Baroness Thatcher will be buried at St Paul’s Cathedral. She will be given full military honours, and given all the respect that a figure of her importance deserves. But she will not have a state funeral. That’s absolutely the right decision.
A year and a half or so ago, my colleague Peter Oborne made an impassioned and eloquent case for giving Lady Thatcher a suitably grand send-off, but not a state funeral. “They are so very rarely awarded because they have been designed for a category of great men and women who have come to represent the nation as a whole,” he wrote. That includes monarchs, warriors – such as Nelson – and brilliant figures such as Darwin and Newton. “Only four prime ministers have been awarded the honour in the past 200 years – Wellington, Palmerston, Gladstone and Churchill,” he points out. While Lady Thatcher ranks alongside such names, he says, the nation will not come together at her death; a state funeral would be a bitter occasion for those, such as the Welsh miners, who – rightly or wrongly – suffered at her hand.
I can’t pretend to know as well as Peter does the history or the politics or the constitutional implications. But he is absolutely right about one thing: a state funeral for Lady Thatcher would have provoked an almighty row. As Dan Hodges points out elsewhere, it’s important for everyone, even those who disagreed with or disliked her, to maintain dignity: to acknowledge that whatever your politics, an elderly woman and a major national figure has died. He’s absolutely right, and it seems that on the whole dignity is being maintained (a few unpleasant examples aside). But a state funeral would have put the situation under much more strain. The decision to give her a major, but non-state, funeral is exactly the right one.