London: Plans to create a mega library-cum-museum and training centre in memory of Margaret Thatcher are being devised in the lead up to the funeral of the former British premier on Wednesday. Supporters of the 'Iron Lady', who died of a stroke aged 87 last week, aim to raise around 15 million pounds in private funds towards the library and museum to celebrate her legacy.
The project is being promoted by Conservative Way Forward (CWF), a pressure group headed by Lady Thatcher until her death. "The centre will be a place for scholars, students and tourists alike to come and learn about the remarkable life, the unique achievements and the core values of Margaret Thatcher," said Ben Elliot, chairman of the project's trustees.
The first-of-its-kind library in Britain will be based along the lines of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California, as a reflection of the powerful political and personal friendship between Thatcher and the former US President during the Cold War. The CWF was founded in 1991 by Lady Thatcher's supporters after she was forced out of office "to promote and extend the Thatcherite principles", according to its website.
Plans for the proposed Margaret Thatcher Library and Museum is being spearheaded by the Cherish Freedom Trust, which claims to have already secured pledges worth 1 million pounds and being backed by Cabinet ministers and senior Tories. Meanwhile, detailed plans for the former Tory leader's ceremonial funeral at St Paul's Cathedral are being drawn up, with a choice of well-known hymns and poems being selected for the occasion.
Some of the programme details released by Downing Street feature lines from William Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality and T S Eliot's Little Gidding. But voices of dissent over the state-funded 10-million pounds ceremony refuse to die down as former Labour deputy prime minister used a newspaper column to criticise the plans.
"Thatcher split this country, north and south, the haves and have nots, 'one of us' or 'the enemy within'. This country paid enough thanks to that woman. So why the hell should we continue to pay now she's dead... privatise her funeral. It would be a fitting tribute," he wrote in the 'Sunday Mirror'. The Bishop of Grantham, Thatcher's birthplace, also spoke out against the scale and cost of the funeral.
"In a context where there is great ill feeling about her legacy, we have a situation where we seem to be expecting the nation to glorify that with a 10 million pounds funeral is asking for trouble. People with extreme views will use it to promote their political views," he warned. Hundreds gathered at Trafalgar Square on Saturday in protest against the deeply divisive legacy of Britain's first and only female Prime Minister.
Police made nine arrests for public order offences but, in general, the crowd remained peaceful. Scotland Yard is braced for protesters along the funeral cortege's two-mile route from the Palace of Westminster to St Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday but have stressed that peaceful protests would not be challenged.
More than 2,000 people, including former US presidents and Thatcher's Cabinet colleagues, are scheduled to attend the funeral next week. But Sally Bercow, the wife of the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and harsh critic of Thatcher, has declined to attend.
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was apparently invited but has indicated he will not attend. Veteran journalist from Thatcher's time in power, David Frost, will be among the guests at the ceremony where the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans, will give the final blessing.