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Black Wednesday - its up there with Wilson's the pound in your pocket spin.

Not the back to basics debacle then?

Surely it was not Black Wednesday (which was actually a good thing) but the decision to go into the ERM in the first place which was the political idiocy?

But getting rid of Maggie was far worse for the Conservative Party from which it has yet to recover. Major's victory in 1992 pretty much assured the Conservatives were going to be out of power for a very long time. He was an incompetent leader who ruined the Conservatives reputation in a whole myriad of ways.

One led to the other.

If Maggie hadn't gone there very likely would not have been a Black Wednesday, either because Labour would have been in power or we would not have been shadowing the ERM which Maggie opposed.

Ousting Maggie. If she'd carried on regardless we would have lost in 92 and been back in in 97. Unfortunately JM saved the day a bit too well and got the blame for White Wednesday.

Yes, ousting Maggie. One of the reasons the party never recovered from Black Wednesday was that the party behaved in an incredibly disunited way. We stopped being a loyal party in November 1990 and that was fatal.

Maggies Ousting is my choice. As the article says, we may well have lost in 92. Even Blair wouldn't have been able to save a party that had Kinnock as PM and were so enthusiatically in favour of the ERM on Black Wednesday. They would have been booted at as imcompetent in 97 for another 20 years in the wilderness. Would probably have Portillo as Prime Minister now. Ok there would have been negatives to this little bit of counter history.

Is it too much to ask for us all to behave like sane adults and ignore the negatives whilst insisting upon looking at the mass of positives our current democratically elected leader has put in train? Why do we collectively pay any deference to the comentators who only seek the opportunity to open wounds?

Ousting Maggie, replacing a Group class performer with a selling plater and expecting him to win the Derby.

Plus the Party saw the actions of Heseltine, Howe, Mates etc as the Green Light to embark on a course of mass, serial disloyalty from which we have yet to fully recover.

Bercow and Ancram being just the latest examples...

Maggie's ousting. I will never forget that day nor will I forgive those grandee elements and chinless wonders who stabbed her in the back. She inspired a generation and listening to her speeches on cd show just how good a grasp she had on the British mindsetIt has taken us 17 years to get back into a positive position and hopefully Dave will go after Brown with a good handbagging

"If Maggie hadn't gone there very likely would not have been a Black Wednesday"

Given we were already in the ERM by then, that doesn't follow.

Black Wednesday-ousting Maggie only gets it due to the fact the Tories may have lost in 1992 and thus missed being in office when ejected. Had it not been for Black Wednesday, the reputation for economic management would not have collased.

Ousting Maggie - as previously posted the second biggest mistake was winning in '92. OK - it felt good - but it really screwed up our party. The MP's started to believe in their imortality. '97 saw to that!!

I think often the Conservative party beats itself up unnecessarily. Both events were of course traumatic but its worth bearing in mind that Labour would not be where they are today without Tony Blair. His role in transforming the Labour party must not be underestimated. John Smith might possibly have pulled off a victory but wouldn't have been able to deliver the large scale back-to-back victories in the way that Blair did. The chances of the Labour party finding another Blair are certainly remote for the immediate future. I do believe now that the Blair factor has been eliminated we will see a return to a position of the Conservative party being the natural government.

Tony Blair did move the Labour party into Conservative territory but its already clear that Brown wants to quickly shift to a more leftist/statist agenda. Of course Gordon Brown won't rock the boat too much between now and the next election, but you can be sure if Brown wins the next general election he will see that as a mandate to introduce a radical statist programme.

In all fairness, by 1990 Maggie had passed her sell-by date. She had been damaged by the Poll Tax and her belief in her omnipotence i.e the excruciating use of the royal 'we'. She was now seen as increasingly isolated and was becoming something of a liability. I remember the sense of relief when John Major took over.

Therefore Black Wednesday was more damaging the handling of this crisis was thoroughly inept. Before this event, we were disliked but were still respected for our economic competence. Afterwards we were subject to derision as well as hatred. From Sept 1992 it was obvious that 'the game was up'.

Joining the ERM cannot be seperated from the ousting of Maggie. She was against price fixing (including fixing the price of currencies) and her defeat on that was part her overall defeat at the hands of those who are responsible for the curse on the Conservative Party that followed.

Margaret Thatcher had served her time and more. Had removing her from the leadership been a damaging action John Major would clearly not have won the following General Election.

Black Wednesday did little or no damage either and was completely forgotten by the majority of the electorate come May 1997 when interest rates were well under control.

The disunity and continuous exposures of financial and sexual sleaze did the most lasting damage, and to date that damage has yet to be effectively repaired.

It has got to be the ousting of Mrs Thatcher, and the poisoned chalice inherited by all the party leaders who have followed her. The party benefited in the short term, but paid a heavy painful price in the long term.

Black Wednesday was the opposite, short term pain was followed by a recovery which gave us long term economic stability for the first time in many years. Sods law that it was Blair/Brown and this incompetent Labour government who benefited politically!

Funnily enough I recently re-read Breaking the Code by Giles Brandreth (a Whip and MP for City of Chester during the Major Years).

We really were an unbeleivable rabble post Maggie, and the Parliamentary Party was virtually unleadable.

The book is required reading for those seeking some explanation for why we have been out of power for so long.

Margaret Thatcher is the sole reason the Conservatives are in the mess they are in today.
Can I please point out at the onset of this post I have no intentions of taking part in a debate about this subject as nothing anybody can say or do will alter my opinion of this disruptive, evil woman.
I cannot see the Conservatives gaining power either in the next GE or the one after that until the ghost of this female is laid to rest.
We here in the mining communities detested her and everything she stood for and as a footnote we did not agree with Scargill's approach either.
As for "Black Wednesday",
this has harmed the Conservatives no end and has fixed the electorates mind that Conservatives cannot be trusted with the economy. The soundbite "Boom and Bust" has certainly resonated with the electorate, especially the floating voters.
Mr Brown is going to keep reminding the electorate with a considerable ammount of glee about the part DC played in Black Wednesday when he was an advisor to Norman Lamont. He will never miss the opportunity to keep that fresh in everybody's mind.

