A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

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A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby stevenf » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:12 pm UTC

It is proposed that a state funeral be given to Thatcher - the proposal emerging from a narrow right wing establishment coterie. This has been done without debate in parliament or elsewhere - a deficiency that I would like the xkcd community to remedy.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:59 pm UTC

You mean a former head-of-state shouldn't be allowed a state funeral? Regardless of her policies, she was still a Prime Minister.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby distractedSofty » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:22 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:You mean a former head-of-state shouldn't be allowed a state funeral? Regardless of her policies, she was still a Prime Minister.

Thatcher was Prime Minister, not Queen.

As a non-UKian, it seems like she was a significant enough PM that she should be given one. She doesn't have the luxury of the Nazis unifying the country, but that's going to be true of any PM from now on.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Azrael » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:03 pm UTC

distractedSofty wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:You mean a former head-of-state shouldn't be allowed a state funeral? Regardless of her policies, she was still a Prime Minister.
Thatcher was Prime Minister, not Queen.
... which is why we're discussing a State Funeral instead of a Royal State Funeral or Royal Ceremonial Funeral. The distinction is important.

That being said, check out the list of (non-Royal) State Funerals:
Wikipedia wrote:A few other notable people and former prime ministers have been awarded a full state funeral:

Admiral Robert Blake (1657)
Sir Isaac Newton (1727)[3]
The Viscount Nelson (1806)
The Duke of Wellington (1852)
The Viscount Palmerston (1865)
The Rt Hon William Gladstone (1898)
The Earl Roberts of Kandahar (1914)
The Earl Haig (1928)
The Lord Carson (1935)
The Rt Hon Sir Winston Churchill (1965)

Benjamin Disraeli was offered the honour of a state funeral, but refused it in his will. The famous nurse and statistician Florence Nightingale was also offered a state funeral, but her family opted for a private ceremony.

That's pretty lofty company.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby distractedSofty » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:20 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
distractedSofty wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:You mean a former head-of-state shouldn't be allowed a state funeral? Regardless of her policies, she was still a Prime Minister.
Thatcher was Prime Minister, not Queen.
... which is why we're discussing a State Funeral instead of a Royal State Funeral or Royal Ceremonial Funeral. The distinction is important.

I think you missed the bolded text: my point was that Thatcher was never head of state.

I think the distinction is an important one, and I would refer you to an anecdote I once read.
John Howard was visiting the United States (this was probably the 2003 visit), and, as is usual in these kinds of visits, a joint press conference was held. When President Bush entered the room, the assembled press stood up. When John Howard entered the room shortly thereafter, the Australian journalists (who told this story), remained seated. Their american colleagues were confused by this, and questioned "Why wouldn't you stand up when the PM enters the room?". The Australians were somewhat taken aback, after all, professional journalistic ethics compelled them not to show partisanship to any politicians, and standing when someone enters the room is a clear show of support. When pushed, they admitted that they would probably stand up when the Queen entered.

Point of the story: While the head of state embodies the state, a Prime Minister just has a lot of friends.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Axman » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:02 pm UTC

Wait, OK, not British here, but I thought the Crown was the state's authority, that it was worn by the Sovereign, and exercised by the Ministry to whom it is commissioned, led by the Prime Minister. How is the Prime Minister not a head of state, if he or she is the leader of the exercised state's authority? And if the Ministry isn't head of state, then wouldn't the Sovereign also not be?

Just asking because now I'm confused.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby masher » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:13 pm UTC

The Monarch is Head of State.
The PM is Head of Government.

In the case of the USA, the President is both.

In the case of (something like) Australia, the Governor-General is the Head of State as the Monarch's representative.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Axman » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:21 pm UTC

Ah, it never occurred to me that the two titles bore different meanings. Carry on.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby masher » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:26 pm UTC

And in the UK you have a lot of tradition that also describes how the two positions interact, as opposed to (say) the USA, which is a lot more proscriptive.

