Why does Thatcher get what amounts to a state funeral, while Atlee didn’t?

Terrific column by Peter Oborne.

The decision to give Lady Thatcher what amounts to a state funeral will not lead to fascism. But it nevertheless badly damages the British system of representative democracy, and as such will lead to a series of debilitating practical problems. The most serious of them concerns damage to the reputation of the monarch for scrupulous impartiality. During her long reign, the Queen has avoided attending the funerals of all her prime ministers, apart from that of Churchill, who had led the national government of a united Britain in the great common struggle against Nazi Germany. This is why he was the sole exception to the rule that former prime ministers do not get state funerals.

So the question arises: what’s so special about Maggie Thatcher? Defenders of next week’s funeral arrangements say that she was a “transformational” prime minister. This is true. But so was Clement Attlee, who introduced the welfare system and the National Health Service, thus fundamentally changing the connection between state and individual. Yet the Queen did not attend Mr Attlee’s funeral, a quiet affair in Temple Church near Westminster. According to a 1967 report in Time magazine, “all the trappings of power were absent last week at the funeral of Earl Attlee … there were no honour guards or artillery caissons, no press or television, no crush of spectators. Only 150 friends and relatives gathered for a brief Anglican ceremony in honour of the man who had shaped the political destiny of post-war Britain.”

The decision to acknowledge Lady Thatcher, but not Attlee, makes the Queen appear partisan and is totally out of kilter with the traditional impartiality of the modern British monarchy.