Should we name the new railway station on the HS2 line after Baroness Thatcher, the beloved former leader of our country? Boris Johnson apparently called it a “brilliant idea”, but I wonder if the whole idea is just too un-English?
The French love properly honouring people. Every French village contains about five or six streets named after artists, philosophers or politicians, whether foreign, national or local people of interest.
In London, for some bizarre reason, the only streets fully named after people commemorate obscure local councillors, whereas there are virtually no streets or avenues commemorating any of the great leaders or poets or scientists of our age (the exceptions are the great 18th and 19th squares, but even these tend to commemorate families, not individuals).
Meanwhile we have countless dull, generic street names that are repeated ad nauseam across the country.
In Paris dozens of underground stations are in honour of individuals, while I can’t think of a single Tube station named after someone, with the exception of Queen Victoria and, indirectly, Ss Paul, John and James (I suppose some others were ultimately medieval villages named commemorating 8th century Middle Saxon chieftain, but I’m not sure that really counts).
TfL recently asked the public to name the new stations along the Old Kent Road, and while it would be nice if they named one Geoffrey Chaucer, they’ll probably call them things like Peckham South or name it after some obscure side street.
When we do name things, it’s always after the royal family, like the unimaginatively-named Elizabeth Line, which is why I liked Andy Street’s plans for a new metro system in Birmingham commemorating local people.
Likewise, I like the cut of Boris Johnson’s gib in calling Old Oak Common station after Thatcher.
I think there are seven or eight key things this government needs to do in the next five years in order to pay back the trust of its supporters, and “owning the libs” is definitely of them, but I think it might be just a bit early to commemorate Thatcher. But why not name it after another former PM? Why not Disraeli, Churchill, Gladstone or even Attlee?
If it was up to me, I’d commemorate something in west London in honour of the Polish Battle of Britain pilots who were based in nearby Northolt. Perhaps call the station Kosciuszko or, if that’s too much for British tongues, 303 Squadron?
Now that we’re transitioning, so to speak, it would be a nice gesture of thanks to our friends in Poland.
But I’m open to better ideas.