Response to Thatcher's Death Exposes Decades-old Divisions in Britain

Apr 12, 2013

British flags fly at half-staff in Whitehall, London - April 8, 2013
Credit David Holt London / Flickr

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will be remembered Wednesday during a funeral with full military honors at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Suzette Grillot, the host of KGOU’s World Views and the Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies, says debates about Thatcher’s legacy and even her funeral suggest Britain is still deeply divided.

“There are those who suggested that she was a respectful prime minister who presided over much change and growth, and that she was one of the greatest peacetime prime ministers,” Grillot says. “Of course there are many that suggest she destroyed social cohesion and opened the door the pursuit of personal wealth instead of empowering the common good.”

Thatcher assumed control of her party in 1975, and became the country’s first (and so far only) female prime minister four years later. Rebecca Cruise says even in 1979, women were still fighting many battles in all countries and levels of society.

“The glass ceiling had not even been tapped yet, let alone been broken,” Cruise says. “Many of the same debates that we had during that time with Margaret Thatcher are still the debates that are going on now. What will a female leader do, as opposed to what will a leader do?”

More than 2,000 celebrities, dignitaries, colleagues, and friends of the late British leader – from former U.S. presidents to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, have been invited to Thatcher’s funeral.