I was initially going to say 'Black aka White Wednesday' but then I got as far as Ed's post, and I must say he has got it right.

Black Wednesday' would have happened on Labour's watch and the Tories would've been back in by 1997.

The two are interlinked.

Nigel Lawson started shadowing the Deuschmark in the late 1980s and the conflict between him and Alan Walters (The PM's economic adviser) over this and other issues led firstly to Walters removal and ultimately to Lawson's resignation.

We went into the ERM in 1990 when Major was Chancellor and Maggie was PM. Politically Major backed by Hurd (Home Secretary) were able to insist on the policy as she couldn't afford to lose a second Chancellor in quick succession.

The impact of the Leadership crisis in November 1990 although unsettling at the time, did not have a long term effect on the Party's electoral fortunes as such. 'Black Wednesday' did destroy the Party's reputation for economic competetance for a generation and took away one the major reasons why many voters, although not loving the Party, voted for it.

However, the impact of the 1990 Leadership election weakened the bonds of loyality and self restraint which had served the Party for many years. Those colleagues who sat in the 1992-97 Parliament describe the period after Septemer 16th 1992 as a dreadful, awful experience. A weak government, drifting from crisis to crisis with constant plotting.

Thus the constant rifts in the party destroyed for a generation any semblance of unity and cohesion and at the same time the other trump card had been handed to Labour.

Well...Black/White Wednesday led to the introduction of inflation targeting, the subsequent fourteen-odd years of continuous economic growth, and the UK not joining the euro. So it was a political curse in the form of an economic and constitutional blessing. That has been bad for us, in allowing Labour to be in power, but good for us in making our country prosperous and preventing us from being absorbed into the Single European State. Since I'm a country-before-Party man, I find it hard to feel sorry about that.

On ousting Thatcher, I believe she would have won in 1992. And if we were going to get rid of her, the only sensible alternative was to go for Heseltine. So it was a mistake, badly executed. A botched job all round - like much that followed. Perhaps we do still "bear the scars" of that event, but that's our fault, not the fault of the event. There's nothing to say that we *have* to dwell on the errors of the past.

So, politically the former (ERM debacle) was much the worse for us. But the latter (Thatcher) is the bigger problem, because it's an itch we seem to find difficult to stop scratching.

Black Wednesday was far more damaging. The ousting of Margaret Thatcher had to happen sooner or later, as politically damaged as she was by 1990. But Black Wednesday severely damaged the Conservative's claim of being the party who could be trusted on the economy.

Too easy, ousting Maggie. That level of treachery was unforgivable, you back your leader to the end.

If she'd have lost in '92, the Tories would been back in '97 without a doubt.

Black Wednesday was inevitable with a basket of European economies out of kilter with each other. The UK trying to exit a recession with Germany entering one was the final straw.

As for ERM, part of the economic argument for it started way before we joined. Lawson was shadowing the Deutschmark well before we joined ERM as an anti-inflation measure.

Just that no-one told him German was printing money to pay for re-unification.


Thinking of joining the ERM and manipulating the interest rates culminating in Black Wednesday to the detriment of nearly everyone in the country was the downfall of the government. The trouble with this government under Blair and now Brown is they say they are financially competent, whereas nothing is further from the truth. The only hope Cameron has is that everything blows up in Gordon Browns face before the next election?

Removing Margaret Thatcher was unquestionably the right thing for the Conservatives to do at the time.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can of course question whether the long-term interests of the party would have been better served by not ousting Thatcher and then losing the 1992 election.

Yes, Neil Kinnock would have presided over Black Wednesday and probably a government more shambolic than that of John Major, but the likelihood is that Thatcher's successor in 1992 would have been Michael Heseltine or Ken Clarke (assuming that either man would prevail despite a leadership election fought in the context of Maastricht), who would both have been rather tame in response to Labour's ERM crisis and had difficulty maintaining a united stance on Europe, particularly with regard to the European single currency.

In short, Thatcher clinging on to power until 1992 would by no means have made civil war within the party less likely in the long-term and would arguably have been a terrible outcome for the country as a whole, lumbered with Kinnock as Prime Minister, membership of the European single currency and an opposition torn asunder by the European issue.

Its a close run thing. Firstly the ousting of Mrs Thatcher left a bad taste in the mouth for the majority of the party members plus the treachery of the parliamentary party led Hesletine, Clarke, Hurd etal. shattered the underlying strength of the Tory party which was discipline and loyalty.
Even our enemies in the Labour party, BBC and the left wing media were taken aback by the coup.
If the ousting of Mrs Thatcher shattered the publics perception that the Tories were a decent, disciplined party, Black Wednesday shattered the perception that the Tories were economically competent.
I seem to recall that it was Major, then chancellor under Mrs T who encouraged us to join the ERM, she made a big mistake here.
The spectacle of Major, Heseltine, Clarke, Lamont and Hurd ensconced in the Admiralty Building whilst interest rates shot through the roof defending the indefensible helped to make the Tories look about as economically competent and devious as Robert Maxwell.
Its no point saying that Labour and the Liberals were also wanting into the ERM, the point is they were not in government during this pathetic debacle.
And who carried the can for this, who resigned on a point of principle, who took the responsibility of saying "I was wrong" and resigned,, nobody. I recall a TV documentary a couple of years later and the likes of Clarke and Heseltine laughing like it was a big joke.. No joke for all the business and people made bankrupt through this stupidity.
People can see the thread of those responsible for both catastrophes, Heseltine, Hurd, Clarke and Major, all Europhiles to their fingertips and to hell with the conservatives and the British public.
It gives me no pleasure to write these things, I,ve been a conservative all my life, I don,t intend to change however the residue of poision inflicted on both the conservative party and Great Britain by those I,ve mentioned above still exists as long as they are around.
I know its probably too late to throw them out of the party (this should have happened at the conference after Black Wednesday) but I guess it would open old wounds and we need to unite and return a conservative government as soon as possible.

