Plans for Thatcher statue outside UK Parliament rejected

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher arrives for a service of thanksgiving and re-dedication on Battle of Britain Sunday at Westminster Abbey in London in this September 19, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Plans for Thatcher statue outside UK Parliament rejected

LONDON: Plans to erect a statue of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher opposite Parliament were blocked Tuesday due to concerns over its design and lack of support from her family.
The planning committee of Westminster Council — the local government authority in that part of central London — unanimously rejected in an evening meeting the proposal, which would have placed the statue in Parliament Square.
“The lack of family support and the committee’s concerns around the design of the proposed statue were the key determining factors in turning down this application,” said councillor Richard Beddoe, Westminster’s planning chairman, in a statement.
The Public Memorials Appeal, a British charity, commissioned the one-and-a-half times life-size bronze statue of Thatcher dressed in the robes of the House of Lords, where she sat as a baroness following her 11-year prime ministerial tenure.
But Westminster councillors deemed the depiction inappropriate for the location, which hosts statues of other notable politicians including wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, and noted Thatcher’s family had not supported it.
The late leader’s daughter Carol reportedly opposed the plan because the statue does not feature her mother carrying a handbag.
Thatcher was famous for her wide selection of handbags, which became a symbol of supposed steadfastness.
“As our country’s first female prime minister Baroness Thatcher is a hugely significant figure in British history and in principle the council is in favor of a statue commemorating her in Parliament Square, but it must be the right statue, with an appropriate design and the support of her family,” Beddoe said.
“We would welcome future proposals for a more appropriate statue of Baroness Thatcher, depicting her as prime minister, rather than the current design that shows her in the House of Lords and one that has clear and public support of her family.”
Thatcher, who was Conservative prime minister between 1979 and 1990, died in 2013 aged 87, leaving a divisive legacy.
Her program of privatizations and deregulation helped turn around Britain’s ailing economy but devastated its working-class heartlands, which suffered subsequent industrial decline.
When the plan to place the £300,000 (341,000 euros, $420,000) monument of the so-called “Iron Lady” in Westminster was previously considered last year, fears surfaced it could be vandalized.
In 2002, a protester decapitated an Italian marble statue of Thatcher in London’s Guildhall Library, while graffiti went up around London after her death including one mural reading “Burn in Hell Maggie.”
Last summer current Prime Minister Theresa May called for the plans to go ahead, arguing “there should be no suggestion the threat of vandalism should stop a statue of Margaret Thatcher from being put up.”
Westminster council’s statement Tuesday made no reference to vandalism fears.
It also noted the so-called ‘10-year rule’ — the principle of waiting a decade after the death of a subject before erecting a statue in their honor — was not a reason for refusal in the case.
A bronze sculpture of Thatcher was unveiled inside the Houses of Parliament in 2007.


India’s Modi faces revived opposition after setback in southern state

Updated 5 min 55 sec ago
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India’s Modi faces revived opposition after setback in southern state

  • The BJP had emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka with 104 seats but fell short of a majority.
  • Indian opposition parties join forces to snatch power from the country’s ruling party in the big southern state

NEW DELHI: Indian opposition parties have joined forces to snatch power from the country’s ruling party in a big southern state, laying the stage for other such alliances in a direct challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid next year.
A coalition of Congress and a regional group said on Sunday they will establish a government in Karnataka state next week, after Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to prove its majority despite bagging more seats than any other party in a closely-fought election.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party — which has struggled to make any major political inroads since Modi stormed to power four years ago — said his party will rally regional groups into a common front against Modi.
“I am very proud that the opposition has stood together and defeated the BJP, and we will continue to do so,” said Gandhi.
Karnataka, with a population of 66 million, was the first major state this year to elect an assembly, and will be followed by three more before the general election in 2019.
Political strategists say polls in Karnataka, home to India’s “Silicon Valley” Bengaluru, which was previously known as Bangalore, were seen as a key test of Modi’s popularity but the final outcome highlights the threats he faces from a united opposition are much bigger than anticipated.
“Formation of this coalition is a platform for an anti-BJP alliance for the next year,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist at Bengaluru’s Jain University.
“Any shortfall in other states will further consolidate anti-BJP forces.”
Karnataka’s state’s governor last week allowed Modi’s party to form a government, even as it became clear that with only 104 seats the Hindu nationalist BJP trailed the opposition alliance, which has at least 115 seats in the 225-member assembly. That decision prompted Modi’s rivals to turn to the Supreme Court.
The governor gave the BJP 15 days to prove its majority, but the court ordered a vote of confidence in the assembly on Saturday. Even before that could take place, BJP’s newly appointed state chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, resigned.
To bring the regional party — Janata Dal (Secular) — into the alliance, Congress, which has 78 of the seats, did have to concede the chief minister’s job to the smaller group. Previously, the state had been held by Congress.
“VOTE OF OVERCONFIDENCE“
Mamata Banerjee, a powerful politician in eastern India, described Modi’s failure in Karnataka as a “victory of the regional front.”
In an apparent show of strength against Modi, most opposition leaders have been invited for the upcoming swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka’s new chief minister, said Sanjay Jha, Congress’ national spokesman.
Jha said Congress’ spirit ahead of the 2019 polls was that of “necessary political accommodation” when it comes to forming alliances to stop Modi.
BJP leader Seshadri Chari said no opposition alliance will be able to stop Modi. “BJP will emerge as the single largest party (in 2019) with a majority.”
Modi remains by far the most popular politician in India and his approval rankings far outweigh Gandhi, who is the fifth-generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
US-based research agency Pew released a survey in November that showed nearly nine out of 10 Indians held a favorable opinion of Modi.
On Sunday, Indian newspapers carried front-page headlines highlighting Modi’s loss, a rare sight of late in Indian politics: The BJP and its allies rule 21 of India’s 29 states currently, up from seven they ruled in 2014.
“BJP loses vote of overconfidence,” said the Indian Express newspaper’s front page headline.