Margaret Thatcher’s death unleashes division again

Opponents gather at site of protests in ’80s

LONDON — With broadcasters, columnists, and editorialists absorbed in chronicling Margaret Thatcher’s life, times, and demise, Britons on Tuesday mulled the ideological divide that her critics and even some of her admirers depicted as deepening during her years as Britain’s only female prime minister.

While many former and serving politicians seemed to form lines to offer their reaction to her death of a stroke at age 87 on Monday, and radio shows were filled with recordings of her best-known utterances, some isolated protests broke out overnight Monday in London, Bristol, and Glasgow reflecting the same social schism between haves and have-nots that characterized the debate over her legacy.

Hundreds of her opponents gathered at the site of violent protests against her policies in the 1980s, with a small crowd in Brixton, in south London — where anti-Thatcher riots broke out in 1981 — chanting ‘‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie — Dead, Dead, Dead.’’


The gathering harked back the early days of the Thatcher era when joblessness soared as faltering industries were denied subsidies and a record 10,000 businesses went bankrupt. ‘‘Things will get worse before they get better,’’ she said at the time, depicting the economic malaise as a legacy of left-wing rule. Thatcher later recalled 1981 as the worst of her 11 years in office, with riots in Liverpool, Manchester, and Bristol as well as Brixton.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

At what was billed as a celebratory street party in the city of Bristol overnight Monday, around 200 people clashed with police officers trying to disperse them early Tuesday, police said, and six officers were injured in scuffles. One officer remained in the hospital Tuesday and one partygoer was arrested for violent disorder.

‘'We can’t deny,’’ Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday, ‘‘that Lady Thatcher divided opinion.’’ But some of those who castigated her as divisive also paid grudging respect to her stature.

The venom of the protests recalled policies encouraging private business and crushing labor union power that her admirers depicted Tuesday as liberating the economy from years in the doldrums and that her foes characterized as ruinous for the poor.