Have a read of the Head of Government|State wikipedia pages.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Azrael » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:27 pm UTC

distractedSofty wrote:
Azrael wrote:
distractedSofty wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:You mean a former head-of-state shouldn't be allowed a state funeral?
Thatcher was Prime Minister, not Queen.
... which is why we're discussing a State Funeral instead of a Royal State Funeral or Royal Ceremonial Funeral.
... my point was that Thatcher was never head of state.
Head of Government, then.

A distinction that remains irrelevant considering the list of individuals who have received State Funerals.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Soralin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:10 pm UTC

masher wrote:The Monarch is Head of State.
The PM is Head of Government.

In the case of the USA, the President is both.

In the case of (something like) Australia, the Governor-General is the Head of State as the Monarch's representative.

Well, simple solution then, don't give her a state funeral, give her a government funeral. ;)
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Azrael » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:37 pm UTC

No, the simple answer is to [give | not give] her a State Funeral.

Scroll up far enough to read what's been said. She's perfectly eligible, the question is whether she's (as) deserving.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby distractedSofty » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:50 pm UTC

If you consider the list of non-sovereigns offered state funerals, take out the war heroes and mathematicians, you're left with four politicians (I took out Churchill as a war hero. If you accept that someone could get a state funeral ever again, it must be accepted that they're not going to measure up to Churchill.). My knowledge of 19th century British politics is rusty, but they don't seem to be super notable in hindsight.

While you may consider Thatcher to be a warmonger or to have destroyed the economy (likely, given the wording in the OP), the fact remains that she enacted broad reform still in place 20-30 years later, was popular enough at the time to earn 3 terms, and is one of the most important figures in UK politics in recent history(at least, it appears that way to an outsider, what with comedians and television shows still mentioning her). Certainly seems worthy of public recognition.

Now, as to a state funeral, I think that it would be counterproductive to hold one if the overwhelming public opinion is against her, so on that, I can't comment.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Vaniver » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:19 am UTC

Yeah, I can't see extending the honor to Disraeli and Gladstone and not to Thatcher.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby yurell » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:20 am UTC

Obligatory Mock the Week link.

Fortunately, I'm in Australia and don't know much of her except for the seething waves of hatred on the Internet. I think any former head of government in a democratic western country deserves the honour, and if you don't like her the biggest insult that could be given would be for the streets to be empty, although I highly doubt there's enough hatred going around for that.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Shivahn » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:58 am UTC

yurell wrote:Obligatory Mock the Week link.

Fortunately, I'm in Australia and don't know much of her except for the seething waves of hatred on the Internet. I think any former head of government in a democratic western country deserves the honour, and if you don't like her the biggest insult that could be given would be for the streets to be empty, although I highly doubt there's enough hatred going around for that.

Hatred's irrelevant to that, really. Streets don't empty for the funeral of a hated individual, they empty for one that no one cares about. Hated individuals generally have a great number of loving supporters.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Puppyclaws » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:06 am UTC

distractedSofty wrote:While you may consider Thatcher to be a warmonger or to have destroyed the economy (likely, given the wording in the OP), the fact remains that she enacted broad reform still in place 20-30 years later, was popular enough at the time to earn 3 terms, and is one of the most important figures in UK politics in recent history(at least, it appears that way to an outsider, what with comedians and television shows still mentioning her). Certainly seems worthy of public recognition.


Let me compare this to US politics. We had a president recently; some may have considered him a warmonger and many would suggest he destroyed the economy. But some of his radical changes to our government are sure to be with us for another 20-30 years at least (see Patriot Act, TSA, DHS, Bush Tax Cuts), and judging by the coverage he garnered from comedians and television shows, he is definitely among the most notable figures in US politics in recent history. Oh, and he was elected the maximum number of times to the highest office.

I am not saying that Thatcher is completely equivalent to Bush, but I do see some comparisons, and if what you've listed above are our standards for being "worthy of public recognition," then one would have to call Bush equally worthy. And to be clear, though we do not have the same sort of system here in the states, I'd have to say he is not by any standards worthy of such an honor.

