Home town backs Thatcher statue

PTI/Agencies, New Delhi
06/02/2019   0 Comments

Margaret Thatcher's home town cautiously backed plans to erect a statue of the late British leader -- but only after putting it on a plinth tall enough to keep vandals at bay. The strong-willed "Iron Lady" of the 1980s remains a polarising figure in Britain six years after her death at the age of 87. Her sweeping privatisation and deregulation efforts are credited with pulling Britain out of the economic doldrums. But her resolve to break the trade unions -- especially the miners -- in the face of strikes and street protests made her into a hate figure for the left. A bid to have a statue of the Conservative party leader stand alongside icon Winston Churchill and other leaders filling a square opposite parliament in London fizzled out last year over concerns about "potential vandalism and civil disorder". 

Thatcher's daughter Carol also reportedly objected to the absence of her mother's trademark handbag. The 10.5 foot (3.2 metres) tall bronze statue shows the former prime minister in the flowing robe that she wore as a member of the House of Lords. Thatcher's hands are folded solemnly before her -- without the handbag. The local council in Grantham in central England approved it only after agreeing to put it on an equally tall granite plinth to keep it safe from "politically motivated vandals". Thatcher will now hover over a central Grantham square facing the local museum. "There remains a motivated far-left movement across the UK... who may be committed to public activism," a report submitted to the local district council cautioned. 

Some council members said the statue -- reportedly gathering dust in a foundry since being rejected by London -- should stay where it is. "I understand Margaret Thatcher's statue is currently out of sight in a secret location," councillor Charmaine Morgan was quoted saying by the Grantham Journal. "Perhaps it should stay there." Grantham is a town of around 45,000 that once produced steam engines but is now mostly known as being the birthplace of both Thatcher and the scientist Isaac Newton. Local heritage association trustee David Burling admitted that "the debate about Margaret Thatcher's legacy will now continue for generations to come". But he said in a statement posted on the local council's website that what Grantham needed most was tourist money. 

Local council leader Matthew Lee agreed. "Whatever your views, the statue will undoubtedly attract more visitors to the town which can only be good news for Grantham's local economy," he said in the same statement. But councillor Morgan said Thatcher "did little to help her fellow women" and "preferred the company of men". "Our police are struggling to manage without the additional burden," Morgan argued. Grantham's only existing commemoration of Thatcher is a plaque marking where she was born. She will now stand besides an existing statue of Newton and a 19th-century local politician named Frederick Tollemache.


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