Maggie was a wonderful PM who should have been allowed to fight an election in 92. She would probably have lost and then Kinnock would have most likely won but would have only lasted 5 years with the Conservatives returning to power refreshed. Michael Ancram would most likely have been the best Foreign Secretary this country had had for many years and perhaps, just perhaps, we would never have made the disastrous foreign policy decisions that labour have.

The ousting of Maggie was a self-inflicted wound whereas 'Black Wednesday' wasn't.
We should remember that we were the least enthusiastic of the 3 parties about ERM entry. Labour had done a U-turn on its 1983 position on Europe and the Lib Dems were keen for us to go into the 'narrow band' instead of the broad one we were in in 1992. It was our misfortune still to be in office when the lid blew off the whole thing. Had Labour won in 1991/2 Kinnock would not have been able to respond as well as the Major government did, i.e. by building on Thatcher's foundations and creating the prosperity our economy has enjoyed since then. Very possibly Sir John Major would be celebrating this year his 10th anniversary as PM folowing his massive wins in 1997, 2001 and 2005.........

It is a difficult choice. Certainly it could be argued that Black Wednesday was far worst, as after Maggie had been ousted we went on to win another election. No doubt some will also argue that it was not until after Black Wednesday that our poll ratings plummeted.

I have some sympathy with both of these arguments, but it is my opinion that the one led to the other.

Maggie’s legacy is still regarded by some as a poison challis. Until Cameron it was like the pink elephant hiding in the room. We could all see it, but no one wanted to get to grips with the legacy both the good and bad aspects.

Maggie’s successors generally ignored her premiership for fear of upsetting the old Praetorian Guard. Eventually you have to deal with the issues and whilst I have to say can’t abide those who try to trash the memory of Maggie, times have moved on and to cling on to some of the policies which were right for the 1980s but not now is electoral suicide.

Maggie’s economic reforms which turned round our economy now need to be mirrored in social policy and under Cameron they will - but I digress.

Whilst our poll ratings for economic competence have improved we are still seen as a party that lacks that important quality of loyalty and this has been so damaging to our leaders past and present.

We all remember the savage feeding frenzy of the press around IDS, the leaking, the MPs briefing against him, the utter lack of discipline and self restraint. This I attribute to the removal of Maggie.

So whilst there are many compelling arguments suggesting that Black Wednesday was the worst, I believe that the removal of Maggie was worst and that the shock waves of this one act are still felt in today’s modern and compassionate Conservative Party.

Edward Heath did the most damage to this party, with his deceit about taking us into Europe. We are still recovering. Without that, we do not need to think of the ERM and Thatcher would not have been ousted (since the pro EU grandees were behind that?)

The ousting of Mrs Thatcher was a culmination of a decline into disloyalty which had begun with deutschmark shadowing and various Cabinet ministers beginning to imagine post-maggie politics and not pulling on the same rope. This led to the fateful desertion in the November coup which whilst temporarily giving the appearance of success led to the ructions over Europe as there was a 'Queen over the water' who was quite happy being a standard bearer for anti-Europe sentiment.

The ERM was a direct result of the former disloyalty as various figures had manouevered Mrs T into joining. Clearly Black Wednesday would have happened to anyone in the ERM regardless of party, and it happened to more than just the UK. It damaged because it happened during a Conservative administration and blew open the European faultline in the party.

It was very sad to see disunity oust Maggie. She was a great PM of principal.

Labour/Blair harked back to 'Black Wenesday' trying to portray it as a disaster.

Blair always forgot it was the late respected Labour leader John Smith, the TUC and leaders in the CBI that pushed Maggie into the ERM in the first place.

It took a brave move to come out of the ERM.

Not the Poll Tax?

I recall reading somewhere that the Conservative's poll rating really began to fall off after the imposition of VAT on fuel, which followed on from the election pledge (or at least widely assumed pledge) that we would cut taxes, not raise them.

It was that breaking of trust over tax (no doubt forced on the government by circumstance) that has made the electorate sceptical about potential tax cuts ever since.

"Brown is going to keep reminding the electorate with a considerable ammount of glee about the part DC played in Black Wednesday "

Fetching the coffee?

I quote various commentators:

"Surely it was not Black Wednesday (which was actually a good thing)"

"Black Wednesday did little or no damage either and was completely forgotten by the majority of the electorate come May 1997"

If you believe this you've learnt nothing about why you were rejected by the electorte in 1997 and are still not trusted by them now. A party which still believes that making millions of hard working home-owners either have their homes reposessed or just survive by paying crippling interest rates was a good thing and caused little or no damage is never going to be trusted to run the economy.

As far as the electorate are concerned the Tories gave us repossesions, negative equity and 15% interest rates. Labour delivered rising house prices, low interest rates and economic stability. That more than anything is why the British people continue to vote Labour and George Osbourne (along with John Redwood) are NOT that men to restore their faith in Tory economic competence.

Black Wednesday definately hurt the Tories most. It affected millions of people up and down the country, where as the dumping of Thatcher was an internal matter as far as most people outside of the party were concerned and had no impact upon their lives.

As a postscript, may I just say how enjoyable it is to read this particular thread with all the thoughtful contributions that have been posted?

ConservativeHome at its best - the product of the interesting/thought-provoking subject matter and the new comment moderation policy?

Joining the ERM was the disaster.

Black Wednesday happened becuase of the then government's EU related policies; Margaret Thatcher was ousted because of the Bruges speech, where she wanted a more robust view taken against the EU.

So in effect, Tory support for remaining in the EU (still party policy, you'll note) casued both problems.

Whilst I concede that UKIP has no MPs and is unlikely to gain any under FPTP, it must be noted that the Tories haven't won an election since UKIP were formed. Could the two be linked? Now there's a subject to debate...

