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.


Afghans vote in crucial parliamentary elections, amid attacks, major irregularities reported

Updated 20 October 2018
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Afghans vote in crucial parliamentary elections, amid attacks, major irregularities reported

  • Scores of people, including 10 candidates, have died in a series of attacks by Taliban and Daesh in recent months
  • Initial results of the vote will be released in three weeks’ time

KABUL: Afghans cast their vote on Saturday for a new parliament despite numerous attacks in several parts of the country, including Kabul, and amid reports of widespread irregularities.
Initial results of the vote, delayed by more than three years because of a power struggle in the government, will be released in three weeks’ time.
Final results will be published after two months.
The ballot is regarded as crucial for the stability of Afghanistan, wracked by more than four decades of war, foreign interventions and tribal rift.
The latest poll is the third for choosing a legislative body since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001 in a US-led invasion.
Many candidates are young and educated men and women who want to replace current MPs at the house, regarded as one dominated by corrupt elements and factional members as Taliban and Daesh spread their attacks in the country.
The Taliban guerrillas had threatened to disrupt the process, conducted various attacks, including firing mortars, suicide raids and bomb blasts near some polling stations, including in at least five areas of Kabul.
There were reports of some casualties among voters and security forces.
“Today, we proved together that we uphold democracy with casting out ballots without fear, we honor the sacrifices of the fallen,” President Ashraf Ghani told reporters after casting his vote in a highly protected school near the presidential palace in Kabul.
Cases of widespread irregularities across the country were reported by journalists, locals and even government officials.
They include late opening of sites, lack of knowledge of some election works in recording votes and use of biometric devices, aimed at reducing fraud, which is another major concern apart from security threats.
Observers and media were barred from visiting some sites. Some stations did not open at all. The country’s second Chief Executive, Mohammad Mohaqiq, openly said that at least 22 stations did not open at all in only two areas in Kabul city itself.
Simar Soresh, a spokesman for the election commission, confirmed that some sites remained closed owing to “technical challenges,” vowing to prolong voting hours when they open.
Many blamed the government appointed elections body for the shortcomings. The body has faced organizational problems and a rift owing to a power struggle among government leaders.
Some frustrated voters even went back home after waiting for hours for the opening of polling stations in Kabul.
In one such station, a policeman asked voters if they knew the voting process so he could let the station open. In northern Maimana, people complained that there were no biometric devices in place.
In others, voters said they could not find their names on the books where they had registered months before during the registration process. It would take at least five minutes for a voter to cast a vote.
One journalist covering the event closely described the situation as “Mismanagement and chaos across the country.”
“This is just a joke, I am leaving. I came to vote despite the Taliban warning, but you see the mess and confusion and heard the blasts. It is not worth dying for this because the process is not handled properly,” Zaman Khan, a bewildered voter in a central area of Kabul, told Arab News.
The irregularities that led to closure and caused slow voting process are seen as a further blow to the voting, which is funded by donors’ money.
The government already had said it could not open some 2,000 sites because of security threats.
Scores of people, including 10 candidates, have died in a series of attacks by Taliban and Daesh in recent months.
The government delayed the holding of the polls in the historically important southern Kandahar for a week after an attack that killed its powerful police chief and intelligence head.
Bilal Sarwary, a candidate from eastern Kunar, said like some other parts of the country, there were “high irregularities” during the voting there.
“Some sites opened very late. The biometric system did not work in some sites and in others they were slow or election workers did not know how to use them,” he told Arab News by phone.
“Some state officials interfered in some sites; there were no voting papers in some areas. Overall there were irregularities and confusion. It is a pity that with the sacrifice and so much money, irregularities marred the process.”