Thank you, sir.
The point is that beatification and canonisation is something that can happen only when there is a consensus. There is no such consensus about the former Prime Minister, yet people are acting, the state is acting. The state broadcaster and now the parliamentary authorities are asking us to accept things that are too close to royal. Mrs Thatcher famously had a slightly fraught relationship with the palace, and I can understand why. Mrs Thatcher might to many Government Members have been great, but she was not great to up to 60% of the electorate when she was alive, and, according to the polls, more than 50% of the people now being polled are against her—strongly against her and feel that she did bad things here and abroad. It brings into discredit this kind of funeral, this kind of state occasion, if it is awarded when many people in the country feel it is unjustified, and feel that it is being rammed down their throats for partisan and ideological reasons, for which they are being asked to pay.
Through you, Mr Speaker, I caution the establishment of which I suspect you are not fully regarded as a member, though you ought to be, because your office is one of the great offices in the land. I say to the establishment, through you, Mr Speaker, that it has gone too far. There has been too much of this. It is too expensive, too elaborate, too regal, and many people in the country are unhappy about it. And to compound it all by effectively cancelling a vital part of British political life would be to add insult to the injury already suffered.
My last point—[Hon. Members: “Hurray!”] Gentlemen—[Hon. Members: “And ladies!”]—and ladies, although the misbehaviour is coming exclusively from gentlemen, as I think they are called, on the Government Benches, my point is this. This funeral did not have to be organised so that it would clash with Prime Minister’s Question Time. It could have been held today or on Thursday. The state was vitally involved in the organisation of this funeral—we know that, because we are paying for it—and it was the state that organised the clash with Prime Minister’s Question Time, so why should the
House of Commons be asked to accept the abrogation of its proper role tomorrow, given that the Government are responsible for the clash?
It is too late now to change the time of the funeral, but it is not too late for the House to refuse to abandon its responsibilities at Prime Minister’s questions. If the House divides on this at the end of the evening, as I hope it will, I hope that a decent number of Members of Parliament will reflect the feelings, if not of their own constituents, then of the tens of millions of constituents of many of us on the Opposition Benches—and of some Government Members too—who feel that the adoration of the Maggie has gone far enough.