I want to thank Tim Montgomerie and Sam Coates for the opportunity they gave me to write a column for ConHome this year. Partly, this chance was afforded me because Tim knows I have been a Cameroon voice on the site for some time, under both my own name and pseudonyms, and because the editors wish to recognise Conservatives who represent the full range of party opinion. But in considering myself a Cameroon, I remain, as I have always been, a Thatcherite. When submitting myself for selection I was lucky enough to be able to include quotes from friends who had known me since university, and who could attest to my profound hero worship of the greatest woman statesman. I am in an odd position; in that I have a number of friends from political families, I have several acquaintances who know Lady Thatcher socially. I can not, and likely will never, make that boast. I do not know Lady Thatcher. But politically, I worship her. I never had any doubt as to how my column on Conservative Home should end. Posters on this site should not worry when the media spins to them that Cameroon, modern compassionate Conservative MPs and candidates, want to distance themselves from Lady Thatcher. This is nonsense; I do not wish to distance myself. I wish instead merely to touch the hem of her garment.
How can I express my gratitude to the greatest living Conservative and politician? I was born in 1971, born when my father was forced by punitive taxation to look at emigrating, and persuaded against it by my mother on the grounds that walks in the English countryside were always free. I was born into a world where strike-ridden Britain was perceived to be in permanent decline. I was born into a world where the idea of social justice was capitulation to the unions and pacifism abroad even in the face of aggression. I was born into a world where over-employment seemed a fact of life and the Foreign Office was telling the PM her job was to “manage Britain’s decline”. BM (Before Margaret) we were taking loans from the IMF, like the proverbial banana republic. We were a charity case, an afterthought. We were quite simply losers.
One of the most encouraging lessons in life is that of the utter triumph of the human will when expressed courageously. As a young girl in a world, in the 70s, where only men succeeded, Margaret Thatcher stood out like a beacon. She did not allow herself to be beaten down by prejudice, she simply forced the world to accept her talents. (NB: those commentators that say Margaret Thatcher was insensate to the sexism of selection committees need only read the letters of complaint she sent to cchq during her lengthy attempt to get selected. Indeed, to this day Baroness Thatcher assists women candidates in getting selected and I was privileged to meet her, at last, at a Women2Win event). I have also, and for different reasons, admired Arnold Schwarzenegger; like him, Thatcher is an exemplar of what a person can achieve if they simply refuse to accept limitations. Read the story of Margaret Thatcher’s victory in the leadership; men with a better chance simply did not have the stones to stand. She did, and the rest, literally, is history. Thatcher’s genius did not end with winning office, which (for example) Brown has appeared exclusively focussed on. She fought her party over the EU, the rebate, overemployment, interest rates, Westland, the lot. She was stamped through with Courage like a stick of Brighton rock. And not just political courage (her mandarins wanted to surrender over the Falklands) but physical courage too. After the Brighton Bombing, Margaret Thatcher, having prayed, persuaded M&S to open early. Delegates bought suits, and the conference opened on time – as usual.
Margaret Thatcher was a scientist. (Is a scientist). She was the first major politician seriously to warn of global warming. Despite the ludicrous caricature of her public image, she was a champion of social justice, the grocer’s daughter who swept away the barriers to home ownership for many of Britain’s poorest people. Elected on a popular mandate again and again, the voters never threw her out, much to the dismay of the liberal commentariat. She was the ultimate people’s politician.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to state that the country I grew up in was shaped and saved by Margaret Thatcher. She is my heroine, present in everything I attempt, whether in politics or popular fiction. I do not agree with everything she did; it would be a poor politician who aimed to photocopy someone else; but there’s no doubt at all that I hope, in Parliament, to be proved worthy of the noble, moral name of Thatcherite, that I will always look first to the weak and the helpless and hope to improve their situation, that I will always be proud of Britain, that I will fight any attempt to cede away our sovereignty (such as the EU Constitution), that I will do my best to preserve the Special Relationship, and that I will remember the basic Thatcherite tenet that politics, like life, is counter-intuitive; that things that seem compassionate (such as excessive worker protections) actually lead to high unemployment and are uncompassionate, and vice versa.
Blair made the Labour party electable by accepting Thatcherite reforms; indeed, her radical economics are now cross-party received wisdom. Earlier this year, the big Feartie from Fife (“frit!”) as the Lady would say, pretended for the cameras that he recanted a lifetime of spitting on her and admired her. She as a past PM was too polite to say no. But accept no imitations. I, and plenty of other PPCs, hoping to be elected under David Cameron, are true and passionate Thatcherites. This is my last column for the website, I have asked to be excused to concentrate on motherhood, fighting Corby, and my book career. But I didn’t want to leave without pinning my colours to the mast. Margaret Thatcher shaped me as a girl, a woman, and a would be politician. I am hugely grateful to her. And if I am so fortunate as to be elected for Corby & East Northants, I will try to be true to her tradition of service.