Being the first woman Prime Minister required great skill

When Margaret Thatcher said that she did not expect a woman Prime Minister in her lifetime, she was being both characteristically modest, and realistic. In the early 1970s politics was largely a man’s world. There were no female role models of great Prime Ministers or Presidents to turn to.

She was not meant to win the leadership election in 1975. Bold enough to challenge, the Tory grandees expected that in the second round the “true” candidates woulld emerge and produce an establishment male victor. After all, Ted Heath’s modest background had led to disaster with him as leader and Prime Minister. It was time to go back to the magic circle, the charmed Tory training grounds of male political supremacy.

Her bravery and confidence shone through. Tory MPs did the unthinkable, and chose her as their Leader. They knew her better than the party in the country, who were not immediately enthusiastic but did not in those days get a vote. Margaret at the beginning relied heavily on Keith Joseph as an intellectual adviser as he sought to change his own thoughts and the thoughts of the whole party and nation away from the failed state interventions, the price controls, the enforced nationalisaitons, the money printing of the Heath era. She also, on advice, adopted strong words on the international stage, fearing that a woman would be seen as a soft touch or someone likely to change her mind under pressure. The Iron lady image was carefully constructed to tackle what some men thought of as the “woman problem”. Maybe they overdid it a bit.

When she got into office she needed to create a new language, wardrobe and behaviour for a Prime Minister who was a mother of two and very feminine in many of her ways. There is no female uniform for being Prime Minister, in the way there is a male uniform of suits, ties,DJs and morning coats for special occasions. There was no previous experience of how to combine being a mother with the top office in the land, or how to involve your husband without people saying he had too much influence.

Margaret handled all that so well that it rarely became an issue. As a mere male adviser I was not privy to the short but important sessions she spent with female helpers on what to wear or how to do the hair. She always came to the office looking good, and if you remembered to tell her so it boosted her confidence. There were difficult issues like how to dress when visiting a Muslim country, where she settled for a headscarf to show respect for their traditions where appropriate.

After the first reshuffle and the decisive 1981 budget she overcame the early wobbles and the plots of many in the party for change at the top. She developed a new style of being Prime Minsiter. She was very feminine in many ways, but she was respected and feared by many of her male colleagues who realised the lady was not only not for turning, but expected good performance and progress from Cabinet.She did everything by hard work, and sought to understand and influence all the main things going on in the government she led. Some previous Prime Ministers had read less and done less, leaving more to individual departments.

Contrary to common belief she was neither dogmatic nor very ideological. A person who was a keen advocate of the EEC in the 1975 referendum became a Eurosceptic by the time of the Bruges speech. A person who calculated that you could not privatise the nationalised industries in the 70s or early 80s bravely pushed through a huge programme after 1983. A person who claimed to want a smaller state nonetheless battled for money for state education and the NHS and was reluctant to reform them.

I think the fact that she was very much a woman enabled her to cut loose from the clubbable world of the male Conservative MPs, and to speak more directly to electors. Being a woman meant she looked different from most people’s idea of a leading politician, and was different. Just as England’s great Virgin Queeen, Gloriana, Elizaeth 1 presided over an incredible English renaissance , so Margaret Thatcher put the Great back into Great Beritain after a decade of disaster and defeatism. Just as Elizabeth constructed great Protestant alliances to keep England safe from the predatory threats of the Catholic powers, so Margaret built a stronger alliance with the USA to blow the cruel walls of communism down from the west just as the USSR began to realise the game was up from the east.

It could take her months to make up her mind about a new policy or preferred course of action. She would cross examine and challenge every detail of a proposal. Her very long days were punctuated by many small acts of kindness and consideration, both for those in her immediate circle, and for those she had been told about who were suffering and where government might help.

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67 Comments

  1. Kevin R. Lohse
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Amen to all that. The Baroness’s strong point was that she eschewed popularity for doing what was necessary – and that strength was turned into a weakness by her detractors, which brought her down in the end.
    I have seen very little comment about her role in getting Kyoto through. Baroness Thatcher was the first Head of State to fully support AGW, a stand she regretted greatly in later life, when it was too late to sway the world. There is a passage in “Statecraft” published, I believe, in 2003, where she recants. Lord Howard was her representative in the negotiations, and his insights on the subject would be most interesting if he could be prevailed upon to publish.
    One thing is certain. the Baroness was a global Giant who’s stature is increased by comparison with the pygmies who have succeeded her in national politics. We will not see her like again.

