Mandelson denounces "quasi-state funeral" for Thatcher

"Mrs T is not Churchill," the former Labour minister says, declaring that he would have "recommended against" a ceremonial funeral.

Peter Mandelson, who once declared "we are all Thatcherites now", struck a discordant note at tonight's Policy Exchange event on the former prime minister's legacy when he denounced tomorrow's "quasi-state funeral" and said he "would have recommended against it." Appearing alongside Michael Gove and Charles Moore, he added: "Mrs T is not Churchill". Given the role of the last Labour government in drawing up the funeral arrangements some will reasonably ask whether Mandelson expressed his dissent at the time.

In a vivid turn of phrase, he also remarked that while her three election victories helped bring Labour "to its senses" in the 1980s, the party "over-inhaled" on Thatcherism. "Ministers and markets can mix more than she would allow," he said, a reminder of the more interventionist approach he adopted as Business Secretary after his 2008 return. He added that "it fell to Tony Blair to keep what was right and repair what was wrong", to which Gove countered that had it not been for Thatcher's defeat of Arthur Scargill and the NUM, Blair and Mandelson would never have been elected.

Peter Mandelson said he "would have recommended against" a ceremonial funeral for Margaret Thatcher. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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