Conservative Diary

Thatcher & Thatcherism

23 Apr 2013 08:18:28

Why senior staff leave Downing Street. They don't feel Cameron has a mission. Or they don't think he'll win. Or both.

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

Earlier this month, after the news was announced of Rohan Silva's depature from Downing Street, I listed some of those who had left previously:

  • Tim Chatwin, Head of Strategic Communications.
  • James O’Shaughnessy, Head of Policy.
  • Peter Campbell, who helped to prepare him for Prime Minister's Questions - as he did former Conservative leaders.
  • And Steve Hilton (who needs no introduction).

Continue reading "Why senior staff leave Downing Street. They don't feel Cameron has a mission. Or they don't think he'll win. Or both." »

17 Apr 2013 22:03:04

Whose Britain is it? Yesterday's restrained, dignified mourners? Or the outnumbered protesters?

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

As the coffin was carried out of St Paul's - the great west door having been flung open - a sound made its way inside, faint but persistent: the noise of applause.  The effect in the immense spaces of the cathedral was haunting.  For those of us who campaigned for the Conservative Party during the momentous years of the 1980s, many of whom turned out yesterday, it was as though the whole country had gathered to honour her life and work - not only the millions of voters who returned her to office three times, but millions of others: "the people of England, who never have spoken yet".

The moment was an illusion.  But just as dreams can yield insights into our lives, so it suggests a question about our country: whose is it?  Whose is the majority?  Did the tiny minority of protestors, who gained media attention out of all proportion to their size, speak for Britain?  Or is its true voice, rather, that of the outnumbering mass of dignified, restrained mourners, who packed the Strand and Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill in numbers far greater that commentary in advance of the service suggested?  Opinion polls and yesterday's service come together to give an answer.

Continue reading "Whose Britain is it? Yesterday's restrained, dignified mourners? Or the outnumbered protesters?" »

17 Apr 2013 06:15:34

Margaret Thatcher's legacy should be a Conservatism For Bolton West

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

Majority StepsThe Conservative Party is itself in poor health as it gathers to bury Margaret Thatcher.  It hasn't won an election in over 20 years.  The effects of vote distribution and out-of-date boundaries conspire against it breaking the habit next time.  It has lost Scotland altogether, and is the third party in much of the urban north.  It won 16% of the ethnic minority vote in 2010: by 2050, ethnic minority members will make up one in five of the total.  It has a serious political competitor on the right, UKIP, for the first time in living memory.

Labour's rout on welfare earlier this month, and its squabbles over leadership and policy last week, have cheered up some Tory MPs - unduly so, all considered.  A doctor's diagnosis of their party's condition would find serious illness, perhaps terminal decline.  And the structural obstacles to a Conservative majority would remain even were this not a Government of which the whole is much less than the sum of the parts.  So what can the Conservatives learn from the most potent election-winner in their history - the woman who they will honour today?

Continue reading "Margaret Thatcher's legacy should be a Conservatism For Bolton West" »

16 Apr 2013 06:40:40

Margaret Thatcher inspired a generation of Tory journalists. And they, in turn, inspired her.

By Andrew Gimson
Follow Andrew on Twitter.

The idiotic idea that Margaret Thatcher’s leadership represented a complete break with the Tory past can only be entertained by those who know nothing of, or choose to ignore, the admiring reception given to her by many Tories of highly traditional outlook. She was not, as some of her more gormless admirers and detractors suppose, a mysterious being who descended from the heavens, or from Grantham, and created a new doctrine called Thatcherism.

Her genius was to see that ideas which had been around for a long time could, if pursued with sufficient courage, industry and judgment, offer our nation a way out of the humiliations heaped on it during the 1970s.

If I had to offer one example of a traditional Tory who welcomed Thatcher, and supported what she was trying to do, I would name T.E.Utley.  This is in a sense unfair to the many other journalists, on the Daily Telegraph and on other papers, who saw that she could be the leader to reinvigorate British conservatism.

Continue reading "Margaret Thatcher inspired a generation of Tory journalists. And they, in turn, inspired her." »

12 Apr 2013 17:08:41

Maggie the Revolutionary? Tune into Channel 4 at 7pm tomorrow evening and find out

By Harry Phibbs
Follow Harry on Twitter

ThatCheThe arguments taking place this week have not only been about Margaret Thatcher, but also about Thatcherism. This prompts the question as to whether Thatcher was a Thatcherite. Not all policies pursued by her Government were Thatcherite. Not all of those that were Thatcherite were pushed by Thatcher. For instance, Nigel Lawson, in his excellent memoirs, The View from No 11, says she took quite a bit of persuading before approving the abolition of exchange controls.

Thatcherism existed before her - there are references to "pre Thatcher Thatcherites." Obviously there are many areas in this country and internationally where Thatcherite policies were applied after she ceased to be Prime Minister.

No wonder young people sometimes find it a bit confusing.

Continue reading "Maggie the Revolutionary? Tune into Channel 4 at 7pm tomorrow evening and find out" »

12 Apr 2013 07:00:36

Margaret Thatcher, Compassionate Conservative - not a libertarian (2)

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

To help prove the point, we had extracts from the 1983 manifesto yesterday.  Here are some extracts from the 1987 manifesto.