(speaking from a left-wind Eurosceptic perspective)
Black Wednesday was the turning point for sure. I can remember being happy, not only because we were out of the ERM, but because the government was in such utter, utter disarray. With a tiny majority and so many eurosceptics it was downhill from there and I don't mind confessing I loved every second :D

(trying to be apolitical)
Yes I think it would have been in the Tories' interests to lose in 92. If Labour had won narrowly, then Black Wednesday would have been on their watch and the dire 'double whammy' predictions would look like they were coming true.

Would you have won in 92 if Maggie had stayed? Would Labour have won in 87 or 92 if Owen hadn't defected fatally splitting the party? Would Maggie just be a footnote had Sunny Jim gone to the country 6 months earlier?

It's all pointless speculation (though admittedly great fun :D )

One branded the party incompetent; the other treacherous. While I was personally most upset by the betrayal of Thatcher I think the question as to which was 'worse' is rather pointless.

What we should remember is that these were the REAL reasons (along with such matters as the sexual sleaze alluded to above) why the public fell out of love with the party.

It had absolutely nothing to do with the supposed 'racism', 'homophobia' etc touted around by the proponents of so-called modernisation.

The 1990 ousting of Margaret Thatcher

I note you don't mention the signing of the Maastricht Treaty?
IMHO it's the ousting of Maggie. It gave the party a taste for regicide and disloyalty that exists to this day (see Quentin Davies, Bercow and Mercer).

Regarding the earlier comment:

'The soundbite "Boom and Bust" has certainly resonated with the electorate, especially the floating voters.'

As usual, this is typical Labour spin, distorting history to portray that there had only even been recessions when the previous Conservative government were in power.

Labour's record in the 1970s, using a style similar to Browns, presided over 'Boom and Bust", mostly Bust.

Is it time to start suggesting that Brown's leadership will lead to more of Labour's 1970s style 'Boom and Bust'?

We need to challenge this soundbite head on.

In terms of the electorate, Black/White Wednesday hurt us most because it showed up the incompetence (being in the ERM being much of it, which, even if she was forced into it, was entered when Mrs T was still PM).

In terms of the internal party ruptions from which we are only now recovering, it was November 1990. But the latter was regarded positively for a time afterwards by much of the electorate and, although I do not agree that Mrs T could not have won a 1992 election, she could only have done so if she had got rid of the Poll Tax/Community Charge. Even then, the divisions shown by the Heseltine revolt, even if it had been seen off, would have made it very difficult. Such divisions would have continued if she had rejected Maastrich in 1991 as Major didn't.

I also think that 1990 (a) showed the supremacy of the House of Commons - it was the MPs who sunk her BUT (b) hugely discredited politics as the sort of "profession" that many of us would want to go into. I was on the candidates' list when it happened and I never applied for a seat again - when it came down to it I didn't really want to become a colleague of those gutless wretches who pushed Mrs Thatcher out, particularly the ones who privately stabbed her in the back from inside her Government. I would not have voted for the re-election of my own Tory MP in 1992 if I had not been certain that he had not deserted her.

So it's clear which event affected me more - the 1990 one. But for the electorate it was September 1992.

A very stupid question. The removal of Margaret Thatcher is a wound from which the Party has never recovered.

I felt strongly at the time (and still do today) that if Mrs Thatcher were to be removed from office as Prime Minister, it should have been done by the British people at a general election. Those who argue above that this would have been the politically preferable fate for the Party, even if it meant defeat in the short term at the 1992 election as we would have dodged the debacle that was the 1992-1997 Parliament. John Major contends (unsurprisingly) in his autobiography that this argument is a nonsense and that our fourth general election victory in 1992 was necessary in order to firmly entrench the reforms of the Thatcher era beyond the point to which they could have been undone by a future Labour government. In view of the good of the country, he may well be correct.

I see it the other way around. Margaret Thatcher hurt us most by refusing to accept how unpopular and untenable her leadership and some of her policies had become.

If we're playing "what if", imagine how irreparably bad things would have gone for our Party if Margaret Thatcher had been allowed to continue her attempts to enforce the poll-tax. The Party was saved by its understanding that, to survive, the time had come to show loyalty to the electorate, not the leader. It’s silly to suggest that our MPs might have done nothing and knowingly followed their leader over a cliff. And it's wonderful hindsight to know that going of a cliff would have saved us from walking under a bus.

I'm sure non-Tories are more likely to remember the date they lost their home through repossession caused by the economy mess-up over the date Maggie was ousted.

Mr Fulford, no disrespect, but you are full of it. She was deposed and the Party was saddled with John Major. A deeply insecure socially, intellectually inadequate non-entity. Through him, the Party hit such profound highs politically such as Archer, Aitken, Mellor, Hamilton, the Cones hotline, Black Wednesday, Edwina Currie etc. The nation breathed a sigh of relief on 1 May 1997 not because she went, but because Major's Conservatives went.

Dave's offensive trashing of her will cost him dearly. Better to acknowledge the fact that our Party's problems basically were gilded under the ghastly little man who succeeeded her.

Black Wednesday destroyed the Tories' reputation for economic confidence. Still, if Major had accepted responsibility for what was his policy, and resigned as PM, the party might well have recovered.

Maggie had become a liability whatever her achievments, her behaviour over the Poll Tax was imposible.

Black Wednesday was, as Major said, a political disaster. But it was only a disater because the Conservatives made no attempt to justify it and there was a case to, at least, mitigate the whole thing. (Personally I thought there was a case to make Major and Co. look quite good.) It was at that time the Conservative party stopped explaining or fighting for itself alowing Labour to construct a political mirage for the electorate to view.

As for sleaze, Labour have had vastly more sleaze than the Conservatives.

"Joining the ERM was the disaster"

I'd say joining the EEC-EC-EU was the disaster.

The two events are inextricably linked: the pygmies who forced Maggie to resign were the same ones who pushed her into joining the ERM. I don't believe that the public - including those who virulently disagreed with Margaret Tahtcher's policies have forgiven Tories for the way they dumped her because they thought they would lose the '92 election.

