Thatcher statue approved amid fiery debate

Not for turning: The statue, which cost an estimated £300,000, was paid for by private donations.

A statue of the UK’s first female prime minister will be put up on a tall plinth in her hometown, out of the reach of vandals, a year after the sculpture was rejected by Westminster council.

Carved in bronze, 10 foot tall, the stern gaze of Margaret Thatcher will loom over tourists in Grantham, the Lincolnshire town where she was born.

Yesterday, the local council approved plans for the statue. It will stand on a three-metre high plinth, which officials hope will keep it out of reach of vandals.

Last year, the statue — originally intended for Parliament Square — was refused by Westminster council amid fears it would be a target for protesters.

Had it been approved, the former prime minister would have joined statues of 12 men in the square and just one woman: the suffragist Millicent Fawcett.

Margaret Thatcher became prime minister on May 5, 1979, four years after becoming the first woman to lead a major British political party.

She won three general elections and stayed in Downing Street for 11 years and 209 days, still the longest term of any prime minister in over 100 years.

“Mrs Thatcher evokes powerful devotion and equally powerful antipathy,” wrote The Guardian the day after the 1979 election. Forty years on, and six years after her death, the statement still stands.

But whether you liked her or not, “very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world,” said former Prime Minister Tony Blair after her death. “Margaret was such a leader.”

Not for turning

For many in industrial areas living with her legacy, Thatcher destroyed communities and livelihoods. The anger directed at the leader and her impact on Britain is still fresh and very raw. Putting up the statue will only inflame division.

On the other hand, she was a towering figure in British history. Perhaps it is only shocking that there is not already a public statue of her. Why is Thatcher considered too “divisive” for London?

You Decide

  1. Why is Margaret Thatcher such a divisive figure?

Activities

  1. Choose who you think is the worst and best prime minister since 1900. Discuss your choices in groups.

Some People Say...

“There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”

Margaret Thatcher

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
South Kesteven district council has approved plans to erect a statue of Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first female prime minister, in her hometown of Grantham in Lincolnshire.
What do we not know?
Whether the statue will be vandalised. While it will be protected by CCTV and a high plinth, Margaret Thatcher was a very divisive figure.

Word Watch

Millicent Fawcett
As a suffragist, she was more moderate than the suffragettes, who launched violent protests for female suffrage. Her statue was put up last year in Parliament Square.
100 years
She served for 18 months longer than Tony Blair, a former Labour prime minister, who also won three elections.
Evokes
Brings something to mind.
Antipathy
Strong dislike.

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