Labour says there was ‘no disrespect’ over Thatcher silence

Corby councillor Mary Butcher and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Corby councillor Mary Butcher and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

A Labour councillor has hit back at suggestions the local party disrespected a minute’s silence for Baroness Thatcher.

Corby councillor Mary Butcher said she would never use the death of a grandmother for political purposes.

Cllr Butcher was speaking after accusations from the deputy leader of Corby Council, Cllr Rob McKellar, Labour members had boycotted the silence before a meeting of the council yesterday (Thursday, April 11). He also said one councillor had worn a badge with a derogatory statement towards the former prime minister, who died on Monday aged 87.

Cllr McKellar said Labour members’ behaviour had been “sick”, but Cllr Butcher said: “I would never, ever disrespect anyone who has passed away. I have been widowed myself.”

Cllr Butcher, who represents the Beanfield ward, said she had not been in the chamber for the silence because she had already paid her respects with a similar minute’s silence at County Hall in Northampton earlier this week, where she was observing a meeting from the public gallery.

And she said a subsequent speech by Cllr McKellar was overtly political, which had been why she left the chamber for a second time.

“I felt it was a cynical ploy by the Conservatives to use someone’s death for political means and I think that’s what they have been doing,” she said.

“I made a conscious decision that I would allow people to pay their respects and then go in myself.

“Cllr McKellar started a political speech and I felt it was inappropriate.

“He cannot dictate what people think and say and do, and we did not dictate to him. We respectfully allowed him to do what he wanted to do.”

And she said people would be let down by the Tory protest, adding: “None of the Conservative group represented their constituents last night on important issues.”

The leader of the Labour group, Cllr Tom Beattie – one of four Labour councillors to observe the silence in the chamber – said it had been up to individual councillors to make a decision whether to attend or not.

“The four members of the Labour group that were in the chamber observed it perfectly,” he said.

On the rest of the party’s members, he said: “It was their decision and it should be respected.

“I agree we should not try to turn the death of Margaret Thatcher into a political issue,” he added.

Tories walk out of council meeting after Thatcher tribute row