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« Display ban: tobacco control moves the goalposts - again | Main | Meet the new boss, same as the old boss »

Thatcherism lives!

Here's another nugget discovered in a box at the back of my garage. Compiled by my old friend Brian Monteith and published in 1991, Thatcherism Lives! is a "collection of some of Margaret Thatcher's most important speeches between 1975 and 1991".

I mention it because today is the 20th anniversary of the announcement of Mrs Thatcher's intention to resign as prime minister and Thatcherism Lives! includes her bravura performance in the House on the afternoon of November 22, 1990, a few hours after she had announced her decision to resign.

Replying to a motion of no confidence in her government, Thatcher told Labour leader Neil Kinnock:

Eleven years ago we rescued Britain from the parlous state to which socialism had brought it. I remind the House that, under socialism, this country had come to such a pass that one of our most able and distinguished ambassadors felt compelled to write in a famous despatch, a copy of which found its way into the Economist, the following words:

"We talk of ourselves without shame as being one of the less prosperous countries of Europe. The prognosis for the foreseeable future," he said in 1979, was "discouraging."

Conservative government has changed all that. Once again Britain stands tall in the councils of Europe and of the world, and our policies have brought unparalleled prosperity to our citizens at home.

In the past decade we have given power back to the people on an unprecedented scale. We have given back control to the people over their own lives and over their own livelihood - over the decisions that matter most to them and their families. We have done it by curbing the monopoly power of trade unions to control, even to victimise, the individual worker ...

Labour is against spreading those freedoms and choice to all our people. It is against us giving powers back to the people by privatising nationalised industries ... Labour wants to renationalise electricty, water and British Telecom. It wants to take power back to the state and back to into its own grasp - a fitful and debilitating grasp.

In response to complaints about more than two million unemployed and an inflation rate of 10.9 per cent, Thatcher responded:

Yes, 10.9 per cent inflation is much higher than it should be, but it is a lot lower than 26.9 per cent under the last Labour Government ...

Because individuals and families have more power and more choice, they have more opportunities to succeed - two million more jobs that in 1979, better rewards for hard work, income tax down from 33p in the pound to 25p in the pound and no surcharge on savings income ...

People on all levels of income are better off than they were in 1979 ... The extraordinary transformation of the private sector has created the wealth for better social services and better pensions ...

We are no longer the sick man of Europe - our output and investment grew faster during the 1980s than that of any of our major competitors. No longer a doubtful prospect, when American and Japanese companies invest in Europe, we are their first choice ...

Yes, in 1987 and 1988 the economy did expand too fast. There was too much borrowing, and inflation rose. That is why we had to take the tough, unpopular measures to bring the growth of money supply within target ...

Labour's policies are a vote of no confidence in the ability of British people to manage their own affairs. We have that confidence. Confidence in freedom and confidence in enterprise. That is what divides Conservatives from socialists.

Our stewardship of the public finances has been better than that of any government for nearly 50 years. It has enabled us to repay debt and cut taxes ...

During the past eleven years this Government has had a clear and unwavering vision of the future of Europe and Britain's role in it. It is a vision which stems from our deep-seated attachment to parliamentary democracy and commitment to economic liberty, enterprise, competition and a free market economy.

No government in Europe has fought more resolutely against subsidies, state aids to industry and protectionism; unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy and increasing unaccountable central power at the expense national parliaments ...

We have worked for our vision of a Europe which is free and open to the rest of the world, and above all to the countries of eastern Europe as they emerge from the shadows of socialism ... They deserve a Europe where there is too for their rediscovered sense of nationhood and a place to decide their own destiny after decades of repression ...

Ten years ago, the eastern part of Europe lay under totalitarian rule, its people knowing neither rights nor liberties. Today we have a Europe in which democracy, the rule of law and basic human rights are spreading ever more widely ...

These immense changes did not come about by chance. They have been achieved by strength and resolution in defence, and by a refusal ever to be intimidated. No-one in eastern Europe believes that their countries would be free had it not been for those western governments who were prepared to defend liberty, and who kept alive their hope that one day east Europe too would enjoy freedom.

