These ungenerous attitudes towards Lady Thatcher are to be found in the campaign questioning whether the state should pay her funeral costs. The Bishop of Grantham, Tim Ellis, entered the fray on this point at the weekend.
He told the BBC, “I think that in a context where there is manifestly great ill-feeling about her tenure and about her legacy, to then actually have a situation where we seem to be expecting the nation to glorify that with a £10 million funeral ... I think any sensible person would say that that is asking for trouble.”
He added, “It plays into the hands of those more extreme people who will use the funeral as an opportunity to promote certain political views.”
Apart from the fact that it is presumptuous for Bishop Ellis to think that his own preferences should override those of family and friends, this is again to make Lady Thatcher solely responsible for reactions to her death.
Margaret Thatcher’s official biographer, Charles Moore, reminded us this week that public aspects of all Prime Minister’s funerals have always been paid for by the State (‘Margaret Thatch- er: Her funeral is not a political act, but a moment to wish for peace’, Telegraph, 12 April 2013).
He writes: “There will be no political eulogy. It is a pity that the funeral operation was codenamed True Blue: the service concentrates solely on the true God, and His servant now leaving this life.”
This is the right balance to strike in the midst of a frantic political debate. This is not to agree with all her policies but to attend instead to the last pastoral rite of a woman of faith who, in the economy of God, is neither the greatest nor the first, but like all of us a disciple and a pilgrim.