  2. Leslie Singleton
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    What immediately comes to my mind is that lightweight Cameron deciding to distance himself from Lady Thatcher with his “heir to Blair” nonsense. No doubt he realised, salesman that he is, and that’s all he is, a salesman, as my young daughter perceptively told me long ago, that it rhymed and therefore sounded nice.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Indeed it must have been a pain, constantly having to consider her appearance on top or everything else.

    I see that BBC Newsnight wheeled out the dreadful Shirley Williams and Ken Livingstone to talk compete and utter rubbish about her last night. It seems she was responsible for virtually everything bad that ever happened, even Gordon Browns and Labour’s banking fiasco and the economic crash. She apparently made “selfishness respectable” and the UK a more “bitter and envious society”, they said – what planet are these people on! Envy incubation is clearly the very driving force of the left not the right.

    • Alte Fritz
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      I gave up on Newsnight given the harm it was doing to my blood pressure.

      Anyone would think the 70’s were a time of laughter and plenty. Does anyone ever remind Shirley Williams of her appearance on the picket line at Grunwick. That must have given great joy to the workers who were abused and attacked day after day by the class warriors.

      Just eleven years before Lady Thatcher’s 1979 visctory, the Soviet overran Czechoslovakia. That was the reality. That was the backdrop. That was what Scargill and her other enemies would ahve had in store for us.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Half the people wheeled out by the BBC last night should not be on television, they should be in prison serving life sentences for treason. And they would be, if we had developed modern treason laws which extended to their preferred new methods for betraying their country, its people and its democracy. As it is, what they did and attempted to do was legal and so they will continue to escape the punishment they deserve, and of course throwing something at their repulsive images on the television screen achieves nothing apart from maybe damaging it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      The more one sees of the media coverage of Lady Thatcher, the more it accentuates the huge contrast with the current, dreadful, rudderless leadership.
      A leadership of tax borrow and waste, quack green, pro the anti-democratic EU, say one thing but do the opposite, IHT/EU ratting, PR spin and lies, career politician type of leadership. A leadership that will lead to the, even worse, state sector union man Ed in just two years.

    • Hope
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      What a pity Cameron and his Eorophile chums do not promote her view that the UK did not roll back the state to have it imposed by the EU. He is more about tax, borrow and waste like his idle Mr Blaire.

      BBC true to form needs to be severely cut back in size and forced to be impartial by selling it off. It does not serve any useful purpose in the world of news or political affairs.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic

      Yes, some of these reporters/presenters need to be reminded that Mrs Thatcher won three general elections.

      For someone who was supposed to be reviled and divisive, how do they square that circle of huge public support.

      Mrs Thatcher was never defeated by the public vote, proof if any was needed that she took the majority of voters with her for more than 10 years.

      She was only defeated when out of the Country, by rather lesser men in her own Party, who could not even face her down when at home.

      What those who now seem to champion her passing should realise, is that she got elected because of them and their actions at the time, thus they helped keep her in power, because the majority were against those who now complain.

      Call it Poetic justice.

      Ps

      Like you I viewed some of the reports last night, and was struck by the one sided nature of most of the presentation.

      Shame on the BBC, but then what do you expect !

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        She really won four terms! One with her foolish choice of Major as her man before he showed his true colours and buried the party for 3+ terms – so far.

        • Hope
          Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

          Ah,but she was fooled by him. He turned out different from what was on the original label that is why they fell out. A bit like Cameron to the voters.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      As pointed out to you before real envy is from the rich to the super rich of somehow being hard done by.

  4. Richard Downer
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    John, I just saw an interview with you on Bloomberg in a tribute to our hero(ine), Margaret Thatcher . You were on top form! As you know you were my own inspiration when I saw your presentation in Washington in 1985 and it led to you some good moves in my country, Jamaica, thereafter. Best to you and your colleague in those days and no doubt today, Oliver. Best, Richard Downer, rldowner@hotmail.com.

    Reply Dear Richard. It is great to hear from you again. You did wonderful things for Jamaica, and it was a privilege to work with you. I will get in touch by email soon.

  5. Kenneth
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I listened for an hour to the BBC Today programme this morning where it chose to remember much of its own propaganda from the 1980s, rather than remembering the facts.

    The BBC repeated several times in one hour how Mrs Thatcher enjoyed being disliked. What a ridiculous notion. This must not go unchallenged!

    The items and guests were selected in general to portray Mrs Thatcher in a negative light. There was much fantasy. The BBC broke many of its own rules within this hour providing us, as it did in the 1980’s and as it still does today, with a menu of falsehoods, innuendo and left wing bias.

