Thatcher death: South Yorkshire miners and trade unionists plan celebrations

'Prime Minister in the making, Margaret Thatcher at the 92nd Conservative Conference- held in 1975  at Blackpool Winter Gardens
'Prime Minister in the making, Margaret Thatcher at the 92nd Conservative Conference- held in 1975 at Blackpool Winter Gardens
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IN pubs and living rooms all across South Yorkshire, glasses will be raised next Wednesday but very few of them in tribute to Margaret Thatcher.

As Britain’s first female Prime Minister is laid to rest, in a televised funeral attended by the Queen, the occasion is cause for celebration for many who can’t bring themselves to forgive and forget.

Following her death earlier this week, at the age of 87, impromptu parties sprung up and many seem determined to keep the celebrations going as they prepare to mark her funeral next week in their own way.

“I’ll be having a drink to celebrate the day, but then we’ve got to get straight back to work, fighting against the cuts and policies she’s left behind,” said Alistair Tice of the Sheffield Socialist Party.

“Thatcher may be gone, but the damage she caused remains, so next Wednesday I’ll be out doing something useful and campaigning against the bedroom tax.

The 57-year-old added: “Margaret’s out of the way, but Cameron isn’t and her death doesn’t change the fact that we’re still hurting.”

Former miners John Kennedy and Mike Springett told The Star they queried the cost of next Wednesday’s proceedings, which although not a ‘state funeral’ will be with full military honours and held at St Paul’s Cathedral.

“We can afford that can we?” asked John, aged 60, of Doncaster.

“It’s terrible. I’m going to be having a can of beer and it’s the miners I’ll be toasting when they’re laying her to rest.”

Mike, 65, of Dewsbury, added: “She decimated this country and people around here will never forget that. If there are any demonstrations or protests against Maggie on the day of her funeral, I will be there.”

But others say they won’t waste one more second on the Iron Lady, who became a hate figure following the 1984 miners’ strikes.

“I didn’t have time for her when she was alive, and I don’t have time for her now she’s dead,” said GMB regional officer Peter Davies.

“Personally I will be at work on Wednesday and I don’t intend to give her a second thought. There’s a lot of anger towards Thatcher in this part of the country and, while I don’t think anyone should celebrate a death, I understand the sentiment.”

The 48-year-old former miner added: “I was involved in the miners’ strike, I was evicted during the strike and my young family and I suffered terribly. This is the first comment I’ve made regarding that woman in years and I dearly hope it’s the last time I’ll ever speak of her.”

Peter also confirmed that at least one branch of the GMB had plans to throw a party during Wednesday’s funeral and he suspects more will follow suit as the week goes on.

Ken Hancock, former miner and landlord of the Red Rum pub in Grimethorpe, once famously claimed that he would throw a party the day Margaret Thatcher died. He told The Star that the only thing stopping him celebrating with a big bash is his lack of an entertainment licence.

“We’ll mark the occasion with a quiet drink, a laugh and a joke,” said Ken, 60.

“We certainly won’t be wasting any thoughts on her, we’ll be raising a glass instead to the engineers, miners and steelworkers she destroyed.”

Christine Dixon, of Doncaster, comes from a proud mining family who all suffered terribly during the eighties and in the years that followed once the pits started to close.

“She destroyed our community without a thought and it has never recovered,” said Christine, 58, of Edlington.

“I’ll be at work on Wednesday, getting on with my life and not giving Thatcher a thought.”

Barnsley-based National Union of Mineworkers secretary Chris Kitchen was just 17 when he was caught up in the strikes.

“She may be dead – but my wish is that she’d never been born,” he revealed.

“Obviously I’m not sad she’s gone, I just wish she’d taken her damaging policies with her.

“I’d like to say we’ll never give her another thought, but I think we’ll be thinking of Margaret Thatcher for many years to come, given the state of the country right now, which is a direct result of the policies she championed.

“Her death doesn’t wipe out the years of suffering and poverty.”

Mr Kitchen, now 47, added: “I’m sure most of the former miners will be enjoying themselves next Wednesday. I don’t think they’ll be much mourning as celebrating her passing.

“There’s nothing officially planned by the union at present but we’ve had a few requests from members.

“She was an evil, vindictive person. She didn’t care for trade union members and their families – we were collateral damage in her battle.”