I am a free citizen of the United Kingdom. The police have no business whatsoever telling me whether and when to stand to attention, sit, wave, smile, salute, two-finger salute, hiss or boo. And they certainly have no business at all telling me which way I should face.
This has nothing to do with “respect for the dead”. If it were about that, Mrs Thatcher would have had a funeral with family and old friends, some of whom of course would have been her political allies. In that case it would have been quite wrong to show disrespect. We, who disrespect her legacy, would have been right to simply stay away and let her survivors mourn in peace.
But that is not what’s going on here. This is a huge piece of political theatre, exploiting her final departure to trumpet the Thatcherite legacy. As such, it begs for a theatrical response. Those who decided to stage a quasi-state funeral are the ones who took this out of the realm of respect for the dead, and into the realm of demonstration. The demonstration might be one of power in the form of gun-carriages and other military pomp, or it might be one of objection, through turning the back.
And it is the right of any one of us to do so – the idea that permission is required is appalling.