How Margaret Thatcher continues to divide opinion in her home town

To suggest an issue or topic has ‘divided a town’ is the sort of local news cliche which would probably cost your marks in your Oxdown NCTJ newspaper practice exam.

But for once, this week, one local newspaper was faced with that exact dilemma (although, as far as we can tell, managed to dodge that dreaded cliche in the process).

Journalists on the Grantham Journal found themselves covering a news story which unexpectedly went national when a statue to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who is arguably the most famous person to have come from the Lincolnshire town.

(We say maybe, because Sir Isaac Newton, who has a shopping centre, at least one pub and one school named after him in Grantham also hails from those parts).

No sooner had the statue been put on show in the market town, than it began to be pelted with eggs. By the end of the week, an entrepreneur was even selling eggs next to the statue.

And while the story may well have prompted mirth in the national media — it was also an item on Have I Got News For You this week too — for the Grantham Journal, it was an issue which, to borrow a cliche again, divided opinion.

On this week’s letters page in the Journal, there was just one topic to talk about. Of the six letters published, two were actively opposed to the statue, three were very positive and one sat on the fence, but did enquire as to why the statue had to unveiled in secret.

The paper also carried a spread on the topic, focusing on the campaign to raise the funds in the process — and chronicling the bizarre decision of Tory Westminster Council’s refusal to allow it be placed in Parliament Square, a decision backed by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

It also noted that even South Kesteven Council, which serves Grantham, refused to underwrite the cost of putting the statue in place, and that any unveiling will also have to be funded privately too.

Perhaps the comments from the local council leader, Kelham Cooke, speak volumes about the how sensitive a subject Thatcher remains in Grantham.

He told The Journal: “Margaret Thatcher will always be a significant part of Grantham’s heritage.

“She and her family have close ties with Grantham. She was botn, raised and went to school here. It is, therefore, appropriate that she is commemorated by her home town, and that the debate that surround her legacy takes place here in Grantham.”

He added he hoped the memorial would encourage more people to visit Grantham.

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

>> See the series so far, here

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The stories behind the stories, from the regional press in the UK

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