No marble for the Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher's hometown opts against erecting a statue in her honour

If it weren’t true, it could have come from Monty Python. Grantham, Lincolnshire—the small southwest British town from whence Margaret Thatcher hails—has been torn asunder over plans to commemorate the three-time British prime minister with a statue.

On Monday, a proposal to erect an effigy of the Iron Lady was voted down by district councillors. The twist: Conservatives quashed the plan—despite support from Labour Party politicians. (Thatcher is credited with having revived flagging British Conservatism; she is the sworn foe of many a left-wing Labourite.) Thatcher herself is alive, but suffers from dementia.

Tory Coun. Bob Adams told reporters that he was respecting the “express wish of Baroness Thatcher that a statue not be erected in town.” Early this year, Labour councillors vehemently rejected calls for a memorial—but they later backtracked. Grantham Labour rep Charmaine Morgan explains: “Despite our personal strengths of feeling about her . . . Lady Thatcher provides an opportunity to attract international tourists to our town.”

The issue of Thatcher’s would-be monument has a history. In 2002, the Guildhall Art Gallery in London unveiled a $230,000, 1.8-tonne white marble statue of the former PM, commissioned by the House of Commons. (Thatcher is cast in the statue as tight-lipped, and with a boxy handbag dangling from her wrist.) Shortly thereafter, the statue was decapitated by a man named Paul Kelleher, who attacked it with a cricket bat he had hidden in his trousers. “I think it looks better like that,” Kelleher told an aghast crowd, as he waited for police to arrive. Last month, the manager of Grantham’s museum was suspended for falsely claiming that the statue—which has been restored—had been offered to the town.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher (née Roberts) was born in Granthan in 1925. Her father owned two grocery stories, and the family lived in a flat above the larger shop, which is now a holistic centre. Today, a small plaque on the store’s red brick facade marks the spot; so far, it is Grantham’s only tribute to its most famous daughter.