This morning, Baroness Margaret Thatcher died following a stroke. This afternoon, it was reported that an announcement of her death at the annual NUS Conference prompted a round of applause.
A speaker allegedly told the audience, “This is a day I’ll never forget. For those of you who’ve seen the news, you’ll know what I mean,” which prompted applause from some members of the audience.
Tweeters were among the first to spread the news, with one saying: “I’m pretty sure I just watched the NUS Conference applauding the death of Thatcher?”
This news provoked a strong response from others on Twitter, with one tweeter saying, “my opinion of students has fallen”, and another claiming “[I am] embarrassed to be part of NUS who reportedly cheered at news of Thatcher’s death at their conference today, DISGUSTING.”
However, many said the event has been blown out of proportion. Education officer for Warwick Students’ Union James Entwistle was at the Conference today, and said of the allegations: “From Coventry (and anywhere not the City Hall, Sheffield), people have been claiming they heard a rapturous applause at the death of Baroness Thatcher from NUS Conference 2013.
“From my seat on the 13th row of conference, it was a non-event and students can make their own mind up on who’s telling the truth. In reality students have been loudly applauding positive and important debates of the future of education, student housing and EMA all day!”
Exeter’s Student Union’s vice president for Participation tweeted: “There was a murmur amongst delegates at the NUS conference today, but definitely not a cheer.” Another tweeter who was at the event said: “Tiny minority cheered, [this has been] completely blown out of proportion.”
NUS President Liam Burns commented on the claims later in the day. He said: “Following misrepresentations on Twitter, I feel that I have to respond to Margaret Thatcher’s death. Now, let me be clear, I’m the last person to agree with Margaret Thatcher’s politics or her policy record as prime minister.
“But we must not forget that an elderly woman has just died. She had family, friends, colleagues and supporters who will want to pay their respects at this time, and the media and public debate will now be dominated by this unexpected news.
“It’s not just that this would reflect extremely badly upon us if we were to show disrespect at this time. We are better than that. We believe there is such thing as humanity. There is such a thing as sensitivity. And there is such a thing as respect.”
He concluded: “I ask you all to think very carefully indeed about how you respond to this news as conference continues.”