UK Politics

Anger at Thatcher death T-shirts on sale at TUC

Thatcher T-shirt on sale at the TUC
Image caption T-shirts referring to the death of Margaret Thatcher have been on sale at the TUC

T-shirts celebrating the eventual death of Margaret Thatcher - on sale at the TUC conference - have been condemned.

Tory MPs called the garments "beyond the pale" and "sickening". TUC general secretary Brendan Barber called them "tasteless and inappropriate".

The T-shirts were proving "very popular" with trade unionists, stall holder Colin Hampton said.

Baroness Thatcher, 86, has been in declining health in recent years and has withdrawn from public life.

Mr Hampton defended the T-shirts as representing "many" people's view of the former PM.

Lady Thatcher is unpopular with many trade unionists, who blame her for the "erosion" of workers' rights during the 1980s and the decline of industries including mining and heavy manufacturing.

Lady Thatcher's supporters argue that she revitalised the economy and improved the UK's standing in the world by bringing in free market reforms and reducing the influence of powerful trade unions.

'Open immediately'

In the Brighton Centre, where the TUC is holding its annual get-together, Mr Hampton, who works advising unemployed people in Derbyshire, said he was doing good business.

One T-shirt bears a picture of a gravestone, and states: "Thatcher: A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher's grave."

Another shows a caricature puppet of Lady Thatcher and states: "Hey Ho The Witch is Dead."

The accompanying plastic packaging says: "In the event of the death of Thatcher, open bag and wear tee-shirt immediately."

Image caption Colin Hampton says he appreciates the T-shirts are not to everybody's taste

Conservative MP Conor Burns told the Daily Telegraph the sentiment behind the T-shirts was "sickening".

"It shows an ugly side to the hard left who cannot move on from their utter defeat at the hands of this remarkable, but now frail, lady.

"Not for the first time Lady T shows why she amounts to so much more than her opponents."

Aiden Burley, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, told the newspaper: "This sick merchandise tells you all you need to know about some in the union movement - baseless, cowardly and utterly devoid of morality.

"Those anticipating and celebrating the death of an elderly lady and mainstream Western leader are simply beyond the pale."

But Mr Hampton said: "Over the years we've sold hundreds of T-shirts."

'Entrepreneurial flair'

He added: "She is going to die some day. The fact of the matter is when she dies there will be people who come out and say what a good person she was.

"But you ask many people in the regions of the country what they think and they are going to be appalled by the coverage."

Mr Hampton, whose stall also includes a giant snakes and ladders board based on people's "inability" to escape poverty, said: "People will be saying that she was a good woman and ignore most of the things she did...

"It isn't to everybody's taste and I appreciate that. But it's not about wishing anybody dead. It's not saying that. It's saying there will be a reaction when she dies.

"Some people say she was wonderful and they should be giving her a state funeral, but vast swathes will say there should not be."

He added: "In the spirit of Margaret Thatcher, I'm showing some entrepreneurial flair."

Dan Hodges, a former union official who writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph, said the T-shirts were "cowardly" and "utterly devoid of any morality" and should be withdrawn from sale.

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