As has been said elsewhere, it would have been better if Labour had won in 1992. Instead, what did we get? John Major, he of such successes as Black Wednesday, privatisation of British Rail ( in the process choosing the most complicated and least-practical option) and, of course, Maastricht.

Now we have Tory Boy Mk 111 esposing New Labour policies.

I would suggest that both were equally damaging. The party has never really got over Mrs Thatcher's departure and many act as if the Conservative politics began and ended with Mrs Thatcher. Black Wednesday destroyed the trust with the economy argument and Labour were probably always going to win after that. Since 1997 the most damaging aspect for the party has being an unwillingness to accept that Britain and the world has changed, still giving more emphasis on Europe than the public desire, and reluctance in some quarters to change and take on the issues that really matter to the average voter.

"Dave's offensive trashing of her (Maggie) will cost him dearly." 18.15

Can someone explain how Dave is Trashing Maggie. People keep saying this but the only specifics mentioned never much relate to what Maggie did.

Dumping Thatcher...we would have lost with her in 92, Labour would have had Black Wednesday and we would have been back in 97...and our country would be in far better shape today.

What often hurts the Tories now is this obsession with the past. We should be discussing about today and thinking about tomorrow not forever going over events that happened nearly twenty years ago now.

By 1990, it was time for Margaret Thatcher to go - nobody can be Prime Minister for over a decade and remain sane. However, the way it was done, by EU-loving political pygmies was despicable, and 17 years later, I am still being told on the doorstep that people will not vote Conservative because of the way Margaret Thatcher was treated.
The stink created by the cabal's cowardly, underhanded behaviour still lingers in the voters' nostrils.
Because she was weakened in her last year or so by these same pygmies, they got away with the ERM nonsense. So Black Wednesday inexorably followed. I hope Howe, Heseltine, Lawson etc... are proud of their actions.


Maggie had become a liability whatever her achievments, her behaviour over the Poll Tax was imposible.

In my opinion the Poll Tax was absurd; a mad adventure from beginning to end.

But at the time it was introduced as a 'flagship' (!!!) policy (flagship like the Titanic presumably) I don't suppose I'd have found 1% of 1% of the party who agreed with me.

Thatcher was pushed into that one by the grassroots fully aided and abetted by the Cabinet, so don't pretend it was all down to her.

I wonder what David Sergeant and Mark Fulford had to say about it at the time?

Cleo - Since 1997 the most damaging aspect for the party has being an unwillingness to accept that Britain and the world has changed...reluctance in some quarters to change and take on the issues that really matter to the average voter.

What issues are those and why were they of less importance to the 'average voter' before 1997?

Then is about enquiring of someone who had died from blood loss due to assassins bullets, whether the first bullet hurt the most or one of the later ones.

Even after Black Wednesday, it was still possible for the Conservative Party to recover and even win another majority, even with the tax rises and huge deficits as a result of profligate fiscal and monetary policies it has to be said started by those who at the same time were trying to force Margaret Thatcher out.

Railway fragmentation, scandals over cash for questions and handling of BSE & CJD, the government holding secret discussions with the IRA, and the selling out to Brussels; even by the time of the General Election there was no need for the defeat to be so heavy as it was eventually but the campaign was such a public disaster that in retrospect it's amazing that the defeat wasn't even heavier.

The issues that matter are schools, NHS (both these issues have to be about all of society, not grammar schools for a few or medical vouchers who can afford to go private), crime, housing, environment. The party has over-emphasised Europe and immigration many times since 1997 and these issues might be crucially important to the core voters but will not catch the public's imagination and encourage them to vote Conservative. Of course key issues change over time, or the order of priority changes. The 1992-1997 period was when public services came to the fore as key election deciding issues.

"I wonder what David Sergeant and Mark Fulford had to say about it [poll tax]at the time" Trad Tory 19.10

I worked in a Local Authority, organisationally it was mad. But to the extent it was saleable no one tried very hard and we know that most members of the Cabinet were against it - Lawson tried desparatly to talk her out of it, even came up with his own local tax proposals.


The issue was the ERM which Labour wanted to go into too. When Labour go on about Black Weds they fail to mention that fact. The irony is that since being out of the ERM the economy has performed well. History and fate is a strange thing,


Both hurt but White Wednesday was ultimately a good thing. John Major was no relief. It was he who took us into the ERM as chancellor, contrary to Maggie's instincts for a floating currency.

A few people have mentioned the poll tax as a cause of her defeat but it was actually her Euro-realism which was her downfall: re-read Howe's speech which must be floating around somewhere in cyberspace.

Ultimately, both her assassination and our ERM membership were the responsibility of the federasts. Numerically insignificant, their maleficent influence still pervades our party. This running sore will not go away until i) it has become our policy to leave the EU and ii) we leave. Then we can concentrate on more interesting matters.

I wonder what David Sergeant and Mark Fulford had to say about it at the time?

I marched against the poll tax, so I remember my views particularly well. I’m pleased to say that, having also marched against student loans in '88, I was able to avoid the violence by going home before things turned ugly. The last term of Thatcher’s government was a disaster that took my loyalty to its limit.

Definitely getting rid of Maggie was the worst mistake the Tories ever made. Maggie had only been behind in the polls for a few months and after three successive terms and a glowing record she should have been given the opportunity to win again in 1992, which I think she could well have done. Had she continued she may well have pulled us out of the ERM which she had been instinctively against, and avoided the shambles of Black Wednesday. Indeed, if she had lost and it would have been narrowly, kinnock would have presided over Black Wednesday, and the Tories would have been back in '97 with a new thatcherite agenda...ahhh one can dream!!
If it was'nt for the spineless wonders of the tory left - Howe, Clarke, Patten, Heseltine, Gummer, Garrell-Jones, etc then the Tories would probably be in government today. I despair that these pathetic specimens are still given the time of day!
Getting rid of Maggie was a Treason of the highest order and those responsible, and their sucessors must be deposed at every opportunity.

Getting rid of MT was a huge mistake. It was of course the wets who turned on her and finally finished her. They are responsible for our decline and now they run our party! Soon they will be defeated of course.