    I remember the 1980s and I remember being sickened – as I was this morning – about the myths that were peddled by the BBC. I remember World at One in the 1980’s where nearly the whole programme was given over to cuts in the NHS where no mention was made of outcomes and lives that had been prolonged or saved. I remember Saturday night BBC lectures against Mrs Thatcher by Ben Elton and other similar output. I particularly remember the Today programme with its strap line “we set the agenda”. What cheek.

    Rest in peace Lady Thatcher. I don’t know how another free market politician can make any headway while the BBC is in opposition.

    What senior politician will put their career on the line to challenge this propaganda? I can understand why they will not, for the last senior politician to challenge the BBC in public was Mrs Thatcher herself and I believe that attack on the BBC sowed the seeds to her downfall.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      One of the lies being peddled by the BBC and the left-wing commentariat is that she “divided the nation”. She, in fact, polled 13-14m votes in each of her 3 election wins acroos all social boundaries. Blair polled just 9.5m in 2005 and left a nation far more divided socially and regionally.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Well what else did you expect from the BBC?

      • Kenneth
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Fair point. However, I refuse to be desensitized to it and merely accept the bias (at least I try). Mind you, I gave up complaining direct to the BBC after too many bland, pointless replies.

        The visceral bias can be seen in some sick tweets coming out BBC staff (example removed ed)

      • Bazman
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        What about C4 News take on this?

  6. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Margaret Thatcher had a role model in Elizabeth 2nd and like any other of working class(that is if you work , you belong to the working class) she followed state behaviour with the voice of conviction. She adopted the blue clean look with a handbag which Elizabeth herself had worn in public.
    She had markets inbred into her by her background.
    She could see through her male contemporaries, as women do , but still had faith in their loyalty and judgement, until she became the fall guy.
    She had a scientific mind which destroys waffle.
    We need women who are not flattered by the way they look but work to make the UK great. Margaret Thatcher made it , but the UK has not.

  7. Cheshire girl
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a long time admirer and always suspected that Margaret was a much kinder person than many have given her credit for. She could not afford to show it too much as it would have been seen as a sign of weakness by her enemies who were always looking for a reason to bring her down.
    I a very sad to hear of her death and to read that some ignorant people are celebrating! I feel shame that they have so little respect.

    • Barry
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      “and always suspected that Margaret was a much kinder person than many have given her credit for”

      I recall reading about an incident at a formal dinner at Downing Street when an inexperienced waitress dropped a tureen of soup (or something similar) in front of the guests. Instead of apologising to the guests, she jumped up and comforted the waitress, realising immediately how horrified she must have been.

      Sometimes the small things are the most telling.

  8. Winston Smith
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    You mention a very important point when you state she was reluctant to reform Education. I remember vividly, Marxist teachers spouting their propoganda at my schools in the 70s & 80s. Her achievements are all recognised and lauded. However, her biggest failure was to tackle the Marxist education establishment, which has given us generations of ill-educated, unskilled and indoctrinated young people.

  9. frank salmon
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The BBC is an ideologically left wing corporatist monster. It’s main aim is self preservation and the preservation of similar bodies. Hence the current fad for train and health care programes whereby the socialist utopia is promoted. The BBC fears that if the argument is lost on trains, the NHS, and education, it will also come under the spotlight. That is why at every turn it seeks to disavow the achievements of Maragret Thatcher. There was an interview with No 10’s policy director for Brown and Blair this morning. He was allowed to peddle the Orwellian myth that Thatcher caused the 2008 crash. Yes, it is a sad day…..

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      The BBC is indeed very sad for the country.

  10. Man of Kent
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    On film clip I was struck by the contrast between Margaret Thatcher’s determination to go ahead with the Party Conference after the Brighton bomb; her immaculate appearance and strong leadership after painful deaths and Cameron bunking off meetings with Merkel and Hollande which should be paving the way for his negotiated referendum and the future of our country.

    Presumably he will be working out ways to be in the limelight and appear as PM as possible.

    What a contrast.

  11. English Pensioner
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    It could take her months to make up her mind about a new policy or preferred course of action. She would cross examine and challenge every detail of a proposal.
    That would have been the result of her scientific training where one is taught to seek the facts and not make unfounded assumptions.
    I just wish our present government would do the same, instead of announcing a policy because it sounds good, and then finding the problems over the following months resulting in the need to make a “U” turn.