  • "One million council tenants have become home-owners and another one and a half million more families have become home-owners for the first time."
  • "There are over 75,000 more doctors, dentists and nurses than in 1978."
  • "In 1979 only seven per cent of the population held shares. Share ownership has trebled. Almost one in five of the adult population now own shares directly."
  • "Almost a million and a half people have been taken out of income tax altogether."
  • "The Government has reduced nurses' basic hours from 40 to 37 1/2 hours per week and increased their pay by 30 per cent after allowing for inflation."
  • "One worker in ten is now his own boss - or her own boss, since a quarter of the self-employed are women."
  • "We have established a huge programme, costing over £4,000 million, to clean up the environment of the Mersey Basin by the early years of the next century."
  • We have the sixth largest aid programme in the western world, and the third largest in Europe, spending about £1,300 million each year.
  • "Total spending on state pensions and benefits for elderly people has risen by 29 per cent after allowing for inflation."
  • "The last Labour Government cut the hospital building programme by a third. This Government has embarked on the biggest building programme ever.
  • "Racial discrimination is an injustice and can have no place in a tolerant and civilised society. We are particularly concerned about racial attacks."
  • "The Financial Services Act of 1986 also contains stringent new powers to investigate insider dealing which was first made a criminal offence by the Conservative Government in 1980."
  • "Giving to charities has doubled since we first took office."
  • "The Government has provided a record amount of money to increase [teachers'] pay by an average 16.4 per cent this year 25 per cent over 18 months."
  • "The improvement of the maternity services has helped to reduce by a third the death rate among babies in the weeks around birth."

11 Apr 2013 07:04:37

Margaret Thatcher, Compassionate Conservative - not a libertarian

By Paul Goodman

Follow Paul on Twitter.

We've postponed our Compassionate Conservatism series until next week, on the ground that Margaret Thatcher merits this site's full attention. Which doesn't suggest that it was swept aside by her governments.  Indeed, it played an impactful, though now sometimes forgotten, role in what she did.  Left-wing enemies and libertarian admirers alike unite in either ignoring her full record, or pretending that it was other than it was.  Don't take my word for it.  Have a look back at what happened.  Here are some reminders from the 1983 general election manifesto:

  • "By last year, there were 45,000 more nurses and midwives, and over 6,500 more doctors and dentists, working for the NHS than in 1978."
  • "More than many other nations, we direct our aid to the poorest countries, particularly in the Commonwealth."
  • "In each of the last two years, largely as a result of tax changes we have introduced, about a quarter of a million employees have acquired shares in the companies that employ them."
  • "This country is now spending more per child in school than ever before, even after allowing for price rises."
  • "Child benefit and one-parent benefit are to be their highest-ever level in real terms. We have also improved the family income supplement scheme to help low-paid working families."
  •  "On Merseyside, Operation Groundwork has brought together landowners, local industry and local authorities to tackle the squalor and dereliction on the edge of towns."
  • "No less than half a million council houses and flats were sold in the last Parliament to the people who live in them...This is the biggest single step towards a home-owning democracy ever taken. It is also the largest transfer of property from the State to the individual."
  • "The sale of pet animals in street markets has been banned."
  • "We have committed over £2,000m. this year to training and special measures for the unemployed."
  • "Our generous but carefully controlled aid programme is both an investment in the freedom and prosperity of the poorer countries and in a stable and expanding world economy."
  • "Unlike the last Labour government which actually cut the hospital building programme by one-third, we have committed £1,100m. to our large-scale programme for building new hospitals."
  • "Supplementary benefits, too, have been raised ahead of prices. To encourage thrift, instead of penalising it, the Government has also raised the amount of savings people can keep without losing any supplementary benefit."
  • "The Christmas Bonus, which Labour failed to pay in 1975 and 1976, will continue to be paid every year in accordance with the law we passed in 1979."
  • "Expenditure on cash benefits to the disabled is 21 per cent higher than under Labour, even after allowing for rising prices."
  • "We have introduced - and extended - a widows' bereavement allowance. We have kept the war widows' pension ahead of prices and removed it from tax altogether."

10 Apr 2013 14:15:47

Please sign CCHQ's online Book of Tributes for Baroness Thatcher

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

The link to the book can be found here.


10 Apr 2013 08:24:57

Margaret Thatcher, Parliamentarian - a lesson in the power of argument

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

The only political event in town today is the Commons's special session for tributes to Margaret Thatcher.  It presents a tricky challenge for Ed Miliband, in terms of both of what he says and how his party behaves - though I suspect that a lot of Labour MPs, like John Healey, will simply boycott the proceedings.

Whatever happens, this is a good moment to reflect on Thatcher as a Parliamentarian.  First as a teenager, and then later as a Conservative student activist, I grew up in the age before Parliament was televised - and, unlike William Hague, I didn't read Hansard.  So how am I in a position to make an assessment at all?

For two reasons.  First, because MPs voted that Parliament should be televised during her Premiership, and she sung one or two of her greatest hits in the Chamber.  One of them is in the video above: No, No, No! (Other great Thatcher songs were: The Lady's Not For Turning, Rejoice At That News, The Enemy Within, and Treachery With A Smile On Its Face.)

Continue reading "Margaret Thatcher, Parliamentarian - a lesson in the power of argument" »

9 Apr 2013 12:21:45

Baroness Thatcher's funeral will take place on Wednesday April 17th

By Harry Phibbs
Follow Harry on Twitter

Downing Street have announced that the funeral of Baroness Thatcher will take place on Wednesday, April 17th.

The funeral ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London's St Paul's Cathedral, following a procession from Westminster. The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, will attend the service, Buckingham Palace said.

Downing Street have a section of their website for messages of condolence a selection of which will be passed on to the Thatcher family.