David Cameron Claims 'We Are All Thatcherites Now' As He Defends Funeral Cost

'We Are All Thatcherites Now'

David Cameron has defended the cost and profile of Margaret Thatcher's funeral as "fitting and right", amid criticisms that he is exploiting the funeral for political gain.

The prime minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday morning that "other countries would think Britain had got it completely wrong" if the iconic former Conservative leader was not given a lavish send off.

"She was the first woman prime minister, she served for longer in the job than anyone in 150 years, she achieved some extraordinary things," he said.

Cameron said Thatcher had won the big political arguments of the time, and controversially claimed: "We are all Thatcherites now."

He added: "Looking from overseas, people who respected and revered Thatcher, would think we had taken an extraordinary view if somehow we didn't commemorate this. Other countries would think Britain had got it completely wrong."

But the former Tory leader has proved as divisive in death as she did in life, with several figures on the left criticising the expense and perceived politicisation of the event.

Last night former Labour business secretary Lord Mandelson said he was going to "pass over tomorrow's quasi state funeral".

"Frankly, I would have recommended against it. I don't regard Mrs Thatcher as Churchill," he said.

Labour's shadow health minister Diane Abbott said it was wrong to spend up to £10m on the funeral when the government was cutting "disabled people’s benefits".

"I think we have to think of her children and grandchildren on a day like this, but we do know, because the polls tell us, 60% of the public doesn’t think a penny of public money should be spent on this funeral and actually we seem to be spending £10m on what is a state funeral in all but name," she said.

"And I don’t understand why what every single prime minister in the past century did, couldn’t have been done by Mrs Thatcher.

"Churchill was different, Churchill led a national government at a time of war. For a whole century, every single prime minister’s had a family-organised funeral, and of course a suitable funeral service at St Margaret’s or Westminster Abbey.

"I think it’s a question of protocol. I mean Attlee had a private family funeral and a memorial service in Temple Church on the Strand, and there’s an argument that Attlee reshaped Britain as much as she did. There is just no precedent, it’s a breach of protocol and it’s going to cost £10m."

The prime minister urged the Iron Lady's political opponents to show "respect" during the event, even though they may have disagreed with her policies.

Thousands of people are expected to line the streets of central London later today as Thatcher is carried with full military honours for a service St Paul's Cathedral.

The first spectators around Downing Street for the funeral dragged themselves from their beds at the crack of dawn, while others slept on the streets to get a prize position for the procession.