  12. Tad Davison
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    In spite of what the left says, one doesn’t have to be rich, or even come from a privileged background to be a Tory. One merely needs to be above average intelligence, have a sense of fair play, a sense of responsibility, and of duty. True Tories are usually self-reliant, and hard-working, and would rather do their fellow countrymen good, than harm.

    So it should be entirely possible for everyone, regardless of gender, to rise to the very top. And it’s interesting to note that it was the Conservative party that gave us our first woman Prime Minister, not, as expected, one of the so-called ‘progressive’ parties.

    And that freedom and upward mobility must always exist, because as Margaret Thatcher proved, talent has no social basis. Good leaders can quite literally come from anywhere, and nepotism must never be allowed to interfere with that process, for the good of all. And as history records, the parliamentary Tory party can be a hive of plotting and back-stabbing, which makes Margaret Thatcher’s rise all the more remarkable. Yet her leadership didn’t put an end to it, as it should have done, and subterfuge ultimately led to her downfall.

    That nice Mr Clarke recalled on the BBC this morning, that in his view, at the end of the 1990s, Margaret Thatcher had to be replaced, and the ones he cited as being in the frame, gave a clue to the political pro-EU make-up of those who plotted against her – Major, Hurd, and Heseltine. We all know the name of her successor, and the party has gone downhill ever since!

    So I will repeat something I wrote in an earlier post, what is that telling us?

    Is that not the best signpost for the present Tory leadership, and the compass by which the party’s course must be set?

    A simple analogy. A business that keeps losing customers to a competitor, must find out why, or ultimately face bankruptcy, not keep managing the decline.

    In his interview, Mr Clarke also indicated that state monopolies were a bad thing. He’s right, but the British people are not daft, they can see that the Europe he wants to tether us to, is run on similar lines, and wants no part of it. In order to get out of this mess, we need another strong, dynamic, gritty leader with clear vision, regardless of their background, to extricate us from the clutches of the EU protagonists, and we need that leader now!

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  13. waramess
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Female or male she was by far the best Prime Minister we have had for the past 150 years with the exception of Churchill’s wartime years.

    More courage and more foresight which was repaid by 11 years as Prime Minister.

    Let not her detractors forget this and may the Conservative politicians today reflect on it.. 18 years of radical right wing policies resulted in their longest tenure in living memory so, maybe it is high time to stop this crazed search for the centre ground and concentrate on something that actually wins elections

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Given similar circumstances I think she would have given Churchill a run for his money too.

      I’m shure Britain would have survived WWII with her at the helm too.

  14. oldtimer
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Her remarkable career was, I suspect, also helped by the role adopted and played by her husband Dennis Thatcher. From the outside, this appears to have been a powerful example of role reversal; a part which he seems to have played to perfection. His self effacing, and self deprecating, style was well summed up when he remarked on his silence during appearances on public occasions “It is better to keep my mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt” – or words to that effect.

  15. stred
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Mrs Thatcher was certainly unique and the most influential peacetime prime minister. Both she and Churchill made mistakes but achieved their aims. Their successors have been disasters. Your point about the difficulties arising from her gender are not entirely true. The main reason for her success in re-moulding the UK was her personality and lack of upper class family restraint. Her husband also had a good understanding of business and vested interests. The present prime minister seems to have none of these qualities and has been selected only for his appeal to medioctity.

    Unfortunately, Mrs T failed to see the falsehood of some influences and made changes which did the UK no good. These were in her last period and perhaps were a result of too much confidence and declining ability.

    It was interesting to see her with Ronald Reagan at the time when they managed to tame the communist threat. It was a mistake, as in the mid east adventures, to have no plan for the aftermath of the changes. They should have helped Mr Gorbachev and Yeltsin to ensure that the wealth of Russia was not stolen and that ordinary Russians benefitted. No doubt, they received poor advice. It is ironic that they both suffered from the same illness. It is now known that the physical symptoms in the brain start as much as ten years before the behavioural decline becomes obvious.

    Other mistakes were the failure to realise that having northern communities who actually liked to work underground digging up coal was a gift to the country. The dash for gas may have been a lobbying success but a long term disaster.

    Similarly, she listened to the housebuilding lobby and allowed the builders to run public housing procurement from start to finish. This put up costs and lowered quality, whilst putting many consultants out of a job. This lobby is still one of the strongest and has ensured that the house insulating industry is done in the most expensive and ineffective way and that billions are to be lent at zero interest to anyone who thinks they can afford a new house costing £600k.