I do get tired of these myths permeating the media.

"Black Wednesday" was a failure of German economic policy which caused enormous damage to Europe. The Bundesbank refused to revalue the D-Mark inside the ERM which was the only logical policy for Unification.

Because the Germans feared losing export markets they broke the ERM with Britain and Italy dropping out...but first trying to stay in.

The only reason Britain joined the ERM was to get interest rates down - that achieved there was no reason to stay in. Germany had 15 years of disaster because it refused to revalue the D-Mark and made the Euro-Zone stagnate unti Germany could deflate enough to make itself competitive and France and Spain uncompetitive.

The only failure on Black Wednesday was trying to stay in the ERM at all

Both were damaging, however both need to be seen in context. Thatcher was increacingly isolating herself from cabinet and was beginning to see her colleagues as the problem not herself, complaining of dissloyalty, when it was Margaret who was increacingly leaving loyal supporters to hang out to dry for not blindly supporting her. Willies resignation was the final straw really. This on-top of the poll-tax, which was political suicide (87% of the electorate worse off with it). Am I right in thinking good old Oliver championed this piece of policy genius? Bad moments, but MP's have their jobs to protect, and we would have lost to Kinnock without a change - a terrible option to have to take. In the end we got Major, and many good progressive policies, like the settingup f agencies, the internal market in the NHS and (eventually) very good public finances and a reformed city.... but....

Black Wednesday, was, in hindsight of course a terrible move. But don't believe Brown who constantly reminds the electorate of our 'incompetence' on the ERM which led to it. He supported our entry, and went on the record to say so, and also dissmissed Thatchers calls to withdraw as having "harch economic consequences". No the fault for this was not Lamont, but ultimately Major's, who forced it through and then sacked him. I wrote about this on Your Platform in Through the Looking Glass

Both awful moments, but thats life and politics is a rough game with many pitfalls and uncertain futures. What has been so damaging is how divided it made us. We need to find a way to forgive and unite again. Those above calling for blood need to find a way to reconcile with our current direction.

The vanity of Heseltine/otherwise known as the 'ousting of Maggie'.
Politicians survive by luck - and their luck eventually runs out.
If the electorate decided that Thatcher had been in power too long - they would have decided that in 92. The party would have chosen a new leader in opposition - and I believe the 'welsh windbag' would have lasted one term only.
The parliamentary party ran scared - and the result has been 10 years of Labour.
Well Done! The party in the country should never forgive the vanity of one man - Michael Hesletine.

I'm no Thatcherite but ousting maggie definitely was the worse of the two, for the reasons already given. PMs should resign or be defeated by the electorate. Or, alternatively, lose the support of the commons in a minority administration. But they should never be ousted by their own MPs who should, for the sake of their party, put loyalty first and foremost. Its OK to be selfish and put party first sometimes; November 1990 was one of those times.

Black Wednesday.

It has given the conservatives 15-20 years of a an economic PR disaster. It's still used against us.

It also destroyed the perception that Britain changed for the better, eocnomically. No one remembers the brilliance of Thatcher's economic revolution in the 80's mostly due to Black Wednesday.

Maggie's ousting... No one cares. It isn't hurting the party today. Black Wednesday still does!

The Poll Tax was in essence a much fairer way of distributing the costs of local government. As I remember, all those of a certain age and in employment had to pay the Poll Tax. It would have brought to the attention of this younger group, now being taxed, why the local authorities were demanding that the tax be increased and also where and on what the money was being spent on in their name. The Poll Tax was unpopular because it failed to take into consideration that as a flat tax applicable to all in paid employment it failed to take into consideration the ability of the young and low paid to be able to pay. If those earners in residence (apart from the property owner - they would pay the full tax as of now) had been required to make a
much smaller contribution then I believe that would have been just and fair. Maggie may have refined the tax in such a way had she not been removed - who knows? It is still an anomaly that a house full of wage earners still pay the same tax as a retired couple living next door and the single occupant or retired widow on a pension next door on the other side will receive a mere 25% reduction in his/her tax - that's fair, is it?

It was a very sad day when Maggie went due to the machinations of europhiles who are still causing havoc to this day and will probably lose the Tories the next election as the UKIP and BNP take up the slack.
Anyone for Local Council Income Tax and would you like some more tea, Vicar?

Black Wednesday led to Major and the rest of the Europhiles receiving their just deserts, unfortunately along with the rest of the misled Britain.

PS Maggie could not afford to let any section of British industry hold Britain to ransom and that included the miners, many of whom had their lives and good health extended because they no longer worked down the pits

Mark Fulford - I marched against the poll tax, so I remember my views particularly well. I’m pleased to say that, having also marched against student loans in '88

Wel that explains a lot. As it happens I would have opposed both the Poll Tax and Student Loans but I certainly wouldn't have been so disloyal to Margaret Thatcher as to have taken part in some rag-tag red demo against either of them.

And yet you are now one of the people who complains loudest when people criticise Cameron.

Cleo - The 1992-1997 period was when public services came to the fore as key election deciding issues.

I don't believe that they were any more to the fore before 1992 than they were after 1992. Where's your evidence?

If anything, increased affluence and the consensus on increased roles for the private sector probably means that public services are now marginally less important to the public than they were in the past.

The key issue on public services is one of competence, not policy. The policies are now more-or-less identical and once the Tories have promised (truthfully or otherwise) to be more competent than Labour that's the end of the story.

On the EU and immigration there are real differences between the parties. Therefore, those are the 'freedom of choice' issues upon which we should be focusing

Getting rid of Maggie was damaging because (a) so many Conservatives could not see that it was inevitable and (b) the party allowed itself the luxury of electing a leader based on ideology (Major) rather than choosing the best candidate (Heseltine). Up until then, the Tories had been winners and in normal circumstances would have made the pragmatic choice (ie Heseltine in 1990; Clarke in 1997 or 2001).

Black Wednesday was damaging because it destroyed the party's reputation as the best able to manage the economy.

