Former Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold: I won’t dance on Thatcher’s grave but she made gay people feel ‘marginalised’

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As a gay woman former BBC Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold says celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher is inappropriate, although admits she celebrated her exit from Downing Street in 1990.

Arnold, who left the BBC earlier this year has said Thatcher is a source of personal “anger” because of her support for Section 28.

News of Thatcher’s death on Monday caused a small number of celebratory street parties to occur in places such as Brixton, Glasgow and Bristol.

On Wednesday, Ed Miliband joined his political rivals in paying tribute to Thatcher in the Commons, but said her support for Section 28 caused gay people to be “stigmatised”.

Section 28 was introduced during the AIDS epidemic as part of the Local Government Act in 1988.

It banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Writing in the Telegraph, Alice Arnold – partner of sports presenter Clare Balding – revealed she was no fan of the ex-PM.

“Well I am not going to dance on Lady Thatcher’s grave. The feeling of anger and shame that her name engenders in me was as strong in her life as it is in her death. We have all known that she has been unwell for a long time, but because she was ill does not prevent me from having a pretty strong opinion on what she did when she was perfectly well.”

Arnold continues: “I was 24 when Section 28 was introduced to ‘prevent the promotion of homosexuality’ in schools by Lady Thatcher’s government in 1987. It was at a time when AIDS was placing its hideous stranglehold on the gay community. A community that needed help, support and education was instead the victim of homophobia entrenched in our education system.

“The progress of equality was set back decades. Gay people were made to feel even more marginalised. There was an excuse to ostracise and bully. It was a sorry, sorry time and anyone who was remotely involved in it should feel nothing but shame.

“Lady Thatcher was a woman of principle who never doubted her convictions. She never admitted to being wrong. The British Labour politician Roy Hattersley tells of a time when there was clearly an error in a white paper but however blatant the mistake, Mrs T was having none of it. Is that something to admire? Are we to admire someone just because they have principles even if those principles are misguided?”

Section 28 was later repealed under Tony Blair’s Labour government and the current Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised for the policy in 2009.

Arnold spoke of her admiration at Mr Cameron’s decision. “If I admire David Cameron for anything it is his ability to make a u-turn, to apologise for his support of Clause 28 and admit to an error of judgement.

“I don’t admire people just for being strong. Strength in itself is not laudable if it is misguided. The truly intelligent ask questions and are open to doubt. Bullishness is not necessarily ‘great’”.

Arnold concluded: “As a gay woman, I was a victim of (Thatcher’s) public life and to me that represented unkindness bordering on bullying. I celebrated when she was ousted from power. I danced then. I have no need to do it again but when the country stops next Wednesday to watch her state funeral, my heart will be empty.”