Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has strongly denied David Cameron’s claim that “we are all Thatcherites now”, and cited Section 28 as one of the things former prime minister Margaret Thatcher got wrong.
Prime Minister David Cameron, made the remark to the BBC ahead of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral yesterday, going on to claim that she had been proved right on social issues, as well as economic.
“I think in a way we are all Thatcherites now,” he said. “One of the things about her legacy is some of those big arguments we had everyone now accepts.”
Speaking on his weekly LBC 97.3 radio phone-in show, Nick Clegg acknowledged that Lady Thatcher had a “huge impact”, but that he did not see her as a “role model in everything”.
“With the benefit of hindsight I think what you can see is she shook the country up, certainly economically, in a way that most people now accept was necessary.
“But there were other things, ranging from her attitude towards apartheid South Africa, Section 28, gay rights … the effect of some of the policies on particular parts of the the country in the North.”
He went on to say he did not know why Mr Cameron made the comment. He said: “I guess perhaps the point that he was making is that quite a lot of the big economic reforms that Thatcher governments introduced – trade union reform, liberalising the economy, boosting the private sector – these big reforms were not put into reverse by subsequent governments.
“I am not a Thatcherite, I am not a Conservative so I did not agree with quite a lot of what she did,” he continued.
“But that is not to deny that she had a huge impact on the country – friend and foe have recognised that over the last several days.”
On the comment made by David Cameron Mr Clegg said: “He is the leader of the Conservative Party. He is perfectly entitled to say that.” He also defended George Osborne for crying and “showing emotion” at the ceremony.
He did however, defend the taxpayer-funded funeral service for Lady Thatcher yesterday, which was widely reported to have cost £10 million.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who coordinated the Government’s preparations for the funeral, said the cost would be “much, much less” than had been reported, but the official figure had not yet been revealed.
A spokesman for David Cameron said: “We will publish the costs in due course. I think people will understand it can take a little time to draw together the final costings for high-profile and significant events such as yesterday’s funeral.
“That is what is being done, and we will publish the costs,” he said.
Mr Clegg said: “There’s nothing new about the government of the day supporting funeral costs for significant public figures and, of course, former prime ministers – that is actually quite an established convention and has happened before,
“Of course, I can hear that there are people who have differing views but whether you are for or against Margaret Thatcher… everybody recognises she was a very significant political figure and this was a big occasion and that it was done on a cross-party basis.”
Labour Leader Ed Milliband, whilst campaigning in South Shields, also rebuked the comments. He said: “I don’t agree with him and we are not all Thatcherites now,” he said.
“He may have been making the point that there are some things that happened in the 1980s that have not been reversed and people are not planning to reverse.
“But there are lots of things that do need to change – we have learned about deregulation and the problems that creates.
“There’s things about our society that need to change as well so I certainly don’t consider myself to be a Thatcherite and there are lots of people in the country who don’t consider themselves to be Thatcherite either.”
At the weekend, BBC Radio 1’s Official Chart Show played a short clip of Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead – a song promoted by opponents to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher – it reached number two in the charts.
The BBC cut the length of the 51-second song to five seconds, in regards to taste and decency.