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John Bercow MP: It was during the 1979 campaign that Margaret Thatcher advised me to join the YCs

Maggie at 30
Picture 18 John Bercow, now MP for Buckingham, was a 16-year-old school pupil in Margaret Thatcher's own constituency at the time of the 1979 general election.

I have no recollection at all of whether I stayed up all night on 3rd/4th May 1979, but I do recall the campaign itself.

As a pupil at Finchley Manorhill Comprehensive School in Mrs. Thatcher’s constituency, I had started to develop a keen interest in politics and a horror at how Britain seemed to have become ungovernable. In the Winter of Discontent, the streets went un-swept, the sick went untended and the dead went unburied.

Just days before the election, I went to hear Mrs. Thatcher speak at Woodhouse School in the constituency. I met her afterwards, expressed my support and was promptly advised by her to join the Young Conservatives, which I later did.

She was a towering figure in British politics and her achievements in terms of trade union reform, promotion of enterprise and standing up to the old Soviet Union were ground breaking. In retrospect, however, her government also made big mistakes – failing to improve public services, bring about social cohesion or help some of our most disadvantaged citizens.

Lord Hurd and Eric Pickles have already provided their recollections of the 1979 election, and others will follow during the course of the day.


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