    It would still have been better if she had stayed on in charge, rather than the succession of dunces and actors, who had no ability in the first place.

  16. roger
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    A very sad day. Our finest post war prime minister. How lucky we were that she was there at the right moment of history. I always wonder however why it was that the community charge brought her down. Whilst appreciating that there would have been losers as well as winners this would even today be much fairer than council tax.
    The government is taking ‘stick’ for making welfare payments fairer, why would that change be any different?

  17. lojolondon
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    John, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Please can you rid us of the vile, Biased BBC who pepper every article with the ‘alternative view’? We know that some people hated Lady Thatcher, but what about the 60m of us who respected, admired and were in awe of her? There is no requirement to hear the negative, hate-filled comments on the day of a great statesman’s (sic) death.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      60 million who respected, admired and were in awe of her? Where? What do you have to say about the other news channels not giving a North Korean style of news report on her. Not a lot I suspect.

  18. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    “Contrary to common belief she was neither dogmatic nor very ideological. A person who was a keen advocate of the EEC in the 1975 referendum became a Eurosceptic by the time of the Bruges speech.”

    The problem here is that once you’ve agreed to an EEC/EC/EU treaty, or indeed any law springing from the treaty, you’ve locked yourself in and it then becomes very difficult to act upon a subsequent change of mind.

    Under our traditional form of government, which was imperfect but still much better than that which obtained in many other countries, Parliament could pass a law, then in the light of experience it could change its mind about some aspect of that law and change it, and that was that until the next change of mind.

    Now under this novel system of internal government by external treaties we have laws which Parliament cannot reject or change however defective they obviously are at the time or they later turn out to be, and any proposal to change even the smallest aspect of those laws immediately raises the question of whether our government can persuade the governments of foreign countries to allow that to be done – which is rarely the case – or alternatively it explodes into a question of whether Parliament should break or entirely abrogate the EU treaties.

    So I would rather that Margaret Thatcher had been more dogmatic and ideological, at least about upholding the legal supremacy of our national Parliament, and she had not helped to get us trapped in this crazy, anti-democratic, new system of transnational government.

  19. Vanessa
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I saw “This House” yesterday evening where the ending is the start of Margaret Thatcher’s reign in No.10. How ironic it was to be sitting there on the day she died to watch the games the weak Labour government resorted to with never any thought of what was best for the country. It was disgusting to see how you/they all ran around for the Party’s sake and not for Britain.
    Today’s government is exactly the same as Callagham’s – weak and ineffectual and destroying what is left of Britain. No wonder the EU has its claws into every aspect of our rulers and institutions. We need a PATRIOTIC government to get us out of this mess and no-one in the red/blue/yellow corner will do that.

  20. Robin Sharp
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    It is very interesting to look at how Thatcher’s philosophy – which is very personal and taken with personal responsibility changed the prevailing thinking of “institutionalised thinking” toward big state/socialism and toward survival and prosperity. Her challenge was to recognise and tackle the enemy within.

    Since Thatcher the under currents of western thinking have pulled individualism towards relativism i.e. political correctness – and individual responsibility has shifted to human rights – and again state-ism but this time from legal institutions – rather than the old economic ones (i.e. unions and central planning).

    Again the population is once more uncomfortable with the kinds of decisions – and this time legal – such as Human Rights, immigration, Political Correctness – impositions being placed on the country and its people – especially as the legal impositions have an indirect negative impact on the nation. The pendulum is swinging back – but at a visceral level and has yet to find its voice.

    So the next natural step is to look at the counter philosophies that have developed over the past 15 years against the American philosophy that has bred cultural relativism and political correctness that has emasculated politicians on the right for a generation. Briefly this philosophy claims all concepts are based in language and language is cultural and therefore relative and therefore all concepts are relative. The fault with this philosophy is that all abstract concepts equate to being. The individual exists as an organism with a body in an environment and must first interact with it and survive before it can have such things as language and abstract concepts. So language is not arbitrary and relative it must involve individuals that survive and prosper before language is used. The individual as an organism must be constrained and shaped by its environment – and this successful individual and the environment that it has created must be sustained and will place constraints on any language and concepts that may then stop the destruction of the environment ito which it has thrived.

    So what I’m saying is that we need another champion of the individual Briton – this time not challenging the abstract concepts of socialism and the imposition of uncomfortable economic ideas but challenging the abstract concepts of relativism and imposition of uncomfortable legal ideas. A country where we are sure about what our environment is where we can survive and prosper but not one dominated by legalese that tries to break down our environment from within.

