By Max Foster and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
LONDON (CNN) — Britain has still not come to terms with the “hurt and anger” many felt as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s policies more than two decades ago, a senior clergyman who will greet mourners at her funeral has said.
In the week since Britain’s first woman prime minister died, protests have been organized in London and elsewhere by activists who blame her for creating wide unemployment as she privatized industries and took on the unions.
“You have to ask the question — why is it, 23 years after she left government, that Mrs. Thatcher is still such a controversial figure?” the Very Rev. David Ison, the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, said to CNN.
“And I think part of that is we still haven’t come to terms with the hurt and the anger that many parts of society have felt because of the legacy of her government policies.”
That hurt is being revived by the austerity policies brought in by the current government to try to tackle the deficit, he said.
“There is some real work to be done here about what’s the relationship between the rich and the poor in our society, and how we can work together instead of being opposed to one another,” he said.
“That’s a particular agenda that I think that this funeral will be throwing up and highlighting.”
Thatcher’s funeral will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday morning, attended by more than 2,000 guests.
They will include Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip, as well as UK Prime Minister David Cameron and dozens more dignitaries from Britain and overseas.
Thatcher herself approved the elements of the service, Ison said.
“It’s a relatively simple and straightforward service; she was a Methodist by upbringing so no pomp and circumstance — there’s no tribute, there’s no eulogy to her, there’s very little in the service about her at all,” he said.
“It’s a simple service for praying for her and for the family around her.”
The Bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres, will give the address at the funeral, in which he will reflect on her death and her legacy, both as an individual and for wider society.
Ison’s role will be to welcome the queen and other guests at the cathedral doors and to bid the congregation farewell at the end of the service.
Thatcher death ‘party’
Thatcher was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, having led the Conservative Party since 1974.
Tributes to her achievements poured in from around the globe, as well as from many in Britain, after the news of her death on April 8 from a stroke, aged 87.
A towering figure in postwar British and global politics, Thatcher is remembered in the world for her Cold War-era friendships with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as her role in shaping Britain’s place in Europe and the short, sharp war she waged with Argentina over the disputed Falkland Islands.
But a strong current of anti-Thatcher feeling has also been in evidence in Britain.
At Trafalgar Square in central London on Saturday, activists and former miners held a “party” to celebrate her death, rallying around an effigy of Thatcher, whose orange hair was made out of plastic bags.
The effigy was paraded around the square, which in 1990 was the scene of rioting against a hugely unpopular “poll tax” introduced by Thatcher. Protesters chanted “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, dead, dead, dead.”
Workers also unfurled a “National Union of Mineworkers” banner, evoking memories of the painful yearlong coal miners’ strike during the Thatcher years.
In another indication of how divisive her legacy remains, a Facebook campaign to encourage people to buy the “Wizard of Oz” song “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” in celebration of Thatcher’s death sent sales skyrocketing.
The song reached No. 2 on the official national charts Sunday.