The incessant bad behaviour (scandals and disunity) of the Major years was probably the greatest single factor in destroying Conservative credibility, however.

Ousting Maggie damaged the very core of the Tory party. Black Wednesday destroyed the public perception of it. Ultimately the worst thing that happened to the party was winning the '92 election. Perhaps better for the country that they did, though.

Neither should be expunged, the Conservative Party has nothing to be ashamed about except not sticking up for ourselves with enough strength when the Labour party took over the media in 1995. Maggie made a mistake and declined to admit it with the Poll Tax, and we behaved correctly by seeing her premiership as ended.
Black Wednesday has served this country well ever since, simply by keeping us out of the eurozone and its daft decisions - re the subprime credit crunch. Under severe pressure there was no choice but to try and join the ERM and we behaved correctly all the way through. We all warned that the £ would not fit in and we were proved right - nothing to be ashamed about.

And yet you are now one of the people who complains loudest when people criticise Cameron.

On this thread you seem determined to call me a hypocrite: first by questioning whether I criticised poll-tax at the time; now by saying that I was disloyal yet complain about disloyalty.

If the Editor will indulge me, Traditional Tory, please would you substantiate your point with some examples of me demanding loyalty to Cameron?

Don't forget that Thatcher was behind in the polls pretty much from the end of 1987 onwards. Her personal approval rating was the worst ever recorded. Labour was leading by, in some cases, an eyebrow raising amount. The Labour Party was beginning to pull itself together so it was not the left wing rabble that Thatcher had faced in 83 and 87. She was also heartily disliked by most of the country outside of the South East of England. In other words, despite the rewriters of history on this blog, she would most likely have led us to a pretty terrible defeat in '91 or '92. And to thsoe who speak of the 'coup' as a purely 'Europhile' affair - why why that arch Eurosceptic Sir Peter Tapsell very much a leader of it all?

What I think that the toppling of Thatcher did provide was a sense of grievance on the right of the party that they have never quite been able to shake off. It particularly shocked them that their leader could be treated in exactly the same way in which she had treated her predecessor fifteen years earlier. It also enabled a myth to grow up amongst young, more extreme right wing Tories that Thatcher was deposed in a coup about 'Europe' (it was actually about the poll tax and electability) and the near worship of Thatcher so many years later amongst those who kept non saying that "she never lost" an election.

On the other hand, her removal was fantastic for us in short term electoral terms. The real damage was Black Wednesday. Seeing our reputation for economic competence removed almost overnight as Tory Ministers were prepared to raise the interest rates on people's homes to 17.5% to appease the Bundesbank; and the chaos that reigned in those days in September meant that the Tory Party could never quite recover. It also plunged the parliamentary party into a fairly open state of anarchy and this anarchy (this is where the two stories come together) was stoked and fuelled by the woman who had been deposed in 1990.

Ousting Maggie was definitely the most damaging thing to the Party as it was self-inflicted. Black Wednesday, while bad, wasnt wholly our fault. Its result was greater scepticism to European integration, which is I feel a good thing. We need to be careful when taking risks, a central aspect of conservative philosophy. Ousting Thatcher destroyed the Party and made us look horrible in front of the public. Its taken us so long to get over it. Thatchers shadow has cast a very long way indeed. When speaking to normal people about Thatcher, they dont like the fact she was divisive but they respect the fact that she stood up for what she believed in.

I think that in the end it has to be the ousting of Margaret Thatcher as the main problem for the Conservatives. As quite clearly our policy on the ERM which you could date back since 85 would not have been changed under any other Leader except possibly Tebbit. The one interesting fact would have been what would her direction had been to the signing of the Maastricht treaty had been (in terms of possibly not agreeing with it) and also more MPs in the 87-92 parliment being against the treaty as it actually turned out. In the end Margaret would have beaten Neil in 92 but most likely She would not have done a full term till 97 and with this Tim the next topic should be 95/96 who should replace Margaret Thatcher as leader and Prime Minister, answers on a postcard?

Peter - what polling evidence do you have that Thatcher would have won in 1992 even with the electoral millstone of the poll tax around her neck?

The two episodes are linked and are equally shameful and damaging. Their significance is that they are symptomatic of a deep malaise which had already set in.

Great damage was done --- not just to the Party, but to Britain --- by the stupidity of entering the ERM in the first place and by all the other policies which have tried to drag us closer to Europe. "Black Wednesday" was the well-deserved end result of stupid policies carried out by mediocre people who had failed to assess the risks sufficiently.

Maggie was great but was becoming slightly megalomaniac. When she used the royal "we" in announcing "We are a grandmother" on the steps of Number 10, I felt her time had come to retire gracefully. BUT it was the manner in which she was ousted that will be forever a permanent shameful stain on the history of the Conservative Party. The poisonous treachery of Heseltine was like the bursting of an abscess and the spiteful disloyalty of "dead sheep" Howe's resignation speech brought satisfaction to all those who hated us.

There was much that was wrong with our Party which manifested itself particularly in the despicable way the Westminster cliques deposed Maggie. This was also an affront to democracy. Thank goodness we have moved on slightly from there! One member, one vote should always remain with us. Grass-roots members --- the true Conservatives --- have little time or sympathy for the intrigues of the Westminster hothouse. We want to concentrate on stopping the rot by which liberal/socialist thinking has been destroying Britain for at least the last thirty years.


Simon Newman, I would say joining the EEC, EU has been a disaster for the country, but a specific issue for the Conservative party for me was the ERM, for it was this ill thought out policy which led to Black Wednesday, and destroyed Conservative claims of being competent managers of the economy. For though people will say Black Wednesday was the problem, Black Wednesday was just the cause and effect of joining the ERM. The consequences of joining the ERM was always going to be Black Wednesday.

Simple Disraeil(or whoever you are), Kinnock would have lost to Donald Duck in 92.

"On the issue of the EU there are real differences between the parties". Yup - UKIP want out, Lib-Lab-Con want in. Nuff said.