  21. Richard1
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Well, in the debate we knew would happen at her death, the anti-Thatcher arguments of the Left are proving pretty thin. Ken Livingstone has attempted to pin the Gordon Brown banking collapse on her, though it happened over 17 years after she left office! The banking collapse of course had nothing to do with Margaret Thatcher, it had to do with over-leveraged banks, loose monetary policy and associated bad regulation and over-spending by the state. Livingstone said we should be like Germany and have preserved the heavy industries which went in the 80s. He is presumably ignorant of German history in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Germany never had puniative taxes, militant unions dictating to the government, huge subsidies for loss-making nationalised industries, runaway inflation due to out of control state borrowing and spending. There is plenty of competitive industry in Britain today – by and large though its in sectors never touched by the dead hand of union power and state ownership. The longer the reforms of Margaret Thatcher had been delayed the more painful the adjustment would have been. The British Left continues to be in denial, though Margaret Thatcher’s policies have been imitated throughout the world, to the benefit of millions.

  22. peter davies
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    “Her very long days were pucntuated by many small acts of kindness and consideration, both for those in her immediate circle” – isn’t it funny the tosh we often hear from people who did not know her talking about how cruel she was.

    Ken Liningston last night on Newsnight – along the lines of “BT could have been a Microsoft if it hadn’t been privatised” And Shirley Williams and her typical Lib Dem tosh about people becoming more selfish – where on earth do we get these people from and why does the BBC give them so much air time?

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Indeed they are clearly both mad. “BT could have been a Microsoft if it hadn’t been privatised” it is hard to think of many dafter things to say than that!

  23. Derek W
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who has suffered from Trades Union bullying in their job will bless Margaret Thatcher the shop keeper’s daughter.Shop Stewards became the local commissars in any workshop or place of work and sometimes threatened apprentices with the threat that the Qualified Tradesmen would refuse to teach you and thus you would not qualify. Secondly, Union Meetings were rigged and made boring so that Apprentices and others would attend rarely.Votes were held when the attendance was minimal.There is much more.!!!

    • Edward2
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Indeed Derek W,
      I was young and new to engineering factories in the late 70’s and agree with you how frightening it had become because of the intimidatory power of local union reps.
      No secret ballots just a public show of hands with shop stewards checking who was voting against a walk out.
      Sometimes telling everyone to send a colleauge who had voted the “wrong” way “to Coventry” or geting them transferred to tough dirty work.
      I remember trying to make visit to a company that had a gang of flying pickets on the gate who were terrifying to a young man like me with their threats of violence and retribution if I wanted to go past them.
      I recall one local Union man boasting that no one will get a HGV driving job unless they go through him for prior approval and so it went on.
      Until the great Mrs Thatcher and her Government regained order with secret ballots and other union reforms.

    • Monty
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      In the late 70’s, when I began work in a major engineering works in the North West of England, one of the shop stewards decided to take me under his wing. He didn’t seem to mind my resolute refusal to join his union, we just became friends.
      One of the things he told me about was how the place had operated some years previously, when it was a closed shop. It had been sectarian, the union had been able to ensure that Catholics were kept out at every level under their control. I often wonder if that same mechanism had also been in operation at other more notorious establishments like Harland and Woolf in Belfast, and possibly on Clydebank.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Might be a few more sacked workers and today those on poverty wages than those who suffered trade union bulling I suspect..

  24. Bert Young
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I was and still am a great admirer of Baroness Thatcher . I trust that those who were instrumental in bringing her “down” are squirming .

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      They are not fit to lick her boots. I’m surprised the Tory party does not black ball them.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      They are not squirming many are still helping Cameron compete the destruction.

  25. John Doran
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    A fine tribute to a magnificent lady, thank you JR.

    RIP Mrs Thatcher.

  26. P O Pensioner
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I missed the BBC programme last night but I am not surprised at their negativity about Lady Thatcher. I watched the ITV programme at 10.35 and was amused at the comments being made by Neil Kinnock who will be a paragraph in history because the only thing he achieved was to get elected as the leader of the Labour Party.

    Lady Thatcher will be a gigantic historical figure both for what she achieved for the UK and the free World. What the lefties did not like was the success that Lady Thatcher achieved by not do what had always been done before. She brought new thinking to our nations problems rather that adapting the failed policies of the past.

