For the tourists, or those who had by some implausible way managed to miss the coverage of Baroness Thatcher’s death in the past week and a half, the haunting waves of whooping cheers and claps that echoed through East Central London on Wednesday morning, were curious to say the least.
These cheers hung thickly in the air; ringing on one part with pride of the first female British Prime Minister, and on the other with the same triumphant mentality that brought “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” to number two in the charts last week.
Swathes of city slickers filed from their officers onto the streets, climbing onto the window sills of Pret a Manger, to get a better look at the Baroness’s last journey through the city that she brought so much wealth and opportunity to during her time as Prime Minister. Whilst on the other side of the divide infamously accounted for by her divisive treatment of the Miners, the South Yorkshire town of Goldthorpe “celebrated” her funeral by cheering the burning of her effigy.
Such divisions were momentarily smoothed under the hallowed tones of Richard Chartres, The Bishop of London, in his opening remarks at the funeral service: “After the storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm”. But in reality controversy rumbled on quietly through the crowds. The police cautiously surveying the occasional eruptions of free speech by the anti-Thatcherites, who were decidedly outnumbered amongst the largely white middle class who lined the funeral route.
Despite our age of twittering and tumblr, instagram and snapchat, something has to be said for the slightly morbid need to photograph the coffined Baroness. Open to the prey of our celebrity obsessive culture, whilst a historic moment, whispers amongst the more respectful questioned when really anyone would personally re-watch the footage that they shot shakily over bobbing heads and clapping hands.
The Bishop of London’s sermon ended with the twisted logic of T. S. Eliot, “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make an end is to make a beginning/The end is where we start from.” Logic that is most fitting to the memory of Thatcher that will forever lie restlessly in British society. One of broken societies and the very foundation of our neo-liberally fascinated society, both a war wager and a victim of terrorism, the first female Prime Minister and yet more “masculine” in her authority than since the days of Winston Churchill.
Despite jitters of contention against the tax payers’ bill laying victim to her questionable ceremonial funeral with military honours, the Baroness was left to pass by peacefully. In many ways it was a day of surreal calm that the Bishop alluded to in his sermon. Beneath the feuds she helped to spawn and nurture, respect should be granted in that she very much devoted her life to her country as Prime Minister, a sacrifice that no woman since has fought to take.