U.K. Denies Thatcher Snubs as Merkel, Rajoy Stay AwayKitty Donaldson
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said it wasn’t concerned that foreign leaders are staying away from Margaret Thatcher’s funeral as it became clear that the German and Spanish heads of government won’t attend.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, are sending their foreign ministers, Guido Westerwelle and Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, to the service in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on April 17, their governments said today. Merkel signed a book of condolence for Thatcher at the British Embassy in Berlin April 11, describing her as “one of the great political figures of the 20th century.”
Thatcher’s and Cameron’s Conservatives were part of the same pan-European bloc as Merkel’s Christian Democrats and Rajoy’s People’s Party before pulling out in 2009. Cameron said in January he will seek looser ties with the European Union if re-elected in two years’ time, promising a referendum on renegotiated membership terms by the end of 2017
Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, asked by reporters today if the premier is concerned about the absence of senior statespeople at the funeral replied, “Not at all.” He said that the list of guests already announced “says a very great deal about the breadth of Lady Thatcher’s global stature.”
Canada’s Stephen Harper, Mario Monti of Italy and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk are among the most prominent guests whose attendance has been confirmed so far.
Thatcher-era German Chancellor Helmut Kohl declined an invitation to attend the funeral because the trip would be too strenuous, his spokeswoman, Marion Scheller, said by phone today. Kohl, 83, is wheelchair-bound.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, 82, a man Thatcher said she “could do business with,” won’t be there. “Unfortunately, he can’t come because of his health condition,” his spokesman, Vladimir Polyakov, said April 10.
More than 2,000 invitations have been sent out for the funeral, the biggest for a political leader in Britain since that of Winston Churchill in 1965.
The U.K. has invited all surviving U.S. presidents but has yet to hear who will attend. The French government has also to announce who it will be sending. Three members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, will attend, Speaker John Boehner said today.