    In last nights ITV programme one contributor blamed her for closing down all the coal pits and causing mass employment. The fact that coal pits were still closing during the 13 years of Labour misgovernment was conveniently left out. She was also blamed for shutting down UK industries which continued all through the 13 years of Labour government. Lady Thatcher left office some 22 years ago but there will be many people in their teens and twenties who will believe these falsehoods.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Neil Kinnock achieved a lot more than that.

      How many pensions funded by us does he get?

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        Exactly a career politician acting against the interest of voters, at every turn, yet paid by them.

  27. William Long
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    One of the great disadvantages under which the present generation of career politicians labour, is that they are too young to remember the sheer horror and gloom of pre Thatcher Britain: enterprise was pretty well pointless and the consensus between both main parties was that ‘The State knows best’. If anyone doubts the strength of this consensus they do not have to be quite so old to recall Harold Macmillan’s rant about ‘Selling off the family silver’. There were a few straws in the wind perhaps; Hayek and Milton Friedman were there for those that were prepared to look and there had been the resignation of Thornycroft’s Treasury team at the instigation of Enoch Powell. The City unlike now was a pretty cushy place; there was no point in working hard with an 83% Tax rate so nobody bothered, except to worry about tax saving devices such as company cars, company suits, ‘charitable’ school fee schemes and reverse annuities. In my then firm, Laing & Cruickshank, about a year after she had won the Conservative leadership, we had the Thatchers to dinner so Mrs Thatcher could ‘Meet the city’. After dinner she spoke and set out with great clarity her economic thinking and how she was concluding that things had to change. It produced a completely stunned silence as the assembled great and good took in first, that she really meant what she was saying (unlike the lip service to free markets of her predecessors) and that the current soft life was likely to end. It was quite clear that even in the heart of the square mile there were severe doubts as to whether that was a good thing.
    Having seen this change, brought about by the strength of one person, and the good it did to so many people in this country I find it tragic that the Conservative party is once again lead by people who are incapable of articulating, or do not believe the message of the free market and clearly think once again that ‘The State knows best’.

  28. Terry
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I shudder to think where we would be now had Mrs T not become PM in 1979. A northern version of Greece, maybe? With all the unwanted EU garbaggage that goes with it, these days.

    I am hoping that Margaret Thatcher’s passing and the International acclaim for her monetary policies is going to propel the existing PM and his Cabinet into emulating her performance and results ASAP.
    I have read numerous articles of her history and it is quite obvious, we are way off the course to prosperity that she had set. Surely, it cannot be ignored? It worked and worked so well it was adopted all over the world. .
    So, why have successive Governments in the 21st Century decided to try again a Keynesian approach? An already proven failure? Is it because “This time, it is different”? For the sake of your country Mr Cameron, to bail us out, adopt the relevant policies of Margaret Thatcher, NOW!!

  29. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    A great woman who achieved an enormous amount for our nation. Personally I am deeply saddened by this news. Margaret Thatcher was the greatest PM since Churchill who was right about Europe,liberated the Falklands,gave millions the chance to own their own homes & shares and pension funds and who faced down the unions.

    I salute her great accomplishments,mourn her passing and feel for her friends & family.

    Rest in Peace Margaret Thatcher and thank God for you.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      I second that.

  30. Bill
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    A great woman. How we could do with her today!

    John Campbell’s biography, even the one volume version, is to be recommended. I bought a copy in Hong Kong, which tells you something about her global influence.

  31. Gordon Riby
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    As a longer term admirer, I am greatly saddened by the death of Baroness Thatcher. She was a great Prime Minister and I can but hope that Britain gets another PM of comparable merit in my lifetime.

  32. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    She was an outstanding historic figure. An unforgettable British character and that is no mean feat in a country so blessed with them. A brilliant person and I don’t doubt for a minute that she was kind, thoughtful and loyal as you say. Her academic and professional achievements alone were remarkable and should inspire awe in anyone.

    Chemistry to law – a barrister at that.

    Please let someone make a film that actually does her full justice and puts the record straight from the recent Merryl Streep effort.

  33. Jonathan Tee
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Good to hear John Redwood’s recollection’s of Lady Thatcher. Thank you for sharing.

    I was born not long after Lady Thatcher became PM, and I was told by peers and teachers as a child and a teenager how terrible a person she was. But once I took the time to read the history of the 70s and 80s I realised what a great debt I owed her and her government. She allowed people of my generation a chance to make something of our lives without the oppression of closed shops, wild cat strikes and an economy in its death throes.

    Ironically for a Conservative leader she was the last great Whig, a friend of freedom, progress and liberty at a time when these ideals had become unfashionable. One of the greatest Prime Ministers in British history.

