the free enterprise system.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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