Politics is a tribal game. Like football fans, supporters of each team often position themselves at odds with each other, even when differences can be intangible.
Therefore, when one of our country’s former Prime Ministers dies, that polarisation makes its difficult for our ruling elite to decide the appropriate treatment.
The problem here, what makes a "great Prime Minister", is both intangible and subjective. I am certain many believe Margaret Thatcher was a "great Prime Minister", while many others believe the polar opposite.
Yet on electoral terms she had a superb record – although of course that’s matched by Tony Blair, so does this guarantee him similar treatment when his time comes?
The true measure of greatness will always end up being decided by history, yet that’s still opaque when so many making the decision knew the individual involved.
If you leave it to politicians, at the time of death, the risk is tribalism gets in the way, and this is no small decision as the taxpayer is spending a reported £10 million on the funeral (though a chunk being met by the family).
Indeed, if it went along party lines you’d risk it ending up with something like this…
|Former Tory PM dies||Former Labour PM dies|
|Current Tory government||Ceremonial funeral||Lesser funeral|
|Current Labour government||Lesser funeral||Ceremonial funeral|
And that’s before we even get into the idea of inner-party politicking.
So if we as a nation are going to provide a ceremonial funeral for Mrs Thatcher, isn’t it time we set up a precedent? The decision should be codified but can still be discriminatory, just not on party grounds.
It may be that the level of funeral honours is dictated by the number of general elections won – yet at least some guidelines and consistency would take the sting out of a contentious decision at a time of grief for those close to the individual.