  34. outsider
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, Your post rightly reminds us of what we easily forget: that Margaret Thatcher’s great asset was her political instinct. Her instinct was usually good because, however clever, she naturally thought like an ordinary “provincial” person, just like most of the voters, not like a cynic, salesman, political intellectual or ideologue. Thank goodness her degree was not in PPE.

  35. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    What a woman Mrs Thatcher was! Cometh the hour…..
    Now where’s the next……..?

  36. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    The BBC seems unable to begin any report on Baroness Thatcher without “She was loved and loathed in equal measure.”

    Clearly not true. She was elected to office three times and was ousted by her own party – not the people. It had nothing to do with the Poll Tax either.

  37. Dan M
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    It would be great if John R could produce an analysis blog post of the privatisations. Telecom and BA have been the most successful – what about electricity and water etc

  38. David Langley
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I remember Thatcher for many reasons, when she first came to my attention was when she was nicknamed “Thatcher the milk snatcher” because she ordered school childrens daily third of a pint of health giving milk, to be stopped.
    Her election as PM coincided also with the retirement of a lot of Whitehall mandarins who would have scuppered a lot of her policy ideas. She was able to recruit her team without too much fuss.
    The Falklands and the Miners strike made a bigger impact, as I was a serviceman at the time, and married into and was from a mining family she became a hero and a villain depending on your point of view or more importantly your job.
    I think she had no real idea about manufacturing and never invested in industry to enable competition with the world particularly Germany. Crushing strikes and the Industrial unrest,was important but it needed to be replaced with investment and control of the money, in this she failed spectacularly. Thatcher was stabbed in the back by her conservative party, she had been parodied by “spitting image” accurately, catching the public and more importantly the cabinet mood. The poll tax and other farces and her increasingly regal and imperious approach doomed her, but to be fair she had had her time and it was proper she left active politics.

    Reply I wrote on this blog reminding people that Labour was the original and largest milk snatching party, removing freee milk from all secondary pupils before Mrs T arrived in office.

  39. James Barr
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I’ve just listened to Glenda Jackson’s left-wing rant against Mrs T: it was embarrassing.

  40. Bazman
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Should the Top 40 best selling chart single a representative take on society for decades by a factual number of records sold be censored. A song from The Wizard of OZ banned? Now there’s a thing…Its a conspiracy the fantasists will say and ironically that is exactly what it is.

  41. Bazman
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a link for you to want banning.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/22093181

  42. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “Margaret at the beginning relied heavily on Keith Joseph as an intellectual adviser as he sought to change his own thoughts and the thoughts of the whole party and nation away from the failed state interventions, the price controls, the enforced nationalisaitons, the money printing of the Heath era. …………………………..

    Contrary to common belief she was neither dogmatic nor very ideological. A person who was a keen advocate of the EEC in the 1975 referendum became a Eurosceptic by the time of the Bruges speech. A person who calculated that you could not privatise the nationalised industries in the 70s or early 80s bravely pushed through a huge programme after 1983. A person who claimed to want a smaller state nonetheless battled for money for state education and the NHS and was reluctant to reform them.”

    I am amazed that you can write these things without including two words – Enoch Powell. Almost the entire content of what has become known as ‘Thatcherism’ was contained in 3 books of Enoch’s collected speeches ‘A Nation Not Afraid’, ‘Freedom and Reality’ and ‘Still to Decide’. The first two were published during Wilson’s first premiership, the third during the early Heath years. There were some differences. Enoch didn’t support the poll tax, instead recommending a property tax based on capital values (in 1964, some 27 years before Michael Hesletine introduced the Council Tax and took the credit for it). Enoch didn’t support our joining the EEC, forced 114 divisions against his own government in an effort to prevent it, and said ‘Vote Labour’ to attempt to reverse it – he did at least manage to stop Edward Heath implementing full economic and monetary union by 1980, with no mandate whatsoever. Enoch didn’t support the Anglo Irish agreement of that time, believing that an outright Unionist victory was attainable.

    I know that Enoch Powell displeased many Conservatives, but that is no excuse for trying to airbrush him out of history. Margaret Thatcher didn’t need Keith Joseph; she only needed to read Enoch’s 3 books. Evidently The Rage of Party still knows no bounds.

    Reply I am giving you an accurate account of what happened. She was influenced by Hayek, and then by Keith, who headed the policy review for her. Enoch did not have the same influence, and she disagreed strongly with his view on the EEC at that stage.

  • 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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