LONDON — Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson pledged to seek a suitable location in the British capital for a statue of former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died this week.
“The mayor believes Baroness Thatcher deserves a prominent statue in a central London location and his team will assist with exploring suitable options,” Johnson’s office said in a statement.
Thatcher’s death has prompted a divided reaction in Britain., with her Tory supporters lauding her economic reforms and strength of character, while her political opponents have pointed to the decline in traditional manufacturing and growing north-south divide under her premiership.
Anti-Thatcherites have called a protest to celebrate her death for April 13 in Trafalgar Square in central London, the scene of rioting in 1990 against her move to replace local-property taxes with a flat-rate levy on every resident, known as the poll tax.
Tory Defense Secretary Philip Hammond Wednesday suggested putting a new statue of Thatcher on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square, in addition to one that already exists within Parliament. Len Duvall, the leader of the opposition Labour group on the London Assembly, said today that would not be “appropriate.”
“She was a significant figure, but she was a divisive figure,” Duvall said in an emailed statement. “I would argue that Margaret Thatcher did great harm to many people in London, and to place a statue of her at the site of the poll-tax riots, which symbolized just how divisive she was, would be crass triumphalism.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats opposed Thatcherite policies, said the protests planned for two days’ time are “childish.”
“It’s so out of keeping with the character of us as a nation,” Clegg told LBC radio Thursday. “I don’t think they speak for the country at all, the people who are jumping up and down with joy at her death.”
Commander Christine Jones, a spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan Police, said that in the run-up to Thatcher’s funeral on April 17 the force “will monitor a range of information to make sure we have the most up-to-date intelligence picture” about possible demonstrations on the day.
“There has been much speculation about what levels of protest may take place,” Jones said in an emailed statement. “I would ask anyone who wishes to demonstrate then, or in the coming days, to come and talk to us. The right to protest is one that must be upheld. However, we will work to do that whilst balancing the rights of those who wish to pay their respects and those who wish to travel about London as usual.”
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