UK: Thatcher opponents stage funeral protests

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Supporters and a small group of protesters lined the route of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral procession on Wednesday.

“She took away my milk in [the] 70s, she took away my gay rights in the 80s”, a protester told Channel 4 News.

A number of Thatcher’s opponents were seen holding banners.

One read: “Rest in Shame!” another said: “Over £10m of our money for a Tory funeral.”

Tens of thousands of people, primarily supporters, lined the streets of the City of London as the funeral procession passed.

The funeral service of Thatcher, who died last Monday at the age of 87 from a stroke, has taken place at St Paul’s Cathedral in central London.

The 2,000 congregation included Thatcher’s family and all surviving British prime ministers, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Sir John Major, the current cabinet and surviving members of Thatcher’s governments.

Both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were present.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Prime Minister David Cameron said it would have been seen as extraordinary not to commemorate her life.

“I think it will be quite a sombre event, but it is a fitting tribute to a great prime minister respected around the world, and I think other countries in the world would think Britain had got it completely wrong if we didn’t mark this in a proper way,”

Asked about those who wanted to challenge his view of Thatcher’s legacy, the prime minister said: “Of course people have the right to disagree and take a different view.

“But when you’re mourning the passing of an 87-year-old woman who was the first woman prime minister, who served for longer in the job than anyone for 150 years I think it’s appropriate to show respect.”

Gay Conservative MP Conor Burns, a friend of the former PM last week said: “Her enduring legacy is not just in what she achieved and the fact the Labour Party has not reversed much of it. While she was divisive to some degree, controversial certainly, she was an inspiration to many people way beyond these shores.”

Since her death, Thatcher’s attitude to the LGBT community – chiefly centred on Section 28 – has been the subject of renewed debate.

Introduced during the AIDS epidemic as part of the Local Government Act in 1988, Section 28 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” and that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Earlier this week, Sir Ian McKellen said Margaret Thatcher “misjudged the future” with her support for Section 28.

“Lest we forget, this nasty, brutish and short measure of the third Thatcher administration, was designed to slander homosexuality,” Sir Ian wrote on his blog.

Section 28 was repealed in 2003, and in 2009, David Cameron apologised on behalf of the Conservative Party, saying it was “a mistake” to introduce the legislation.

Last week, a video of Margaret Thatcher delivering a speech against homosexuality went viral, receiving more than 180,000 views.

In the speech she gave at the Conservative Party Conference in 1987, Thatcher said it was the “plight of girls and boys” that “worried her the most.”

“Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.

“All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life—yes cheated.”

In recent years, several conservative political commentators have argued that – in private –Thatcher could show a greater understanding towards homosexuality on an individual level than she would ever allow in her public persona.

Former Conservative MP Matthew Parris, an aide to Thatcher while she was leader of the opposition, said the former prime minister knew he was gay and showed kindness when he confirmed it to her on leaving the House of Commons in 1986.