Galloway loses Thatcher funeral vote

British parliament votes against bid to force Cameron to return Westminster immediately after Thatcher funeral


Tributes to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher have gone on long enough, Respect MP George Galloway said tonight as he attempted to force David Cameron to return to the Westminster parliament immediately after her funeral.

Mr Galloway made his comments ahead of a Commons vote in whch MPs overwhelmingly backed a move to shift the parliamentary timetable so it does not clash with Mrs Thatcher’s funeral.

The Respect MP and Labour backbencher Dennis Skinner had led a bid to prevent prime minister’s questions being dropped and the House’s sitting delayed tomorrow. However, the changes were passed by 245 votes to 13.

Mr Galloway said there was no reason to cancel prime minister’s questions tomorrow so that Mr Cameron and other senior MPs did not have to rush back following Lady Thatcher’s funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The House of Commons had sat during the darkest days of the Second World War, the MP for Bradford West said, as he accused the government of “tender sensibilities” in its attempts to cancel PMQs tomorrow lunchtime.

Mr Galloway and Mr Skinner demanded a debate on the motion rather than letting it be nodded through with support from the Tory, Liberal Democrat and Labour frontbenches.

At one point Mr Galloway was accused of using unparliamentary language for saying Tory backbencher Alec Shelbrooke was “wobbling his ample girth” at him — but the speaker ruled the remark was merely “distasteful”.

“I am sorry but this is not a national funeral. You can only have a national funeral where there is a national consensus about the person being buried,” the Bradford West MP said.

“That consensus does not exist in relation to Margaret Thatcher and no matter how oft people from the frontbenches fawn upon her, pour honeyed-words upon her, even outside of this House of course, tell lies about her and her record, that won’t change.”

He said the events marking Lady Thatcher’s death amounted to “canonisation” and were “too expensive, too elaborate, too regal”.

“Don’t get me wrong, I will not be celebrating at the funeral tomorrow. I believe it is wrong to celebrate at someone’s funeral. But I will not agree to suspend our democracy so that some of the friends of the deceased have to make a choice between attending prime minister’s question time or going to the funeral,” he said.

Mr Skinner said the argument was about class and that it was “one rule for those at the top and another for those at the bottom.

“We are here talking about the thing that we sometimes suggest has gone away — class,” the Bolsover MP said. “That’s what it is, it’s about class.

“It’s about the fact that people out there have to live their lives in a different way and there’s one rule for those at the top and there’s another for those at the bottom.”

Tory MP Nadine Dorries intervened, pointing out that Lady Thatcher’s body was lying “yards away” from the chamber in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and calling for an end to the debate out of good taste.

“Baroness Thatcher is actually laid yards away from us in her final night in this palace,” she said.

“Does Mr Skinner not think that just on this night, when she is just yards away, that in the name of nothing other than good taste, that maybe it might be as well that we call this to an end?”

Commons leader Andrew Lansley, who tabled the motion, said: “It is simply a matter of decency and respect that in returning from the funeral service and receptions tomorrow, members should not immediately enter in to the character of business that is customary at Wednesday’s questions.”

His Labour counterpart Angela Eagle said: “I have to say that I don’t believe that the reason why we aren’t sitting tomorrow is one of those occasions when we can accuse the prime minister of dodging prime minister’s questions.

“A former prime minister who has led this country for 11 years has passed away and I think it is right that we should pause and the din of the chamber should quieten so that MPs, many of whom were her friends, can attend her funeral and reflect upon it subsequently without having to come back to what is often the bear pit of adversarial politics in this country.”