Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was the best boss I ever worked for. As her Chief Policy Adviser in the mid 1980s I was impressed by the honesty of her aproach, her willingness to wrestle with difficult issues and problems. Her prime wish was always to find the right answer that would make things better for the UK.

As a young man in a senior position I was to her as good as the arguments and evidence I produced for her. It was refreshing to be able to argue your case strongly without fear that any of it would be taken personally or politically.

Always very caring about people working with her, and anyone in the wider world who was suffering, she helped an American President win the Cold war, made it possible for members of unions and non members to work in greater harmony with management in many industries after the very bruising miners strike, greatly extended home and share ownership, and took up with alacrity the whole agenda of equity for everyone.

She rebuilt Britain at home and abroad, after a decade of financial collapse, a trip to the IMF and strike ridden industrial chaos.

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33 Comments

  1. Nick
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    the honesty of her ap(p)roach

    ==========

    We need more honesty from government.

    Start with the debts and tell people what you are expecting them to pay.

  2. peter davies
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Had I ever gone into politics she is the one PM I would have wanted to work for, Mrs T did set a benchmark which no PM since has come close to living up to.

    Not only that, she was working class, not someone born with a silver spoon nor someone who pretended to be something she wasn’t. I felt during the PMs debate leading up to the 2010 election – ‘Mrs T would have made mincemeat out of these 3’

    Probably the best PM in the 20th and 21st century so far, very sad news.

  3. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    A sad day. Margaret Thatcher won me over to vote Conservative. She was the greatest Prime Minister by a very long way in my fairly long lifetime. She knew what she cared about and was determined to get things done. We owe her a very large debt of gratitude. If only we had someone of her calibre today.

  4. ChrisS
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    No Prime Minister other than Winston Churchill comes close to Margaret Thatcher in the way she re-establishing and then maintaining the position of the United Kingdom in the world.

    At home, Mrs Thatcher was that rare breed of politician : a woman motivated by conviction and belief rather than a slave to focus groups and opinion polling. A lesser person would not have forced through the essential changes required to save our economy.

    Our current Prime Minister would do well to learn these lessons and follow her lead : Had she fought the last election and the outcome had been the same, one can’t imagine her giving Nick Clegg and the LibDems equal billing in a coalition.

    Rather, through sheer force of personality, Margaret Thatcher would have run an effective minority government, forcing through the more radical changes we undoubtedly need to make and, at the same time, making mincemeat of lightweights like Clegg, Balls and Milliband at the dispatch box.

    She was a towering figure in both British and World politics and we will not see her like again.

    We should both celebrate and respect her life and achievements.

  5. Richard1
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Margaret Thatcher saved our country from the socialist mire we were in by 1979, & together with Ronald Reagan saved the world from the threat of communism. Despite ceaseless attacks on her from opponents ever since, her policies were not subsequently reversed during 13 years of Labour govt, and have been followed throughout the world – in particular in former communist countries – to the benefit of billions of people who are more prosperous & free than they would otherwise be.

  6. Mark W
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    May she rest in peace. The greatest Prime Minister in my lifetime.

  7. Monty
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    She certainly rebuilt and restored us to full rigour after the years of decline and destruction inflicted upon us by her predecessors and the loony left. She gave us cause to be optimistic and confident. The political giant of the latter half of the 20th century.

  8. Peter Whale
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    The right person for those times. At her mid term “A woman for all seasons” may she rest in peace her legacy still lingers.

  9. Roger Farmer
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Sadly since her untimely departure it has invariably been party and self before what is good for the country. I look forward to the next one in Margaret Thatcher’s image.

  10. Charlie the Chump
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Margaret Thatcher: Rest in Peace, a truly remarkable Englishwoman.

    • APL
      Posted April 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Charlie the Chump: “Rest in Peace, a truly remarkable Englishwoman.”

      Seconded.

  11. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Honesty an open discussion is the best way forward. Realisation that people have different views and to accept them as having that view whether in agreement with ones own views or not, is a healthy professional relationship. . I was expecting this blog given that you were policy advisor, yet I do not agree with many of the privatisation tactics and the way many had to suffer for a few. Interpretation of policies can very as much as policies in themselves and it was this era and the doubling of peoples, the subcontracting and further subcontracting for ‘man on the street profit’ which changed the whole atmosphere of society and ruined me financially.
    She was obviously respected and I expect much of your influence changed many things. Research , research and evidence . I am more concerned with who pays who to arrive at figures and evidence and what are the diametrically opposed points which have been omitted to emphasise evidence.
    I am glad that you were witness to all the better characteristics ,yet I cannot heroine worship at a time which was the worst financial time of my life, full of greed , brass and division.

