Being dead hasn’t stopped Margaret Thatcher splitting the country right down the middle.

Yesterday it was between delight and grief at her passing, and today it’s about her funeral.

Should it be state or ceremonial? Like Lady Di’s or the Queen Mum’s? Will there be a flypast, a 21-gun salute, or a national turning of the back?

Maggie herself turned down the idea of a state funeral, as it would involve Parliament’s agreement, and opted instead for one with military honours.

The cost is to be borne between the government and her estate, although no-one’s telling us yet how much of it will be paid by whom.

We will definitely be paying for the gun carriage she’ll be resting on, the tri-service military procession and the shiny breastplates of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery who’ll escort her.

We will pay for a lot of our politicians to take the day off, just as we’re paying for them to have an utterly pointless ‘emergency debate’ on her legacy tomorrow.

We will also foot the bill for closing down a large swathe of the capital, the time off work some people will be forced and others will want to take, and for the state broadcaster to televise it so everyone can pass comment.

And all for something that, with the best will in the world, will not bring millions of us onto the streets.

There’ll be a few fans, a lot of tourists, and a sizeable number of people armed with eggs who’ll need policing.

The estimate so far is running at about ?8million, and if you think anyone but us is bearing the brunt of that you have an unhealthy lack of cynicism.

The fact is, she shouldn’t be getting all that.

Prime Ministers generally opt for more private, family affairs, and whether you think she saved the nation or ruined it, such a kerfuffle is best reserved for those who are more than mere politicians.

Churchill got a state funeral, but then he’d fought in several wars, won the Nobel Prize for Literature, was President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, Chancellor, and PM twice. He was a war correspondent, a historian, an absolute pig if you were a suffragette or thought roast chicken for breakfast was a bit much when the rest of the country was on rations, but most of the nation felt it owed him thanks.

Yet Nye Bevan, who started work in the Welsh mines at 13 and spearheaded the establishment of the National Health Service and saved millions of lives, had his end marked quietly at Gwent Crematorium.

No doubt that was his wish, but it’s hard to argue selling off council houses or bigging up the Yuppies is worth more fuss than he got.

And it’s not as though she can’t afford to pay for her own funeral.

She married a wealthy oilman and her estate is thought to be worth at least ?6.5m. Their children were educated at private schools, and she ended her days with private nursing in the Ritz hotel. She wasn’t short of a bob or two.

Her son, due to what’s termed ‘astute deals in Africa’, is said to be sitting on ?60m.

Eight years ago he was able to lay his hands on ?265,000 cash to pay a fine for his part in a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea; he can surely afford a funeral for mum.

Her daughter is less wealthy but has homes in the ski resort of Klosters and in London, and could certainly manage to chip in.

But despite a combined family wealth of something north of ?66m the lion’s share of the cost of a funeral none of us will be going to for someone half of us didn’t like will be paid for by us.

But then, it’s not the first time.

There’s probably something very similar happening near you, right now.

Because while state funerals get televised and world leaders turn up with pretend grins, funerals-by-the-state get ignored even though there are nearly 3,000 a year.

This kind of state funeral happens for the lonely, the abandoned, the homeless. Drug addicts, the mentally ill, people who just quietly fade away at home while their neighbours don’t even notice.

They get scooped up by the local authority, kept on ice for as long as it takes to identify them, and given a simple ceremony at public expense.

A priest will say a few words, and a council official will be paid to attend as a mourner, and they are buried in a common grave with several other of the great unnoticed.

Ads will be placed in local papers appealing for friends or family to come forward, and the authority will try to recoup the cost – perhaps ?2,000 or so – from any assets they leave behind. And that is that.

No Elgar. No Royal Horse Artillery. No politicians. Just thousands of Eleanor Rigbys and J. Alfred Prufrocks, measuring out their lives with coffee spoons and darned socks until the end.

And yet it is that legacy our politicians should be debating.

It is those funerals we should make more of an effort with. And it is that sort of end we, as a nation, already give far more of a toss about than a wealthy, successful lady in the Ritz hotel.

Two years ago Torquay council officials entered the seaside home of an 89-year-old lady called Eileen Nearne. She had died of a heart attack, lived alone, and had no known relatives. She was due a funeral-by-the-state, tossed barely noticed into a hole with a few others. Then they found her medals.

Eileen had once been Agent Rose, a spy who worked behind enemy lines in the Second World War, was captured and tortured by the Nazis, escaped three times from concentration camps, and never breathed a word of her bravery.

When people heard they donated thousands for a proper funeral. The military sent top brass to bear witness, and crowds lined the streets to weep as the Last Post was played by an Army bugler.

When it comes right down to it, the state is not just a government or a system of pooling our resources to keep the place tidy.

The state is – or should be – how we live alongside one another, muddle along, and occasionally help each other out when it’s needed.

When someone dies, it is as much of a tragedy if they were an unnoticed war hero, a homeless drunk or a once-powerful leader struck down by dementia.

They deserve equal recognition, each leaves a legacy, and politicians ought to spend more time thinking about the funerals they don’t get invited to.

And we should pay for the funerals only of those who could not arrange their own.

?8million would buy an awful lot of flowers for all those other Eileens.

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Should Margaret Thatcher have a ceremonial funeral?