With regards to empty streets, I am reminded of the classic (but to my knowledge unconfirmed and possibly apocryphal) story of the reason for all the colorful doors in Dublin; after the death of Queen Victoria, British subjects were supposed to paint their doors black in mourning, and so the people of Dublin responded by painting them in bright colors to showcase their opposition to the crown.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby distractedSofty » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:06 am UTC

Puppyclaws wrote:Let me compare this to US politics. We had a president recently; some may have considered him a warmonger and many would suggest he destroyed the economy. But some of his radical changes to our government are sure to be with us for another 20-30 years at least (see Patriot Act, TSA, DHS, Bush Tax Cuts), and judging by the coverage he garnered from comedians and television shows, he is definitely among the most notable figures in US politics in recent history. Oh, and he was elected the maximum number of times to the highest office.

I am not saying that Thatcher is completely equivalent to Bush, but I do see some comparisons, and if what you've listed above are our standards for being "worthy of public recognition," then one would have to call Bush equally worthy. And to be clear, though we do not have the same sort of system here in the states, I'd have to say he is not by any standards worthy of such an honor.

It's true, Bush is getting a state funeral, regardless of what people think of him politically, but in other ways it's quite hard to compare US politics to those of a country that uses the Westminster system. For a start, since they can be turfed out at any time, Thatcher had to maintain the confidence of her party for those 10 years: Bush only had to convince the electorate twice. (Or once, depending on your feelings about that election)

Also, you can't just take how you feel now, and project that forwards 20 years. If you want to apply that thinking to a US president, try Reagan, Carter or Bush(the other one). Reagan seems to have had a lasting impact on US politics, while Carter and Bush seem more like competent but boring Presidents.

The things I listed should be considered neither neccessary nor sufficient conditions for a state funeral. I wasn't trying to propose a set of criteria for a funeral, because, as I mentioned, the most important factor is whether or not the populace actually wants to honour someone.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:13 am UTC

Azrael wrote:
distractedSofty wrote:
Azrael wrote:
distractedSofty wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:You mean a former head-of-state shouldn't be allowed a state funeral?
Thatcher was Prime Minister, not Queen.
... which is why we're discussing a State Funeral instead of a Royal State Funeral or Royal Ceremonial Funeral.
... my point was that Thatcher was never head of state.
Head of Government, then.

A distinction that remains irrelevant considering the list of individuals who have received State Funerals.

Hmm? That seems like it makes the distinction quite relevant: a Head of State is always a monarch, and therefore gets a State-eque funeral as a matter of course, while a Head of Government often doesn't get that honor.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Zamfir » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:35 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Yeah, I can't see extending the honor to Disraeli and Gladstone and not to Thatcher.

There has been a host of prime ministers since that time that didn't get this particular honour. Extending it to Thatcher is a statement that she deserves this more than her direct predecessors, that she did something special beyond the normal actions of the office that those others did not. A comparison to people a century ago doesn't mean much, since it's clear that those people were judged from very different principles.

In the case of Churchill, this was a relatively apolitical statement. His specialness was obviously connected to the war, not to his political views. People could easily honour Churchill without endorsing most of his political views at all. That's not the case for Thatcher, whose strongest supporters want to honour her mostly for the same things that her opponents dislike her for, and that are still relevant for the day to day politics of the country. It would be a highly partisan honour, without any pretense of coming from the nation as a whole.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby sigsfried » Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:34 am UTC

I really don't think Thatcher deserves one. She remains despised in much of the country even if Proginoskes was very distasteful it is a sentiment that will be echoed in much of the North of England (plus obviously Scotland). Perhaps it is not the comparison to the company she would be joining but to that which she would be leaving.

Clement Attlee, who as PM oversaw the creation of the welfare state and who "Within eighteen months, Attlee’s cabinet had done more than any previous 20th-century government to improve the lot of ordinary people." (Kevin Jeffreys). Attlee was voted by British academics to be the greatest 20th century PM.

Or

Stanely Baldwin, who dominated the inter war political era and under whom women got the vote on equal terms. Also during his term as PM the BBC was granted Royal Charter.

