I was pleased last night with Peter Lilley and Edward Leigh to be on the winning side at the Cambridge Union. The motion taking pride in Margaret’s period in office was carried.
It was no stroll in the park. There were plenty of neo Marxists, left inclined thinkers and some Labour supporters who seemed to think Margaret Thatcher was allied to Pol Pot, Stalin and other nasty autocrats, as their lead speaker himself seemed to imply. Some thought the Falklands victory an exercise in xenophobia. Some seemed to think Margaret Thatcher rather than Aurthur Scargill split the miners’ Union. A few seemed unaware that Margaret Thatcher had won three elections in a row and had never been defeated by the electorate. They had bought into the myth that she was some kind of class warrior foisted on the British people by forces unseen from multinational companies or the Establishment.
I said five things that I felt needed saying.
1. Margaret in office was always most concerned personally about people around her, supporting them in difficulties, writing notes to them at times of trouble and showing great courtesy. She would always ask what could the UK do to help whenever she heard of a tragedy anywhere in the world. She was the best boss I ever worked for.
2. She helped Ronnie Reagan win the Cold War. Surely it is good news that Eastern Europe has been liberated from the grip of communism? That was only possible because the Western alliance was resolute in the 1980s.
3. At home she introduced demcoracy to the Unions. She wanted Aurthur Scragill to ballot his members about a strike. His failure to do so split his Union, and represented a challenge to the legal authority of Parliament.
4. She allowed many more people to buy their own home, and shares in the business they worked for. She believed in empowering more people through ownership. She championed the worker and the saver against the vested interests of the establishment.
5. She taxed the rich more . She knew that if you set lower and more realistic rates of tax, the rich will come here, stay here, create jobs here. It worked. Mr Blair kept those rates. Mr Brown is changing them in a way which will damage both the country and his party.
We conceded that mistakes were made and some things could have been done differently and better. That may be a topic for another day and another place.