This country’s politics, like its population, is heavily London-centric. So is most of its media, despite the BBC moving programmes to Salford Quays. And at times – like right now, as the capital prepares for the almost-state funeral of Margaret Thatcher – it shows. Because the rest of the UK is just getting on with business as usual. Outside the Westminster bubble, there are all too few who are concerned.
St Paul's Cathedral
That’s not to say they show any disrespect to Mrs T, but that her being from a previous generation makes her departure less relevant to them. She wasn’t Royalty, and she was no longer in the public eye. All that is left is a rather nebulous concept of her having somehow changed the country, this being for better or worse, depending on whom you ask.
Much of the metropolitan establishment does not get this. When workers around the country awake, tune in their radios and televisions, see the wall to wall coverage and immediately switch off, the punditerati just carries on, oblivious to the mood outside their little world. A few have journeyed to London and taken up positions on the route to St Paul’s cathedral – but not many.
One only has to look at the calibre of the delegation attending from the USA to see just how low a priority this send-off is to many. Former Secretaries of State George Schultz and James Baker are heading the team, and neither has been in office for at least two decades. The rest of the team consists of Newt Gingrich, who most Brits will have forgotten, and Michele Bachmann, who most won’t know at all.
Barack Obama has more pressing matters at home, like gun control and the fallout from the Boston Marathon bombing. Some papers are trying to blame him for not turning up, but the sad fact is that no former President would answer the call either, whether Democrat or Republican. And the USA is not the only country not concerned enough to make more than a passing gesture.
I noted recently that some of those invited to help fill the cathedral this morning gave the impression that difficulty was being encountered in getting the numbers. There has also been genuine public dismay at the costs involved, and the spin this morning by the likes of Francis Maude – saying the Police and armed forces “would have been working anyway” – just sounds cheap and crass.
Far from the millions that the likes of Daniel Hannan would want to see descending on London, just a few thousand are lining the route for the last lap to St Paul’s. Much of Whitehall has plenty of vantage points. While the Beeb wheels out David Dimbleby to demonstrate the scale and gravity of the occasion, another 70,000 people are confirmed as joining the dole queue.
For them, there will be little to commemorate. Farewell, Mrs T.