  12. Mark B
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    John Redwood MP said,
    “Margaret Thatcher was the best boss I ever worked for. ”

    And she was the best post war leader we ever had.

    We can both count ourselves fortunate to have lived, and in your case worked for, someone of that stature.

    RIP Lady Thatcher.

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been a great fan of Margaret Thatcher, and I recall saying that she and Arthur Scargill deserved each other but the rest of us deserved neither of them.

    And if a party is going to appeal to the electorate on the question of who should govern Britain, the elected government or the trade unions, it shouldn’t at the same time quietly transfer the government of Britain to foreigners through the EEC/EC/EU.

    Nor am I an enthusiast for the dogmatic privatisation of everything owned by the public, although I note here that Thatcher believed that Royal Mail should not be privatised and it was her successors who used the EU to advance that process.

    Nor do I believe they she was right to endorse a highly dubious climatological theory as part of her fight with the coal miners, and we are still living with the increasingly costly consequences of that error.

    Having said all that, unlike some I won’t be celebrating her passing, because I believe that she was a true patriot who faced very difficult circumstances and did what she thought was right for the country, even when she was wrong; and that is something which cannot be said for either her immediate predecessors or any of her successors, including I’m afraid the present Prime Minister.

    • A different Simon
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      My feelings towards Mrs Thatcher are similar to yours .

      I reckon the City of London did to Mrs Thatcher what it does best – pulls the wool over the eyes of outsiders . They did the same thing to Gordon the gold seller and are doing the same thing to Cameron and Osborne .

      Does anyone think Gordon Brown or George Osborne have ever bought a share in their life ?

      I remember it being said that she was surprised that so called free market inevitably result in a monopolies .

      Whilst I’m inclined to believe she was naive and unaware of the negative consequences of her actions I’m not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to some of her more worldly advisers .

  14. Antonia Stuart
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    John, it was Margaret who inspired my interest in politics, my respect for the armed forces and my pride for our country. She was and will remain my inspiration.

  15. alan jutson
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    The situation and problems facing the Country you describe when she was elected as Prime Minister, were serious at the time, and whilst there are very different challenges now, they pose as much of a threat to our future as then, albeit in a different form.

    Oh how we need the determination, honesty and clear thinking back into policies again, instead of the woolly and complicated thinking of today.

    Unlike you John I never came into contact with Mrs Thatcher (why should I have) but somehow you got the feeling that when she went into negotiations of any sort, at least felt that you could rely upon her to stand up and fight for the Country and its citizens, and for what seemed right.

    No she did not win all the arguments all the time, (does anyone), but at least you knew she would not pussy foot around with a problem for years and years, she seemed to want to grasp the nettle, to get on with it, and made efforts to find a solution.

    A sad day for her family, for politics and for the Country.

  16. MaxDunbar
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Churchill was our greatest wartime leader but Thatcher was the greatest peacetime and (elected) wartime UK Prime Minister of the 20th century. Contrary to the BBC’s opinion, Thatcher unified the country. She was an inspiration. She was right-wing because she was right – and she proved it. Many people in Scotland hold Thatcher in high esteem. We want her back.

  17. The PrangWizard
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    It is a sad day for England. May she rest in Peace. We owe her a great deal.

  18. Paul
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    No leader is without flaws, but Margaret Thatcher was by far the most capable post war PM this country has had. She was exactly what the country needed at the time, a great patriot with courage and conviction. It’s tragic to see what the Conservative Party she led so well has now become.

  19. Winston Smith
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    She polled 14m votes in the days of smaller electorates (41m in 1979, compared to 46m in 2010). She attracted millions of aspiring working-class voters, like my grandparents and mother who had voted Labour all their lives. The middle-class socialists despise her for that. If only we had such a strong and principled leader.

  20. Robert Taggart
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    MTH – RIP.
    The most masculine twentieth century peace time British Prime Minister.
    The right man at the right time.

    Repkly I hope you mean that kindly. She was very feminine in many ways, which in the early days made it more difficult for her in a very male dominated political world then.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted April 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely – so many of the ‘men’ in British politics at that time were ineffectual ‘wets’.
      As she said in one television interview about such – “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” – here, here, here.

  21. outsider
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,
    The Left, and others who should know better, blame Margaret Thatcher for the closure of this country’s deep-mine coal industry. But she did not do it. She destroyed the political power of the National Union of Mineworkers, which had become overbearing.

