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British Public Reacts to Margaret Thatcher’s Death With Praise and Censure

April 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: As preparations for an April 17th funeral get under way, the passing of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female leader and the country’s longest-serving prime minister in the 20th century, is eliciting a mixed response from the British public.

Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports.

ALEX THOMSON, Independent Television News: Late last night, her body was removed from the Ritz Hotel in the center of London, police outriders at the ready to begin a carefully managed process. Tony Blair dubbed Princess Diana the people’s princess. David Cameron called Margaret Thatcher the patriot prime minister. Both end up with what looks and feels quite like a state funeral, but isn’t.

FRANCIS MAUDE, Member of British Parliament: Well, there’s already a huge amount of interest. She was a great prime minister. She was prime minister for 11 years and was totally transformational for the country. And I think there’s a huge amount of people who will want to — not just in Britain, but around the world — who will want to pay their respects to her.

ALEX THOMSON: In death, as in life, of course, the Thatcher story is two stories, of love and hatred. There will be, therefore, the praises, the hymns, the eulogies in this place next week, but across Britain, many, many other people will be singing very different songs and feeling very different emotions.

So, today, a rush of U.K. downloads of “The Wizard of Oz” song Judy Garland’s “Ding-Dong the Witch Is Dead.” The Daily Telegraph’s online comments page shut down after it was inundated with messages of hate for Margaret Thatcher.

Across Britain, street parties last night celebrating her death. This was Bristol, where riot police attempted to break up the party. Belfast, Glasgow, and London saw similar events. Police in London say they’re aware of a gathering planned this weekend. The public can line the routes to Saint Paul’s next Wednesday under a plan now being code-named Operation True Blue.