But it was no thanks to the Labour party or to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament of which the Rt Hon Gentleman (Labour leader Neil Kinnock) is still a member. It is this Government who kept the nuclear weapons which ensured that we could never be blackmailed or threatened ...

Twice in my time as prime minister we have had to send our forces across the world to defend a small country against ruthless aggression: first to our own people in the Falklands and now to the borders of Kuwait.

To those who have never had to take such decisions, I say that they are taken with a heavy heart and in the knowledge of the manifold dangers, but with tremendous pride in the professionalism and courage of our armed forces.

There is something else which one feels. That is a sense of this country's destiny: the centuries of history and experience which ensure that, when principle have to be defended, when good has to be upheld and when evil has to be overcome, Britain will take up arms.

It is because we on this side have never flinched from difficult decisions that this House and this country can have confidence in this Government today.

I shall never forget the sadness I felt at Mrs Thatcher's departure from office, although I remember with pride the way she went, fighting to the end. ("I am enjoying this!")

Nothing lasts forever but to this day I remain a committed Thatcherite, not a Conservative. I knew what it meant to be a Thatcherite. I have no idea what the Conservative party under David Cameron stands for.

And therein lies a problem because where there is an intellectual vacuum ministers will pursue their own policies, sometimes for personal political gain (it makes them stand out from the crowd) or because they don't have the bottle to fight their own civil servants or well-funded lobby groups.

Thanks to Cameron's inability to articulate what the current Conservative party stands for there are no boundaries - and no need to justify policies in the light of the bigger picture because there isn't one, apart from clearing up the financial mess that Labour left behind.

Reader Comments (13)

Simon I can only agree with you the feeling of loss when she resigned was heavy. However her legacy still lives with us today and her influence incalculable. At the Progressive Conservatives we have many young people in their 20s who remain inspired by her and many were still in nappies when she first came to power. I would say that 66% of the rank and file of Tories are Thatcherites.

The anti state nannying stayed with the Tories until 2004 when ASH wrote to Andrew Lansley asking him when he was Shadow Minister for Health what the Conservative party's policy was on smoking, the answer was "we prefer the voluntary approach." It has been down hill since then.

A friend of mine worked for Denis Thatcher amongst other people for the government in IT suppport. Denis would arrive at his office Monday morning at 9, pick up the morning papers and put them on his desk. He would then reach into his desk and get out a bottle of scotch, pour a generous measure and have a smoke while he perused the headlines.

Can anyone see Baroness Thatcher ever entertaining a smoking ban?

November 22, 2010 at 10:51 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

You write: "I have no idea what the Conservative party under David Cameron stands for."

My guess is that the one item of ideology that the Cameroons allow themselves is 'Don't frighten the horses'. Taking a stance risks frightening at least some horses, therefore they never take a stance.

Lady Thatcher was indeed a great leader. Cameron is a follower of focus groups.

November 22, 2010 at 10:57 | Unregistered Commenterwonderfulforhisage

As an ex Labourite, it pained me to switch my support but then it pained me even more to know that the party that generations of my family supported stabbed the working classes in the back.

Now I have moved my support to another party, it feels right. I would say to all you Tories who loved fellow Lincolnshire Yellow Belly Mrs Thatcher that if she came onto the scene today she would be UKIP.

Nigel Farage is an inspiring leader. He is his own man. He is not frightened to speak his mind even when what he says is unpopular among the elite. He is the people's man and probably the best PM we'll never have unless the people of this country start to wake up.

The Tories are terrified of support drifting over to UKIP. I say the time has come to absandon generational support of parties and to actually vote for those that speak our language not ASH, Lobbyists, or the Eurocrats.

Why not show the Tories how disappointed we are with their continuation of the Nanny state by voting for UKIP in droves at the forthcoming council elections. If we had done that in the general, there would have been no overall control. We would have had to have another election, and that might just have jolted the Tories away from the dangerous nannying they seem to have embraced fully.

