If there is one gift that Margaret Thatcher could give to her successors, it would for me be the gift of her honesty.
Margaret was that rare and brave politician who told people how she thought things were, regardless of how that polled. She spent most of her long waking hours wrestling with the problems of the public. She mainly asked herself how she could right wrongs and make things work better.
Of course she understood the need to present well. She spent endless hours trying to perfect each main speech. She cared about how the photos would look, and chose a good ad agency. All that came at the end of a project. It came after much work on how to solve the problem. If the answer to a trouble was politically difficult you did not drop the answer. You just had to argue an even better case.
She was conscious of the polls but not ruled by them. She was told daily what the press and her opponents were saying about her. We did not hold back the criticisms. She did not usually read it herself. She would think about whether a line of criticism was fair or worrying, whether she needed to do something about it or change the policy. She normally spared herself the unpleasant personal bitterness of much of the criticism in the form of the original article or cartoon. When Ministers suffered from sharp and unpleasant attacks, she always advsied them not to read them.
She was well aware of the dangers of her forthright approach. She once told me that she was prepared for it by an old friend who had warned her that she would suffer a barrage of personal abuse and criticism for what she was trying to do. Somehow knowing in advance allowed her to handle it when it came.
She was also very brave. When she returned from one trip abroad she was asked why she was wearing sunglasses, as the critic thought they spoiled the pictures. Without affectation or flinching she said she had been warned to expect an attack during the walkabout. She simply said she feared they would throw acid in her eyes, and she needed her eyes to do her job.