Controversy as NUS National Conference attendees applaud Thatcher’s death

9 April 2013

Following the announcement that Margaret Thatcher passed away earlier yesterday, Monday 8 April, the National Union of Students (NUS) has come under fire after conference delegates applauded upon receiving news of the former Prime Minister’s death.

People have taken to Twitter in anger after around 30 individuals cheered and applauded upon hearing about Thatcher’s death. Although the NUS has denied the mentioning of Baroness Thatcher’s death on stage, the cheers reportedly arose after the Chief Returning Officer, Honor Cohen, urged attendees to check national headlines, saying: “This is a day I’ll never forget. For those of you who’ve seen the news, you’ll know what I mean.

The response from those at the conference has been described as “sick”, “pathetic”, and “disgusting”, with one NUS member, Jamie Williams, from Manchester University, tweeting: “I refuse to be a member of the NUS … I will be ending my membership…next week.” He is not alone in this opinion with others tweeting that they are “ashamed to have supported” the NUS, and that they are glad “to have nothing more to do with SUs”.

Outgoing NUS President, Liam Burns (Pictured above), issued a statement in response to the allegations that the NUS has ‘celebrated’ the death of Margaret Thatcher, saying that: “I’m the last person to agree with Margaret Thatcher’s politics or her policy record as prime minister. But we must not forget that an elderly woman has just died. She had family, friends, colleagues and supporters who will want to pay their respects at this time, and the media and public debate will now be dominated by this unexpected news.

“We believe there is such thing as humanity. There is such a thing as sensitivity. And there is such a thing as respect. I ask you all to think very carefully indeed about how you respond to this news as conference continues.”

Whilst Baroness Thatcher inspired ‘love and loathing’ during her political career, today has been acknowledged as a time to consider the family and friends she leaves behind. For, as Nick Clegg has stated: “She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics.”

This is a view echoed across social media, with student Flo Hawking, from Bath, tweeting “I am appalled to hear that #nusnc13 cheered the death of Maggie T. Whether you loved or loathed her, this is just disrespectful.”

However, questions are also being raised as to whether ‘condemning’ all criticism of her leadership is a productive way of treating the news of her death, with some saying that the political rhetoric celebrating Thatcher’s life is merely contributing to hagiography.

Baroness Thatcher died at the age of 87 following a stroke.

Jenny Buckley- News Editor

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