November 22, 2010 at 11:14 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Margaret Thatcher remains a fascinating enigma - not least in respect of the question: how much of a 'Tory' was she ? My analysis of her has always been that - at heart - she was a Classical Liberal (in the manner of Hayek et al) in the area of Economics, and a conservative in the sphere of cultural, constitutional, and national politics. Her deep fondness for the works of Kipling (which I share) also strongly suggested something of a romantic and a patriot. And her willingness to engage with IDEAS also marked her out as a Thinking Woman. Penny Junor's revelation in the Eighties that she had spent over 30 years working (unpaid and unadvertised) for the NSPCC, together with innumerable witnesses to her personal kindness, demonstrate a humanitarianism somewhat at odds with the caricature of the acidic asset-stripper and money-worshipper so beloved of the Metropolitan Left.

That she made mistakes is undeniable (eg the destruction of grammar schools under Heath, the poll tax, the mine-closure programme etc), but I suggest that these derived not so much from a deep-seated fault in her character as from an uncritical and over-trusting willingness to listen to the The Wrong People (not least, in the FCO). But, all in all, I still feel that - with all her 'faults' - she was the one prime Minister in my lifetime who came closest to embodying the Spirit of the British People. Her political assassination in Michael Heseltine's palace coup was a deeply dispiriting event for me, too - and one from which the Tory party has never really recovered. I remain deeply suspicious about the Poll Tax farago - and wonder whether the whole thing wasn't a ploy on behalf of the Eurocrats and Grandees and assorted mysogynists in the Party to get her out.

On three benchmark issues - Climate Change Fraud, the Smoking Ban, and 'Europe' - I have absolutely NO doubts as to her views today (though I wish they had matured at a somewhat earlier stage in her career). On all three, she'd have Cameron, Miliband, and Clegg for breakfast. Her remarks about ‘The Enemy Within’ (she was NOT referring to the miners, and only a doltish malcontent would think so) are perhaps even more apposite today – after the so-called ‘collapse’ of Communism (but NOT, Dear Reader, of Collectivism).

Many years ago - at some cocktail party or other - Michael Foot (no less) found himself tiring of the lazy anti-Thatcher jibes of a group of saloon-bar sophisticates, and in a fit of impatience finally declared; "Well, at least she's got GUTS !" Quite.

At any rate, my attitude to her is probably best summed up by that pithy observation of Voltaire's in an earlier period of political uncertainty:

"I would rather be ruled by one LION (-ess ?) that one hundred RATS."

She was the Real Deal – and I still miss her (warts and all).

November 22, 2010 at 13:20 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

@Martin V

Indeed Thatcher was a devotee of Hayek and the Austrian School of Economics. Intellectually Sir Keith Joseph was Thatcherism and he introduced Thatcher to Freidrich Hayek in 1975 (I think) at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) where she confirmed she was an Austrian School of Economics follower. The IEA from 1957 to 1988 was headed up by Forest's own , the late Lord (Ralph) Harris of High Cross.

The IEA is headed up now by smoker Mark Littlewood of course.

November 22, 2010 at 14:02 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Yes Dave - it's a shame that his party isn't listening to him on the smoking issue either!

November 22, 2010 at 14:29 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Sometimes it feels like there is no one else prepared to stand up and say, 'I am a Thatcherite', so thanks for this. Is it really 20 years? I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Such conviction in her words. My God, we will not see her like again, ALAS!

November 22, 2010 at 17:56 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

People always look back through rose tinted glasses.
Thatcher was the most authoritarian PM this country has seen in the modern age and opened the door for Government led bullying.
I for one will raise a glass or fifty when she breathes her last.

November 22, 2010 at 18:49 | Unregistered CommenterBald headed John

True John. I hated her during her years of power but looking back she was a kitten compared to what has followed since.