I think the granting of a state funeral to Thatcher would be the start of a damaging trend towards venerating British Politicians, if she gets one certainly Blair will as probably will Cameron (Government parties still total over 50% of the vote historically unprecedented, so his re-election looks likely) and then eventually probably such things will be granted to all PMs. Maybe this is something many would like to see but it is not something I look forward to.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Plasma Man » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:58 pm UTC

I like the compromise suggested by this petition. It calls for Thatcher's funeral to be privatised, as privatisation of formerly public functions is one of the things she's remembered for.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Tirian » Fri Dec 23, 2011 6:29 pm UTC

I would make a similar argument, although not thumbing my nose at Thatcher while doing it. There is something else to note about that list of commoners who received state funerals, which is that they all died during the era when the taxpayer was expected to underwrite pomp. I'm mildly surprised that she is still alive, because I would think that she would be the first person to decry a personal problem becoming a government obligation.

Also, (either) President Bush is evidently welcome to a state funeral, but keep in mind that only thirteen Presidents up to this point have had one. In addition, only a single legislator in U.S. history has been granted a state funeral (and a gold star for anyone who can guess who without looking). This surprised me, but upon reflection it would seem that the more usual tradition is to have the decedent lie in state for a period followed by a private funeral.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Zamfir » Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:07 pm UTC

She's had several strokes and Alzheimer's (or something else with her memory), so she can't really respond to such things anymore. Plans like these are basically people using her name for their own goals.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Mittagessen » Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:48 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Yeah, I can't see extending the honor to Disraeli and Gladstone and not to Thatcher.


Disraeli got India. The only thing Thatcher invaded/reclaimed was the Falklands.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby distractedSofty » Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:43 am UTC

Mittagessen wrote:Disraeli got India. The only thing Thatcher invaded/reclaimed was the Falklands.

It seems rather unfortunate that the only way to earn appreciation is to kill a bunch of people.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Proginoskes » Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:40 am UTC

poxic wrote:We regret to inform you, Prog, that Herself is still very much alive. This is all sound and fury, signifying nothing but some bickering amongst the English scritterati, I think.


Darn.

But how about: I'm in favor of giving her a state funeral, if it's tomorrow?

(Eeeewww ... Forgot tomorrow was Christmas. Make it Monday, then.)
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Mechanicus » Sat Dec 24, 2011 12:18 pm UTC

I'm with Peter Oborne here. She was an immensely significant politician. She changed the political debate from the post-war consensus to Thatcherism. But in her way, she's no more significant than Clement Attlee who created that consensus and didn't get a state funeral. If it were length of time in office, then the Marquess of Salisbury would have got one at nearly 14 years. Number of elections? She won three, Harold Wilson won four and got nothing. No, it's only for people who have been so great as to surpass party politics. Much of the point of the British state is that it's apolitical. From the Queen down to the civil service, the only bits that are overtly political are parliament and the cabinet. And so it follows that a state funeral, with all the accompanied pomp and circumstance, shouldn't go to someone who remains undoubtedly the most political and divisive of figures.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Thaciv Yovero » Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:07 pm UTC

I've read several people in this thread state that only a few politicians have been given a state funeral. Is it really the case that only those four were offered a state funeral, or is that it was only those four whose family accepted a state funeral? I ask this because in Canada all former Prime Ministers are entitled to a state funeral, however not all have one. It seems a bit strange to me that this would be different in Britain given that Canada is part of the British Crown with the Queen as the head of state and uses the Westminster system.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Zamfir » Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:27 pm UTC

Offered. Disraeli declined.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Thaciv Yovero » Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:59 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Offered. Disraeli declined.


Right, somebody mentioned that, but was Disraeli the only one that was offered a state funeral? It just seems odd to me in Canada that British PM's wouldn't all be offered a state funeral. Even Kim Campbell, who was PM for only 3 months, will be offered a state funeral (although, likely it will be declined).
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Azrael » Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:19 pm UTC

For Osiris' sake, read the thread. The relevant information was quoted and linked from Wikipedia in the fourth post.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Thaciv Yovero » Sat Dec 24, 2011 4:15 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:For Osiris' sake, read the thread. The relevant information was quoted and linked from Wikipedia in the fourth post.


