x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Thatcher funeral invitees a who's who of political and cultural figures

More than 2,000 invitations will be sent out for the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral with full military honours next week, an event that will see roads closed and parliament suspended to mourn her.

LONDON // More than 2,000 invitations will be sent out for the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral with full military honours next week, an event that will see roads closed and parliament suspended to mourn her.

All surviving former British prime ministers and US presidents have been invited to the service in London's St Paul's Cathedral next Wednesday, said the office of the prime minister, David Cameron.

The former UK premier, Tony Blair, and the former South African president, F W de Klerk, whom Thatcher backed in the last years of apartheid, are among those who have confirmed they will attend. The ceremony will be one step short of a full-scale state funeral.

"The first woman prime minister; three terms in a row; prime minister for longer than anyone in 150 years," Mr Cameron said on Sky News television. "People would find us a pretty extraordinary country if we didn't properly, with some dignity but also some fanfare, mark the passing of this extraordinary woman."

The Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was not invited, though the nation's ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, will be asked to be one of the 2,300 people present in the cathedral.

The move underlines the continuing tension over the Falkland Islands, which Argentina invaded in 1982, triggering the Falklands War. More than 700 British troops from units that fought in the war will line the route of the funeral procession.

Others to confirm their attendance so far include the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, and his Thatcher-era predecessor, Brian Mulroney. The singer Shirley Bassey, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and television presenter Jeremy Clarkson will also be there.

Also invited are a representative of the family of the late US president, Ronald Reagan, Thatcher's closest Cold-War ally; the former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton; as well as a representative of the former South African president, Nelson Mandela.

Thatcher's death has prompted a divided reaction in the UK, with her Tory supporters lauding her economic reforms and strength of character, while her political opponents have pointed to the decline in traditional manufacturing and growing north-south divide under her premiership.