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A Prime Minister and a Party that are still in Thatcher's shadow

By Paul Goodman
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David Cameron's well-judged tribute to Margaret Thatcher won't make the coming days any less difficult for him.  For although he will have a certain ceremonial position during the coming week, and a certain status as the leader of the party she once herself led, he also has certain difficulty: namely, that he is dwarved by her giant shadow.  This would be true of any imaginable Conservative leader.  But it is accentuated by a single fact.  She won three elections.  He hasn't - yet - won one, and it may never happen.

However, the Prime Minister's problem with Mrs Thatcher, as I will always of her from her great days, is less than the Conservative Party's.  Very simply, it has yet to come to terms with living in that shadow, either, or fully recognising that the age of Thatcher - like the lady herself now, alas - is dead.  It must seek to value what she handed on, like some precious family heirloom, while recognising that families themselves change over the generations.  And it has not yet fully recovered from the wound in the family made by the coup that overthrew her.

Perhaps this will change with her death, immensely sad as it is.  Writing on ConservativeHome this morning, Owen Paterson becomes the second Cabinet Minister, after George Osborne, to offer his own tribute - and suggests how her inheritance can, to use a very Thatcherite figure of speech, be invested and made profitable.  How right he is to look forward to a happier future for our party than the past it has endured since she left office.  It is one for which Cameron himself, amidst the tensions of Coalition, must himself struggle.


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