In today’s Guardian, commenting on the plans for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, Seumas Milne surveys the division and protest provoked by the Government’s insistence on an almost-State funeral with pomp and military honours.

It’s a state funeral in all but name, laid on for none of the last seven prime ministers. Nothing of the kind has been seen since the death of Winston Churchill, who really did unite the country for a time against the mortal threat from Nazi Germany. Thatcher did the opposite, of course, though every effort will be made today to milk her short but bloody colonial conflict in the south Atlantic for all its jingoistic worth.

For many people the Government’s determination to use Thatcher’s death as an opportunity to glorify her record in government and to celebrate her political ‘legacy’ is looking more like crude propaganda than reflective mourning for a deceased politician.

As Milne says,

From the moment the former prime minister died there has been a determined drive by the Tories and their media allies to rewrite history and rehabilitate a deeply damaged brand. For a few days of fawning wall-to-wall coverage it seemed like that might be working, as happened in the US after Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004.

But a week on, it’s clear the revisionists have overplayed their hand. Anger and revulsion keep bursting into the open. Simply raising her record reminds people of the price paid for unrelenting deregulation, privatisation and tax handouts to the rich; why she was so unpopular across Britain when she was in power; and the striking similarity with what’s being done by today’s Tory-led coalition.

Is this a case of a political class so in thrall to the hegemony of neo-liberalism and the Daily Mail version of history (“The Woman That Saved Britain”), that they really couldn’t foresee the division and anger that would result?  Or is it hubris arising from a belief that the class war is effectively over and their opponents permanently vanquished?  Either way, given the evidence of opinion polls, and other signs of public dissent from the official ‘script’ (far wider than the ‘usual suspects’ holding celebration parties), there must be more than a few conservatives starting to question the wisdom of what they launched.

Despite all the efforts of the coalition, the loyal toadying of the BBC, and the timidity of the Labour Party, it’s possible this event might well come to be seen as a tipping point; when public support or muted acquiescence to the Government’s austerity agenda turns to active opposition.

Back in the 1930s, Clement Attlee noted that “in Britain there is the strongest Capitalist class in the world, and on the whole it is also the cleverest. It is unlikely to adopt the crude and brutal methods which have been used in other countries. It is generally too clever to show its hand very obviously or to outrage human feeling. It uses the language of reform and peace and democracy, and gains its ends, not by playing upon the worst human instincts, but by persuading the ordinary decent person that it is going to realise all his highest ideals by other ways than those of the reformers and Socialists.” (C.R. Attlee, The Labour Party In Perspective, 1937)

So, not quite so clever these days then, despite (because of?) their public school educations.