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Lord Flight: After Lady Thatcher’s funeral, the political lessons are clear

Lord FlightLord Flight was Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2001-2004 and led for the Opposition on the FSMA.  He is now chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund.

I agree with what I understand was Lady Thatcher’s preference for the magnificent, traditional English Funeral Service, over the more recent Memorial Service. Lady Thatcher’s funeral was very moving and majestic in its simplicity. It was England at its best. I could not avoid shedding a tear when her coffin left the Cathedral and her people, outside, clapped and cheered to witness their support and affection for her. Bishop Chartres delivered a brilliant sermon nailing the deliberate misinterpretation of Thatcher’s famous remarks about society, where her meaning was that people have a responsibility, first to help themselves and their families; and then, as far as possible, to assist others. The very theme picked up by David Cameron’s Big Society.

Thatcher’s death has revived serious political debate in Britain. The telling statistic is that a Guardian-commissioned poll found that if Margaret Thatcher were still Tory Leader, the Tories would surge to 40% support, only just below the share she achieved at her last General Election. This compares with 32% for the Tories otherwise, on current voting intentions. The political message is surely clear.

There was a lot which Margaret Thatcher did not have the time or opportunity to address – particularly health, welfare, public sector Trade Unions and family policy. Also we have slipped back to public spending of 50% rather than 40% of GDP – a proven drag on economic growth. Our tax system has become even more impenetrably complex, with another Finance Bill of over 600 pages. It is clear that the UK needs radical reform and a leader of Thatcher’s strength of character to design and implement this.

On perhaps the most important issue of our times, and having been misled as to EU intentions, what Lady Thatcher had to say, back in 1988, is even truer today as our main industry faces the threat of an ill-conceived transaction tax, with collection requirements imposed on the UK even though we are not participating:

“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the State in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”


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