Jeremy Clarkson and Andrew Lloyd Webber to Attend Margaret Thatcher Funeral
The "Top Gear" star's acceptance is one of only a handful of reps from the arts and media as the invites are mailed out Thursday.
LONDON – BBC TV stalwart and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Welsh singer Shirley Bassey, famous for belting out the theme to Goldfinger, are among a very shortlist of names to already accept an invitation to attend the funeral for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber also is an early acceptor to the occasion that is expected to heavily feature reps of the armed forces.
Webber's big stage musicals such as Cats and Starlight Express are cited by many as being products of Thatcher's attitude to the arts, with private enterprise shouldering the costs of expensive productions.
The guest list, drawn up by Thatcher's family and reps with the assistance of the U.K. government, is expected to end up with more than 2,000 invitees, according to the prime minister's office.
Hillary Clinton and President Obama have both been invited to attend the ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on April 17.
The publicly published list of invitees and confirmation of attendees, unveiled Thursday, remains limited as the 2,000-plus invites are being mailed out now.
It has not been disclosed yet whether News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, who called Thatcher "an inspiration to my business life" in an editorial in his Times of London in the wake of her death, will find one dropping through his door.
Since her death Monday from a stroke, Thatcher and her legacy across all facets of life, including the arts, has been the subject of media debate and hand-wringing and has dominated the British mainstream media.
The British Parliament even was recalled, with ministers –- not all -– returning to pay tribute to the U.K.'s first and only female prime minister.
The BBC has been at the center of the storm as the battle between supporters and detractors continues to rage.
"Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead," as sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, has become the song du jour for anti-Thatcher protesters and is shooting up the British music charts.
It is tracking at No. 4 in the charts, and the BBC has told The Guardian that should it remain in the top 10 come April 14, it will be played on air during the BBC chart show.
According to a report in the left-leaning paper, the corporation is considering having a reporter from the radio's news team explain why a song from the 1930s is charting to Radio 1's target audience of 16- to 24-year-olds – none of whom will remember Thatcher's years in office.
The Daily Mail, a right wing paper, "named and shamed" the person who set up the Facebook page "The Witch Is Dead" as a female drama teacher who had breast implants courtesy of the taxpayer before condemning plans for parties to celebrate Thatcher's death as "revolting" and "offensive."
Radio 1 insiders told The Guardian that if the song does make it to the top five, there would be no reason not to play the track.
The BBC also said that more people have complained that the corporation's own coverage of her death was biased in favor of the former prime minister than against her.
The public broadcaster said late Wednesday that it has received 268 complaints that its coverage was biased in favor of Thatcher and 227 who said it was biased against her.
A further 271 people complained that the BBC had devoted too much airtime to the former Tory leader's death.
A host of celebrities have chimed in on the debate of Thatcher, including Morrissey, Geri Halliwell, Piers Morgan, Russell Brand and Stephen Fry.
Brand, in an erudite summation of what it meant to be a child of Thatcherism in The Guardian, remembered her in his early years as a "strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off," referring to the Thatcher government's policy of privatization of nationalized industries.
"I didn't know what to think of this fearsome woman," Brand said.
Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Thatcher in The Iron Lady, praised her as “a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics."
One industry insider summed up a commonly held view among the media.
"When Thatcher said there is no such thing as society, she should have been barred from holding public office right then."
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