For those who think it was a Europhile conspiracy to depose Thatcher, a quick quiz...

Where did these words appear?

1. The creation of the European Community has been vital in cementing lasting peace in Europe and ending centuries of hostility.

2. The European Community is the world's largest trading group. It is by far our most important export market. Withdrawal would be a catastrophe for this country. As many as two million jobs would be at risk. We would lose the great export advantages and the attraction to overseas investors which membership now gives us. It would be a fateful step towards isolation, at which only the Soviet Union and her allies would rejoice.

"We need to be careful when taking risks, a central aspect of conservative philosophy. James Maskell.

Quite right, skepticism of change is something we seem to have drifted from in recent times, with the exception of Europe, but many forget that this is a cental theme in our philosophy. A good example is the NHS. A radical might say, it's a mess, rip it dowm go fully private and give out medicare to the poor. In my view, this is too big a change to make (and the measure is from today, not 1948). It's just too complex to predict where that move will go, better to reform what we have to make it work better and then see. A radical might say "the tax system is rubbish, go to a 20% flat-rate now", I would say, nobody can accurately predict how this will pan out, it could lead to riots in the street and economic collapse, or it may be great. Nobody can really tell. Therefore lets share the proceeds of growth or cut taxes as small reforms to improve the efficiency of public services pay-off, and work like that.

Look, the electoreate are instinctively with us on this, they don't gamble with their future or that of their kids. A bird in the hand and all that. This is why they hated Old Labour, and they put up with New Labour, because Brown finally understod this after, yes, Michael Howard and Brown sat together on a train, and Michael exlained why radical is a non-starter. But but but, you say, Thatcher was radical. Yes she was, and we had just seen the winter of discontent and recession was rife, and radical was necessary, change was shouting at everyone from every bell tower. This is 2007 and we have not been in recession for a long time, every day people are better off.

The people of Britain are natural conservatives. Now why can't we win? The answer to that question are all over this site, and in the corridors of conference, and in every association across the country. We have forgotten our own philosophy.

Interestingly, according to Fraser Nelson the political columnist, most Thatcherites believe that it would have been best had John Major lost the 1992 general election. Neil Kinnock would have then messed things up, presided over Black Wednesday (Labour foolishly supported the ERM as well) and the Tories would have been back into office at the next election.
Had Thatcher got her way Britain would never have joined the ERM in the first place and the recession from 1990-92 wouldn't have been so severe, interest rates would have been lower and she may even have been able to withstand electorally the community charge. The Tories' long term problems started with Nigel Lawson shadowing the DM and then Britain joining the ERM under Major's chancellorship both of which Thatcher opposed. I don't think we would have had Black Wednesday under Thatcher. Had Thatcher stayed on after November 1990 I think she would have sacked John Major as Chancellor and replaced him with a loyalist such as Cecil Parkinson would have pulled Britain out of the ERM and cut interest rates so the Tories may have go on to win the 1992 election under her notwithstanding the poll tax.
So I think getting rid of Maggie was worse than Black Wednesday as the latter may never have happened if the former had never taken place.
Unlike many Tories Thatcher was sensitive to the problems caused to people by the recession of 1990-92. As she remarked, 'The Tory people let down it's own people'. Heseltine, Major, Lamont, Clarke didn't give a hoot to the suffering it was causing homeowners and businesses.
It's fascinating delving into alternate realities. What would have happened if JFK had never been shot, if James Callaghan had called a general election in the Autumn of 1978 etc?
I think getting rid of Maggie was a disastrous mistake which the Tories have never fully recovered from.

Clearly it was black wednesday. Ousting Maggie was a popular move, people forget how hated she was by 1990. If we had stayed with her, then defeat in 1992 would have been certain. One could argue that had we lost in 1992 then we would be back in power today and much healthier for it, but people always seem to care about the pounds in their pocket rather than any political leaders, and for just cause too!

Sorry Effie, you're entitled to your views of course but in my book and that of most Conservatives Margaret Thatcher rescued the Conservative Party from irrelevance under Heath and propelled it to power. Once in power she brought Britain into the Modern world.

I know you will not change your views but consider this.

Who is most at fault for the traumatic changes in the mining industry, the woman who finally grasped the nettle of an uneconomic industry propped up by subsidy at the expense of the taxtpayers or the succeession of gutless leaders, tory and labour who allowed the mining communities to continue as single industry basket cases on subsidy, making the eventual cure so much worse for the people who lived there??

It's the likes of Foot, Wilson, Atlee and MacMillan who should have the benefit of your bitterness, not Margaret Thatcher


Thatcher losing to Kinnock in 1992

Never would have happened in a million years


Who is to say Thatcher would have lost or won in 1992? What if neither had occurred?

Let me explain. Thatcher wasn't popular, but Kinnock was viewed as a bit of a nutter - short-tempered, chippy and dangerous. Thatcher may have viewed as "mad", but most English swing voters people preferred her to the emotional/unbalanced Kinnock, who they feared might have undone 10 years of reform.

Given how Thatcher/Conservatives always bounced back to a degree before the 83/87 elections, 1992 would have most likely resulted in a "well-hung" parliament with a boost to 3rd party vote.

Say; Con - 36%, Lab - 35%, Lib Dem - 22% - you would then have had a nightmare scenario of Thatcher leading in votes, but Labour having the largest number of seats in a hung parliament, with a buoyant Lib Dem party.

There would probably have been recriminations all round and a lot of bitterness. Maybe another General Election 18/24 months later fought under a new leader.

Either way, I don't think there was any avoiding the internal Tory party splits/factionalism of the late 80s/90s. Too much of a chasm had opened over the previous 15 years.

We might have won in 1994/1997, but we'd still have been leading a divided party.

The worst thing of all was the 'back to basics' campaign .... banging on about sexual morality is no business of the goverment anyway, but all the worse when it opens the floodgates in the way it did. Mention being a Tory and people still ask if I've got an orange up my bottom ! Freedom of the individual was Maggies magic, pitted against the subjection of the individual to labours communitarianism.

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