Margaret Thatcher has always incited extreme reactions, whether you love her or loathe her and, even in death, she continues to divide the nation.
Within minutes of her passing being announced, there were at least three hashtags relating to the news trending on Twitter (including #nowthatcherisdead, which confused Cher fans) and the social media platform reported that, in the four hours after her death was announced, there were more than one million mentions of ‘Thatcher’ in Tweets. However, with messages ranging from condolences to celebrations, it begs the question, is it ever acceptable to speak ill of the dead?
Even as I was leaving work on Monday, the Evening Standard vendor handing out the paper invited us to “read about the witch”, while in cities across the country, people attended street parties to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death. Sales of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz are pushing the song to the number one spot in the charts and celebrities, including Respect MP George Galloway and comedian Mark Steel, Tweeted the lyrics to Elvis Costello’s “Tramp The Dirt Down”, a 1989 song which looks forward to dancing on the former Prime Minister’s grave.
At the other end of the scale, Thatcher’s fans are calling for a statue of her to be built in Trafalgar Square, with Boris Johnson even suggesting the planned Thames Estuary airport should be named after her. President Obama described her as “one of the great champions of freedom” and “an example to our daughters”, and a Tweet by him was retweeted more than 12,000 times – more than any other on the subject. Celebrities such as Meryl Streep and David Beckham have praised her “passion and strength” and described her as a “figure of awe”. Even Labour leader, Ed Miliband, despite not agreeing with her politics, said, “Margaret Thatcher was a unique and towering figure” adding, “I honour her personal achievements”.
Whether you agree or disagree with Margaret Thatcher as a politician, her lasting legacy cannot be denied (whether you view this as a good thing or a bad thing), and she has allegedly inspired more films, songs and books than any other British leader since Oliver Cromwell. This week, a family lost their mother and grandmother, and whatever your view of the woman herself, surely they should at least be allowed some time to grieve?
With the funeral planned for next Wednesday, let’s hope that, for one day at least, a simultaneously much admired and much hated woman is finally allowed to rest in peace.