Farewell, Maggie Thatcher – Love, London

Photo by Dana Chiucharelli - The Union Jack is flown at half-mast at Somerset House following the death of Lady Margaret Thatcher Monday, April 8.
The Union Jack is flown at half-mast at Somerset House following the death of Lady Margaret Thatcher Monday, April 8./ Photo by Dana Chiuchiarelli

I don’t usually visit 10 Downing Street.

Visiting 10 Downing Street on a regular basis is kind-of like visiting the White House on a regular basis – unnecessary.

There are always hordes of tourists outside the gate leading to Downing Street, and an entire fenced-off square separating the back entrance from the masses. Unless going for a specific purpose, visiting anywhere near Parliament Square, Whitehall, or the Churchill War Rooms is just not worth it. And of course, I hate tourists.

However, I happened to be strolling by the street/building mid-afternoon Monday, April 8. I was taking my sister to my campus on the Strand after visiting – past the crowd always outside Downing Street’s gate.

Both having lived in London, we looked at the crowd of foreigners and rolled our eyes a bit before rushing past. However, we both noticed something slightly different about the guards at the gate and Number 10 itself.

There were people there. Not just people, upon further inspection, but the gaggle, or the press corps assigned to the Prime Minister. There were news cameras set up, complete with flood lights, mics and a silver carpet outside the door. David Cameron was nowhere to be seen, but clearly he was making A Statement of Some Kind.

Assuming something important happened in Parliament that day, we declined photos and kept walking. Arriving at my campus and Somerset House, the flag was at half-mast.

“Something’s up,” my sister said. “Check Twitter.”

After scanning Twitter for about 0.5 seconds we got the news from BBC Breaking: Former Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher died that morning of a stroke at the age of 87.

I’m not much of a political person, but I immediately knew this would be A Big Deal. Lady Thatcher shaped modern British society with her political, economic and social policies.

Unfortunately, I left Britain the next day for the Continent. But not before I was able to pick up the Evening Standard and get a glimpse of the Financial Times the next day.

Thus far, London has reacted in a rather subdued, English way to Lady Thatcher’s death. Many are recognizing Lady Thatcher’s profound legacy within Britain. Few are referring to her with the same ferocious hatred she received in her lifetime by opponents.

Of course, David Cameron has issued a statement of condolences, as have countless current and former MPs, the royal family, foreign politicians and prominent people.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the office of the Prime Minister is accepting condolences from the public, both online and via condolence books at places like City Hall, St. Margaret’s Church and British Embassies worldwide.

So far the mood in London, according to those still there, has been relatively reflective and complacent. Considering Lady Thatcher’s funeral will take place Wednesday, April 17 – complete with a funeral procession from Westminster Palace to St. Paul’s. Essentially the entire center of central London will be shut down for the event, making me very glad I wouldn’t have to attempt to get to campus while the Strand is shut down.

The funeral will be publicized on live television across the UK and international affiliates, and is intended to included highest full military honors. Most Londoners who are not highly interested in attending Lady Thatcher’s funeral procession are planning on leaving London for the day.

Next week will tell if the public remains civil to Lady Thatcher’s memory, and how the funeral arrangements are finalized.

Updates on Lady Thatcher’s life are available on BBC UK and Downing Street’s website.