LONDON — While some Britons mourned the passing of Margaret Thatcher, others raised glasses of champagne in impromptu street parties. And The Wizard of Oz song Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead is surging up the UK singles charts.
A Guardian newspaper cartoon depicted Thatcher descending into hell, the Socialist Worker front page said "Rejoice," and a movie marquee was rearranged to read: "Margaret Thatchers Dead LOL."
Many societies soften their take on divisive leaders as they age — notably the United States, where even unpopular presidents are warmly eulogized in death — but emotions in Britain are as raw as they were when the Iron Lady was in power.
Thatcher was an unusually divisive figure blamed by many for crippling Britain's labor unions and sabotaging workers' rights, but the willingness of small groups of Britons to publicly mock a longtime national leader hours after her death reflects a British contempt for power and its practitioners that many believe stands in contrast to attitudes in the United States.
There were no similar scenes of jubilation after the 1994 death of Richard Nixon, who is the only U.S. president to resign from office, said Robert McGeehan, an associate fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Americas.
"This really shows the dissimilarity between the two countries," said McGeehan, a dual national who worked with Thatcher in academia after she left office. "One does not recall, with the passing of controversial figures in the U.S., anything remotely resembling the really crude approach we've seen over here."