What relevant information? I didn't (and still don't) see anything saying about the conventions for whether someone is "offered" a state funeral -- merely that several politicians in the UK have received a state funeral and at least one has declined.

EDIT: Oh it does say about entitlement in the Wikipedia article. I don't know how I missed that when I read it. Stupid me.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Deep_Thought » Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:05 pm UTC

Exactly what mechanicus, and by extension Peter Oborne wrote. There is a worrying trend in British politics towards party-politics, vanity and self-importance, which I do not like, and this suggestion would appear to be a part of that.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby stevenf » Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:31 pm UTC

To all responders - Thank you. I may have betrayed my private inclinations on the subject in the wording of my question.

Though Thatcher has made an indelible mark in British, European and World history, it is not the sort of mark with which I would wish to be associated. It is perhaps ironic that as her life approaches its end, the consequences of her actions are coming home to roost with a vengeance.

The proposed privatisation of the funeral is an excellent suggestion.

If a state funeral does occur then I suspect that there will be major civil disturbance.

In one of the UK national daily papers I had an alternative published recently:

A state funeral for Thatcher will be imposed on the nation without discussion. A response is required but it needs to be well planned and co-ordinated. A simple riot or series of riots will not do. The response must be better planned and executed than the funeral and must overwhelm and render futile the objectives of the occasion.

Co-ordinating countrywide (Europe- or worldwide even) events which create a lasting memorial to that which was destroyed but which also give a very loud voice to all of the constructive, progressive alternatives that have been delayed by Thatcher - that is the way to go. A joyful celebration of future progress is the best antidote to the lionising of past delusional sociopathy.

Whilst we are still making good Thatcher's harm, we can look to a future in which she is placed in her correct historical perspective, as a malign temporary deviation from civilisational progress. The 21st century can then resume the upward course that has been so sadly delayed.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby iChef » Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:40 pm UTC

Didn't Cromwell get a state funeral..... of sorts.

Also even though Thatcher was a very divisive PM she still represented a very real portion of the British people. The same way Bush and Reagan did in America. I don't see how there is any real harm in offering a state funeral or why so many people would get worked up about it. Hell we offered Harry Truman a state funeral (which was declined) and he nuked Japan.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:22 am UTC

iChef wrote:Didn't Cromwell get a state funeral..... of sorts.

Also even though Thatcher was a very divisive PM she still represented a very real portion of the British people. The same way Bush and Reagan did in America. I don't see how there is any real harm in offering a state funeral or why so many people would get worked up about it. Hell we offered Harry Truman a state funeral (which was declined) and he nuked Japan.

Read upthread. State funerals are more readily offered to Heads of Government in the US than they are in the UK.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby iChef » Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:38 am UTC

I saw that they are more common here than in the UK, I was more wondering why that might be, and why they feel so strongly about the issue. It seems to me the best possible outcome that would please the most people is to offer a state funeral and then have her decline it. They honor the former PM, but don't have to actually have the ceremony, everyone gets to save some face.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:22 am UTC

iChef wrote:I saw that they are more common here than in the UK, I was more wondering why that might be, and why they feel so strongly about the issue.

Because your presidents take on at least some of the symbolic and ceremonial position of UK royalty. It's why many countries nowadays separate the roles of president and of prime minister.
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Re: A state funeral for Thatcher - why or why not?

Postby Puppyclaws » Thu Dec 29, 2011 2:29 pm UTC

iChef wrote:I saw that they are more common here than in the UK, I was more wondering why that might be, and why they feel so strongly about the issue. It seems to me the best possible outcome that would please the most people is to offer a state funeral and then have her decline it. They honor the former PM, but don't have to actually have the ceremony, everyone gets to save some face.


I am not sure that her declining it would do very much to salve the people who feel she should not be offered it in the first place. People who do not like Margaret Thatcher tend to have pretty strong feelings on the subject. The question (in my mind) is not so much about the ceremony itself, but about whether the British government wants to give the stamp of approval to her policies and actions both as PM and in her public life afterwards.
Puppyclaws
 
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