Ricky Tomlinson says Caroline Aherne should have had a state funeral

Royle Family star says "Margaret Thatcher had one - and everyone hated her"

The Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson has paid tribute to the show’s late creator Caroline Aherne, saying she should have had a state funeral.

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Tomlinson said it was unfair that Margaret Thatcher was given a state funeral following her death in 2013.

Tomlinson, who played Jim Royle in The Royle Family from 1998 until 2012, said at the end of his interview: “Why didn’t Caroline have a state funeral? Everyone loved her. We had a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher and everyone hated her.”

As host Susanna Reid grimaced, co-host Piers Morgan laughed and said: “You have a point. It wouldn’t be a Ricky Tomlinson interview without a comment like that.” As Tomlinson burst out laughing, Morgan said: “Go and have a cup of tea, you naughty boy.”

Aherne died aged 52 in July following her third battle with cancer. Tomlinson revealed he didn’t know Aherne – who played Jim’s daughter Denise in The Royle Family – was suffering from the disease again before her death.

Tomlinson said: “It was absolutely awful. I’m so glad I didn’t know she had cancer. I only found out when I got the phone call to say she’d died. She was wonderful and brave. She never told anyone or complained, and she was fabulous. I’ll love her forever.”

Briefly a member of the far-right National Front movement in 1968, Tomlinson became a left-wing trade union member in the 1970s, working as a builder before he got his break as an actor in Channel 4 soap Brookside, where he played Bobby Grant from the show’s first episode in 1982 until he left in 1988.