Rob Wilson MP: Was Thatcher used in an unscrupulous way by Brown?
Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, questions Brown's alleged manipulation of Baroness Thatcher.
As a Conservative it is always a delight to see one of our greatest Prime Ministers stepping through the door of Number 10. Margaret Thatcher is rightly revered by those that know their politics and history will undoubtedly be very kind to her and her legacy. She was a formidable Prime Minister who changed Britain for the better at a time when defeatism and managed decline had become the language of the political class.
Yet when I spoke to her about this last year, I was surprised that she felt unsure about both her place in history and whether there was real affection for her in the nation. I was saddened that she seemed to lack confidence and was obviously forgetful and frail.
However, yesterday’s visit to Downing Street wasn’t really about Margaret Thatcher, it was really about Gordon Brown. My feeling of delight for the Baroness going back to the scene of her former glories was tempered by an uneasy feeling about the way she was apparently being exploited by the Prime Minister. Baroness Thatcher is 81, she is elderly, she is lonely, she is frail and she has difficulty with her memory. Those closest to her say that her grasp on daily life is “some days better than others”. She would naturally have been flattered by an invitation to Downing Street and would have enjoyed being back in the thick of the political action.
I put to you the following questions: is it right that a serving Prime Minister should exploit a situation like this for his own political ends? Is that what Gordon Brown did yesterday? Was this another carefully choreographed Brown ‘dog-whistle’ to Conservative-minded electors that it’s “safe” to vote for him? Does this follow the same strategy used to date with Quentin Davis, John Bercow and Patrick Mercer?
Yet, whilst the likes of Patrick Mercer (who had been denounced by the Labour Party weeks earlier) are fair game, is a lonely and frail old lady fair game? Brown spent most of his political life denouncing Lady Thatcher and her policies, now when it suits him he suddenly admires her and compares himself to her. I am tempted to re-phrase a quote used in the US presidential elections: “Prime Minister I know Margaret Thatcher and you are no Margaret Thatcher!”
I am deeply worried by what Brown did yesterday. I would be surprised if it didn’t make all decent British people wince and think carefully about what sort of person has become Prime Minister. It exposed a Gordon Brown as described by his Cabinet colleagues before becoming Prime Minister, the one with deep rooted character flaws. Those who have worked closely with him talk openly about his need to control, his ability to interfere, to never forget a slight and freeze out those who didn’t do as he wanted. But many also talk of his unscrupulousness in search of the thing he desires most; power.
There will be questions today about Brown’s moral compass and whether he used Baroness Thatcher in a shallow, self-serving and unscrupulous way.