November 22, 2010 at 19:18 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I think what I most liked about Thatcher was that she was prepared (or at least she seemed to be prepared) to “fight Britain’s corner.” I believe she was a patriot who believed in the greatness of the nation she represented, and that seems to be something which none of the current leaders would dream of even whispering under their breath. Oh no! Far better to decry Britain and all it has stood for over the years. Have you noticed that whenever politicians these days try to “spin” something positively they never direct a compliment directly towards the British people? You never hear them saying: “The British people work harder and longer than anyone else in Europe, and they should be rewarded for that. Europe should model themselves on Britain’s workers if they want to get themselves out of the financial doldrums.” No, “compliments,” such as they are, are always couched in general terms like: “Britain’s economy is holding up well in the recession,” or “The economy is recovering at a faster rate than we anticipated after the financial crisis.” Just who do they think is bringing about that recovery? The much-publicised benefits scroungers in our midst? They’re always ever so keen to highlight them and to give the impression that we are a country of layabouts and slouches, and yet we are surviving the recession and our economy is getting back on its feet. Slowly, yes, but a lot better than many other countries (Greece and Ireland spring to mind …..)

That said, what I disliked about Thatcher was what initially brought her to power – and what the country needed at the time. Her bloody-minded determination and her utter conviction that she was always right. Because sometimes – just sometimes – she wasn’t. The aforementioned examples of the privatisation of the energy companies and the rail companies must surely be a shining example of the triumph of belief in the free market ideal over the realities of the fact that there are some industries which simply don’t conform profitably to the truly independent business model; the sell-off of council houses with no provision for their replacement, whilst pleasing a few people, has had negative ramifications which are still unresolved, as today’s news tells us; the poll tax, whilst fair in principle, was ultimately the straw which broke the camel’s back simply because it was too bluntly implemented because she “knew” it was “right.” “The lady’s not for turning,” was a truism which ultimately curtailed her political career. Like all politicians, it seems, she ended up "high" on her own authority and lost the ability to listen even to the people who had served her well and wisely, and who had previously been her greatest supporters. An unwise move, and nowhere more unwise than in the ruthless senior ranks of the Tory party. The Tories are the party of business after all, and in business there’s no room for people who won’t adjust their methods, even when all the evidence indicates that some flexibility is in order. It lost her perhaps several more years leading this country from the front, and lost us several more years of perhaps the strongest, most genuinely patriotic Prime Minister we have ever had.

November 22, 2010 at 19:38 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Whilst anatomising Margaret Thatcher's character, in terms of both its flaws as well as its virtues, one would also be wise to adopt a similar approach to Winston Churchill - by common consent, one of our greatest political leaders, and the saviour of the Nation.

Gratitude can blind one to the fact that he could be petty-minded, spiteful (something Margaret Thatcher never was), and wrong-headed. His treatment of Dowding (a genuinely Great Man), his blinkered attitude towards Indian independence, the Dardanelles disaster, and his support for Edward during the Abdication Crisis are just a few of the minuses that can be chalked up against him. But what if he had never lived ?

And Elizabeth I - rightly regarded as one of our greatest monarchs (and that at a time when England WAS a Police State)- suffered from similar character defects. But perhaps great defects are necessary in some measure to wield great power - any virtues being regarded as a bonus. The all-virtuous leader has yet to be born (and would probably be pretty lousy at the job, anyway).

Put it this way: whilst I’d willingly risk my neck to save a Churchill, a Thatcher, or an Elizabeth from a blazing building, I’m not so sure I could say the same for certain others I could mention.

November 22, 2010 at 23:06 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

History repeats itself Labour always leave the country bankrupt then blame the tories.
As for Neil Kinnock well as he's such a big trougher in the EU,plus we have the Kinnocks back ,albeit behind the scenes and totally unelected.
No justice eh ?

November 23, 2010 at 9:34 | Unregistered CommenterCW

"Thatcher was the most authoritarian PM this country has seen in the modern age and opened the door for Government led bullying."

A charge (one which I do not agree with - but let that pass) which could be levelled with even greater justification at Franklin D Roosevelt, the Perpetual Darling of the Left-Liberal intelligentsia. But, of course, he was a Socialist (according to his wife Eleanor), and hence immune to all criticism. His banking connections were purely coincidental, I'm sure.........................

November 23, 2010 at 12:57 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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