Published on April 17, 2013 | by Henry Fry and Zoha Tapia0
Iron Lady’s Golden Exit
ALN reporters Henry Fry and Zoha Tapia walked the Iron Lady’s funeral route to witness the frenzy, the protests and the drastically different opinions of the crowd.
Picture credit: Chloe Ferguson, Henry Fry, Kate Anchevskaya, Jon Durr, Oxana Andrienko, Zoha Tapia
Supporters and opponents of former PM Margaret Thatcher braved the gloomy weather today, lining the streets from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral, to witness her final farewell.
For some she was an inspiration and a landmark for change; for others a “witch” – but no matter if you hated or loved her you cannot ignore effects she had on the nation.
Tina Yasmin held up a sign proclaiming ‘Thank you Mrs T’. She said: “All of us benefit from her legacy. When she came to power there was no hope in the future. We were riddled with strikers, you paid extortionate taxes and there was no hope to start your own business. I remember 33 per cent for national insurance. People forget all these things.”
While human traffic on pavements was slow, at times stagnant, the empty roads ready for her last journey were lined with sombre guards in military brocade –and police keeping an eye out for anyone suspicious.
French fashion designer Beatrice sported her own creation – a Thatcher jacket specially made for the funeral. “I am inspired because she was a woman but I fight against her because she is too straight, too iron,” she said.
Despite polarised opinions, a strange sense of unity pervaded the event. While the police frisked members of the public, they also passed messages between people divided by the road barriers. To others (like us) they helpfully played the role of Google maps.
The funeral brought together people from different backgrounds and nationalities, drawing in onlookers from across the globe. One gentleman we spoke to had come from Zimbabwe in order to make his feelings about Thatcher known, because of who he “lost most of his family and friends”.
Among the mourners were David Cameron, George Osbourne and former PM Tony Blair, who smiled despite being booed.
Kent natives Jennifer Gallagher and Bernadette Martin dressed in red with coal in their hands to “air their views” against Thatcher’s regime. Gallagher said: “Our older sons went to school when Margaret came to power and we have seen them ripped apart. She took away the kids milk. We wanted her to be buried in a stainless steel coffin with “made in Sheffield” on the bottom. Then ignited with coal. She was only great if you had money.”
But more than ever it showcased the multi-cultural British police force – who, when lined up along the Strand, looked like a bobby-themed Benetton advertisement.
While high street shops had their shutters down, coffee shops and pubs wooed the crowds, as they stood for hours, desperate for a glimpse of those famous shoulder pads. All kinds of people stood together under a respectful low volume, from protestors to ardent Thatcherites. Even Falkland war veterans cheered as the guard and military divisions marched past.
Perching on every available surface, from window ledges to Boris Bike racks – even someone standing on the ledge of a church on Fleet Street – people went through inconceivable heights to glimpse the hearse.
We raced against time and the slow-moving crowd to get to St Paul’s, stopping to chat with the more animated attendees (some in elaborately Thatcher-adorned costumes), as we witnessed what will certainly go down as one of the more entertaining ceremonial funerals in London’s history.
As the crowds dispersed we stopped for a much-needed coffee near Aldwych from cheerful coffee vendor Kieran Tobin, who was very philosophical about the event and said: “What are my views on Margaret Thatcher? At the end of the day she was an 87-year-old woman who died and I think everyone should give respect to that person. She was just a lady doing her job.”