Margaret Thatcher Statue? Not In Our Backyard, Says Her Hometown Conservatives

 @Gooch700 on March 04 2013 8:33 AM
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher Reuters

Margaret Thatcher has been out of power for well over 20 years, but this most polarizing of British political figures continues to spark controversy.

Now, at 87 years old, Baroness Thatcher inadvertently finds herself in the middle of a bizarre political flap in her native city of Grantham in Lincolnshire.

After some Labour councillors in South Kesteven District Council (which includes Grantham) proposed the construction of a statue of the former prime minister, some Conservative councillors (i.e., members of the Iron Lady’s own party) rejected it.

Since Tories control the council, the measure was soundly defeated -- by a margin of 40 to 7.

Apparently, the local Labour leadership believes that a statue of Thatcher would increase tourism to Grantham, which is about 115 miles north of London.

“Last year £11 billion [$16.5 billion] was spent by tourists in our region. Many of those tourists came up from London,” said Grantham Labour leader Charmaine Morgan at a council meeting on Friday, according to the Daily Mail.

“We must take more advantage, through marketing, of our links to London, and we need a package of deliverables to attract tourists in addition to our existing offering.”

But local Conservative councillor Bob Adams said it was the "express wish of Baroness Thatcher that a statue not be erected" in her hometown, BBC reported.

Another Conservative councillor, Ray Wooten, accused Morgan of merely seeking publicity.

"Councillor Morgan has spent the last month on TV and radio condemning plans to commemorate Baroness Thatcher's achievements,” he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

"This call by her and her party is nothing more than publicity-seeking on her behalf, and she knows it."

Indeed, in the past, Morgan objected to the prospect of a Thatcher statue in the town.

Some Tories also reportedly feel that such a statue would be targeted by vandals and even terrorists.

The Mail reported that Grantham has only a small plaque on the wall of a grocery store/post office to honor its most famous native. There are also some exhibits on Thatcher at the Grantham Museum, but nothing more prominent.

Morgan told BBC that party loyalties should not matter over this issue, given that Thatcher was the only female prime minister in British history.

"This is very much local councils feeling very strongly that we should be putting aside our party politics for a moment, and we should be recognizing it is an opportunity to bring revenue into our town,” she said.

"But that doesn't mean we accept [that Thatcher] should be lauded.”

A statue of Thatcher actually already exists -- built at a cost of some £150,000; the work of art was decapitated in 2002 at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London by an anti-Thatcher protester. It now resides in storage in the House of Commons, fully restored, behind a glass case.

In February 2013, Jayne Robb, manager of Grantham Museum, was suspended after falsely claiming that statue was offered to the Lincolnshire market town.

Victoria Honeyman, a lecturer in British politics at University of Leeds, believes opposition to the Thatcher statue in Grantham is largely dictated by cost concerns.

“How can cash-strapped local councils justify the commissioning or purchase of a statue at a time when they are having to make huge cuts in local services because of the economic crisis,” she said.

“It would seem to many [to be rather] self-indulgent and wasteful.

But Honeyman conceded that Thatcher herself is part of the problem.

“She is an extremely controversial figure and therefore a statue of her would be more likely to face vandalism and defacement, meaning money would be needed to be spent on restoration,” she added.

“The controversy alone would be difficult to deal with -- would the local community want such a statue?”

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