    But, as he coal chief Ian MacGregor makes clear in his 1986 memoirs, their mutual aim was to make the coal industry strong and profitable by cutting out the few irreparably uneconomic pits that made huge losses and focusing investment on the profitable, expanding ones. As McGregor noted: ” We are sitting on vast reserves and …(coal) is a fuel that will come into its own in the next century. If the business is in good enough economic shape to handle the opportunities, it will make the UK a powerful econimic force unique in Europe with a choice of energy sources”.*

    It is truly a shame that most of the industry was then closed down under the Major government ( ironically under the command of Michael Heseltine) on a short-term view of oil prices, with disastrous consequences for GDP, energy, employment and the balance of payments.
    That was an economic crime but not down to Mrs Thatcher and quite contrary to her vision.

    *The Enemies Within, page 374.

    • Jon Porter
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      Many of those mines would have shut very soon in any case, despite huge investment the seams were fractured, uneconomic and dangerous to get at. In addition the cost of the scrubber equipment to neutralise the very high sulphur content of UK coal and the huge amounts of limestone required made UK produced coal very expensive indeed.

      I do agree that not enough thought was put into long term power generation, and it’s stupid to close current coal fired stations before sufficient replacement capacity is in place, but UK coal was at that time unaffordable.

  22. zorro
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    All agreed, and only she could have done it. There have been no others like her. RIP MT

    zorro

  23. Bernard Juby
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    The Brighton bomb destroyed Margaret Thatcher by leading to her downfall.
    I had just left the Grand Hotel by a side exit when the front of the building blew out. Prior to that time Mrs Thatcher was extremely approachable. Almost anyone and everyone could go up and speak to her. At the time when her son had gone missing in the desert she still carried on with her scheduled commitments the following morning.
    After the bomb she was surrounded by a ring of steel. As a result she lost touch with the electorate and it was downhill from then on.
    We need some-one like her now to get Britain back on its feet.

  24. Bert Young
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Dr . JR . What you have said in your blogs today certainly touched me . The responses you have received also substantiate the values you saw in her and more than adequately express the sentiments of the country . God rest her soul .

  25. Christopher Ekstrom
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Lady Thatcher was one of the few leaders that save & restore their Nation. That many in the UK besmirch her legacy reveals the increasingly low caliber of many Britons. If we should ever be so fortunate, by the Grace of God, to have another Churchill or Thatcher may that leader clean the Augean Stables (a nasty job indeed!) & sort the rotters out!

    RIP Lady Thatcher.

  26. Sue
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Mrs Thatcher was a truly great woman and a patriot.

    It’s a pity your boss is now a dishonourable, lying hound then isn’t it? From El Pais

    “Question. In case of a victory of itself in the referendum that will organize on leaving the EU , would you be willing to withdraw from the Union?

    Response. I would not. What I would like is to get a reform of the European Union”

    He has no intention of honouring a referendum, even if we get one and vote out!

    http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2013/04/08/actualidad/1365419719_656809.html

  27. Alan Wheatley
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    All of Margaret Thatchers abilities and experiences come together in the book she wrote that may, in time, be her most important gift to democratic government. STATECRAFT – Strategies For A Changing World – was written after leaving office. It starts by gathering together all that is relevant, then analyses how things stand for the UK now, and concludes by pointing the direction of travel.

    I have read it from cover to cover twice, and the parts most relevant to the EU more than twice. Many a politician would do well to study the contents. I guess the World will always be changing, and statecraft of the highest order is always needed.

  28. Andy Baxter
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    RIP Margaret Thatcher.

    Oh how the country needs someone like you right now.

    In truth, we always did and my only regret (on your behalf) is that you perhaps weren’t allowed to see your views through to their fullest extent both in terms of policy and timespan available to you.

    But that seems to be the shame of the party that shuffled you out, not yours.

  29. Jon Porter
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    As a Thames Valley Police officer deployed on many occasions to guard senior politicians in the 1980s at various residences including the odd stint at Chequers, I came into close vicinity of Margaret Thatcher on several occasions. She would often strike up a conversation with us, “nothing stuffy about Maggie” is what the regulars would say. She was a very different person in my experience to that portrayed in the papers. She showed concern for Her staff , the officers guarding her and their families. I saw Her at the height of the Falklands War in the company of various Senior Military advisors away from the cameras, and the weight of the World was on Her. It was the only time I saw her looking tired.

    She was a qualified chemist, a long serving MP, a Shadow Minister and Opposition Leader before becoming the best peacetime Prime Minister the UK has ever seen. Her experience of life and hard work ethic moulded Her.

    Make no mistake, Margaret Thatcher saved this country, controversial maybe, but there was a very real possibility of this Nation being ruined by industrial action and political extremism by people, some of whom are now confirmed as being in the in the pay of the Soviet Union.

    Thanks Maggie.

    Reply You talk about the person I knew and worked with. Thank you for your personal testimony.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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