Home town backs Thatcher statue

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 February 2019

Home town backs Thatcher statue

  • The entire £300,000 ($390,000) project will be paid for by donations raised by a British historical charity

LONDON: Margaret Thatcher’s home town cautiously backed plans Tuesday to erect a statue of the late British leader — but only after putting it on a plinth tall enough to keep vandals at bay.
The strong-willed “Iron Lady” of the 1980s remains a polarizing figure in Britain six years after her death at the age of 87.
Her sweeping privatization and deregulation efforts are credited with pulling Britain out of the economic doldrums.
But her resolve to break the trade unions — especially the miners — in the face of strikes and street protests made her into a hate figure for the left.
A bid to have a statue of the Conservative party leader stand alongside icon Winston Churchill and other leaders filling a square opposite parliament in London fizzled out last year over concerns about “potential vandalism and civil disorder.”
Thatcher’s daughter Carol also reportedly objected to the absence of her mother’s trademark handbag.
The 10.5 foot (3.2 meters) tall bronze statue shows the former prime minister in the flowing robe that she wore as a member of the House of Lords.
Thatcher’s hands are folded solemnly before her — without the handbag.
The local council in Grantham in central England approved it only after agreeing to put it on an equally tall granite plinth to keep it safe from “politically motivated vandals.”
Thatcher will now hover over a central Grantham square facing the local museum.
“There remains a motivated far-left movement across the UK... who may be committed to public activism,” a report submitted to the local district council cautioned.
Some council members said the statue — reportedly gathering dust in a foundry since being rejected by London — should stay where it is.
“I understand Margaret Thatcher’s statue is currently out of sight in a secret location,” councillor Charmaine Morgan was quoted saying by the Grantham Journal.
“Perhaps it should stay there.”

Grantham is a town of around 45,000 that once produced steam engines but is now mostly known as being the birthplace of both Thatcher and the scientist Isaac Newton.
Local heritage association trustee David Burling admitted that “the debate about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy will now continue for generations to come.”
But he said in a statement posted on the local council’s website that what Grantham needed most was tourist money.
Local council leader Matthew Lee agreed.
“Whatever your views, the statue will undoubtedly attract more visitors to the town which can only be good news for Grantham’s local economy,” he said in the same statement.
But councillor Morgan said Thatcher “did little to help her fellow women” and “preferred the company of men.”
“Our police are struggling to manage without the additional burden,” Morgan argued.
Grantham’s only existing commemoration of Thatcher is a plaque marking where she was born.
She will now stand besides an existing statue of Newton and a 19th-century local politician named Frederick Tollemache.
The entire £300,000 ($390,000) project will be paid for by donations raised by a British historical charity.
“No public funds have been used,” the local council stressed on its website.


Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

Updated 22 August 2019

Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

  • “The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The mayor of Italy’s Lampedusa island on Thursday denounced the collapsing government for its failure to deal with migrant rescue boats, as a ship carrying 356 people remained stranded in the Mediterranean.
Mayor Salvatore Martello said the reception center on the tiny isle was already over capacity and would struggle to house migrants currently stuck aboard the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking.
The vessel, run by charities Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, has sought a port for almost two weeks after rescuing four boats of migrants off the Libyan coast between 9 and 12 August.
“It would be difficult because the reception center is saturated,” Martello told AFP.
“The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”
Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing poverty and conflict.
Thousands have attempted to make the unsafe crossing from Libya in a bid to reach Europe this year, despite efforts to deter them.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been accused of demonizing migrants and leaving them to drown in the sea.
He has repeatedly insisted that rescued migrants can only land in Italy if other EU countries take them in.
Italy’s president on Thursday was holding a second day of talks after the disintegration of the anti-immigrant coalition government, which broke down after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.
The plight of the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, which was denied entry by both Italy and Malta, is the latest in a string of migrant boat standoffs with Italian authorities.
The Open Arms rescue ship was allowed to land in Lampedusa on Wednesday, with 83 migrants disembarking, after Italian justice ordered they be brought ashore.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty in waters off Libya.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but all minors and some suffering health problems had already disembarked.
A European deal to redistribute them has yet to be implemented.