Published:

By Harry Phibbs
Follow Harry on Twitter

When I was compiling the rolling blog of tributes to Lady Thatcher yesterday I chose not to include any of the unpleasant comments (usually made via Twitter or the BBC) from those on the Left welcoming her death. For all decent people such a welcome was repulsive. Yet for some the  passing away of a law abiding, frail, 87-year-old grandmother was a spur most callous way they could manage with aggressive, publicity seeking, celebrations.

George Galloway, who never met a dictator he didn't like, is the leader of the Respect Party but surpassed himself with his disrespect.

There were also hostile comments from Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, from Scargillite remnants in the National Union of Mineworkers and Argentinian veterans from the invasion of the Falklands.

Some yobs gathered in Brixton to "celebrate" her death – then smashed the windows of a Barnado's shop. In Bristol anti-Thatcher nostalgia involving setting fire to bins and injuring seven police officers.

Had she not succeeded in her mission to defeat Socialism and revive our nation these attacks would have been much more muted. There is an Arab proverb that you should : "Judge a man by the reputation of his enemies." That was also a good way to judge this particular woman. Had should always sought consensus she would not have been effective.


I was interested to see from Conor Burns that Margaret Thatcher the intensity of the attacks from such people a great source of encouragement.

These demos were picked up eagerly by  BBC broadcasts to illustrate how divisive she was.

Yet many of the tributes from left wing politicians at home and abroad show her astonishing success in creating a new consensus.

For the BBC talking heads her quote from St Francis of Assis when she arrived in Downing Street was at odds with her premiership. Some of the wets like Lord Prior and Ken Clarke thought so too.

Was this sneering fair? Not really.

As The Times leader(£) this morning remarked:

As for her words that day, those long years ago, outside No 10, she did indeed make Britain less discordant, less doubting, more optimistic. Where there was despair, she brought hope.

Anyone who disputes this should cast their mind back to the 1970s. Or if too young read Dominic Sandbrook's excellent book Seasons in the Sun. It was not a decade of harmony. 

So should we ignore the vile abuse from the Left towards Lady Thatcher? Or welcome it as a perverse tribute?

Either seem reasonable to be a reasonable response but I have a couple of caveats.

Firstly, if the Labour Party are serious about condemning those who felt it was acceptable to welcome Lady Thatcher's death then they should remove such people – including the Labour MP Ian Lavery with his "no tears from me" tweet – from the Labour Party. Otherwise the condemnation is synthetic.

Secondly, there was the cheering at the news of Lady Thathcher's death from the National Union of Students conference. In 1986 I remember meeting going to Downing Street for a meeting with Margaret Thatcher along with other members of the Federation of Conservative Students National Committee.

I asked about introducing voluntary membership of student unions. She turned on George Walden, the Minister for Higher Education, who was also there, and said:

"Yes, why haven't we done that yet?"

Mr Walden mentioned something about practical difficulties. He didn't sound very convincing or even very convinced. Although he added an "isn't it" as a reference to how as Education Secretary her efforts to introduce such policy had been scuppered.

It remains unfinished business. We have a system of compulsory student union membership – 700 college student unions funded by the taxpayer and also paying as much as £10,000 each to the National Union of Students.

Why should the taxpayer employee full time student union sabbaticals and then pay their expenses to attend the NUS conference in Sheffield so they can boo our greatest ever peace time Prime Minister on the day of her death?

It's a free society. Let people boo or cheer what they like at their meetings. But why should they do so at taxpayers expense? Why should they claim to represent students when students are merely their conscripts in this forgotten closed shop?

David Cameron should explain how he can justify millions of pounds of our money being spent each year of such an odious outfit.

Comments are closed.