HARD NEWS

Margaret Thatcher: Party leaders to pay tribute as Parliament is recalled

David Cameron will lead tributes to the former prime minister Baroness Thatcher later on Wednesday in a specially convened session of Parliament.

His deputy Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband are among those who will also speak in the Commons, while the Lords will stage a separate debate.

The funeral of Baroness Thatcher, who died on Monday after a series of strokes, will take place on 17 April.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, will attend the service.

It will be the first time that the sovereign has attended the funeral of a British politician since that of Winston Churchill in 1965.

The funeral ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, following a procession from Westminster.

In other developments:

The Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Baroness Thatcher made an “unabashedly racist” comment to him after her retirement
The chairmen of Wigan Athletic and Reading say Lady Thatcher’s life must be honoured in some way as the Premier League say they will not be asking clubs to hold a one-minute silence at forthcoming fixtures.
Rupert Murdoch praises the former PM as a “risk taker” who “believed in doing the right thing”.
Union leader Len McCluskey calls Thatcherism an “evil creed”
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair says parties celebrating Baroness Thatcher’s death are “in poor taste”
Lady Thatcher, a Conservative, was the UK’s first female prime minister. She was in office from 1979 to 1990, winning three successive general elections. She was an MP between 1959 and 1992 and latterly a member of the Lords for 21 years.

She died “peacefully” after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London. An undertaker’s van carrying a silver casket left the hotel early on Tuesday morning for an undisclosed location.

Parliament is being recalled from its Easter recess to enable MPs and peers to pay tributes in separate debates due to begin at 1430 BST.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has described Baroness Thatcher as a “great Briton” who “saved” her country, will open the Commons debate, which will last a maximum of seven-and-a-half hours.

Labour leader Ed Miliband will speak after his Conservative counterpart while Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is also expected to address MPs.

Backbenchers from all parties will then have the opportunity to speak, with Conservatives expected to reminisce about their personal experiences of the former PM and to praise her legacy.

Labour’s John Mann has questioned the need for Parliament to be recalled, saying MPs could “perfectly properly” pay their respects when the Commons returns from a three-week break on Monday.

“I do not know why we are wasting taxpayers’ money on an additional session,” the MP – who won’t attend due to a dentist’s appointment – said.

‘State-organised eulogy’

Respect MP George Galloway has said he would not attend, as genuine debate was “not allowed”. He has described the government motion asking the House to “consider the matter of tributes” to Baroness Thatcher as a “state-organised eulogy”.

However, a large number of Labour MPs – as well as MPs from other parties – are expected to pay tribute.

After the last death of a former prime minister – Edward Heath in 2005 – the Commons staged an hour-long debate to pay tribute to him.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has become the latest high-profile figure to pay tribute to the former PM. In an article in The Times – which he owns – Mr Murdoch said the former PM “rehabilitated” Britain and the country was “far more successful as a result of her brave leadership”.

But Mr McCluskey, the head of the UK’s largest union Unite, told Sky News Thatcherism – the word used to sum up her philosophy and political beliefs – was an evil creed and “maybe millions celebrated” her death.

Small gatherings happened on Monday night in various parts of the UK, notably in Glasgow, Bristol and London.

‘Huge figure’

Senior Labour party sources said Mr Miliband “categorically condemns” any celebration of Lady Thatcher’s death and while Labour disagreed with much of what she did, Lady Thatcher was a “huge figure” in British politics whose personal achievements must be respected.

Lady Thatcher, who had been in poor health for several years prior to her death, will not have a state funeral, but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

A ceremonial funeral is one rung down from a state funeral – normally reserved for monarchs – and requires the consent of the Queen.

A Downing Street spokesman said the details were agreed at a “co-ordination meeting” between the Thatcher family and Buckingham Palace and that Baroness Thatcher’s estate would make a contribution to the costs of her funeral.

Source: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22086690

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