Margaret Thatcher’s funeral was a “truly moving occasion” - Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham

The coffin bearing the body of Baroness Thatcher arrives at St Paul's Cathedral, central London for

The coffin bearing the body of Baroness Thatcher arrives at St Paul's Cathedral, central London for her funeral service. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A Conservative MP and former colleague of Margaret Thatcher said the country was 'absolutely right' to afford the former prime minister today's ceremonial funeral which was a 'truly moving occasion'.

North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who spent seven years on the back benches of the House of Commons under the leadership of Baroness Thatcher, said she would have been secretly pleased and flattered by the reaction to her death.

He said: 'She was a very important influence on my life so going to the funeral was a very moving event and I think that the country was absolutely right to afford her that level of respect and ceremony.'

He was among a number of House of Commons staff who visited the coffin in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday night.

He said: 'I went on Tuesday to pay my respects to Lady Thatcher and her presence was palpable. So I think it was right the country did what they did. She was the longest serving prime minister this country has had in the 20th century. You have to go back to Gladstone to find someone who served longer,' he added.

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While most of the people who lined the route of the funeral came to pay their respects there were pockets of protesters who came out to voice dissent in London.

Mr Bellingham said: 'Yes, I accept she was someone who aroused great emotions and for that reason she divided people. But in places where she certainly wasn't liked, people had respect for her.

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'She relished the cut and thrust of politics and I think she would have been secretly quite pleased and flattered in some ways that in her passing a lot of these old divisions have come to the surface.'

Mr Bellingham was among a host of other former colleagues from the region and current Conservative MPs from East Anglia who paid their respects to Baroness Thatcher in St Paul's Cathedral.

Life peer and former Mid-Norfolk MP Lord Ryder was among those who attended the service, but Baroness Shephard of Northwold, a former secretary of state and colleague of Margaret Thatcher is unable to attend because of a funeral of an extremely close friend.

Also among the guests were South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, Waveney MP Peter Aldous, Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis.

Former head of the British Army General the Lord Richard Dannatt, who has a home in Norfolk, was also on the guest list.

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