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The comparison with Thatcher is dodgy. She was clearly going to be a bold leader with clear ideas to rescue the economy. She was tortoise-like on things like the miners and schools but her big picture was of hare-like monetarist measures long advocated by her guru Keith Joseph.

Talking of modernisers, there's trouble for Gordon Brown, with the "modernisers" in the Labour Party (Purnell, Milburn, Jowell, etc) throwing down the gauntlet to the Great Helmsman (snigger) in today's Guardian.

As the debt-ridden UK economy and the public account deficit both continue to deteriorate I think we will see some direct challenges to Brown's authority from within Labour.

Cameron and Osborne need to get their facts and figures on Brown's mishandling of the economy ready to throw at him at every opportunity. The spurious figures on growth, inflation etc he trots off regularly must be challenged.

He may not survive to the next election depending upon just how bad the economic problems become and it looks like 2008 and 2009 are going to be bad globally, but particularly for debtor nations like the UK.

There is a difference between gradual reform, being a moderniser and giving in to the prevailing nostrums of the day.

It's perhaps worth pointing out what Thatcher didn't do. She didn't reform education or the NHS. She didn't leave the military on a sound organisational or cultural footing. She ignored Scotland, with the results we see today. She neglected party matters, with the result that the party was chronically unable to cope with opposition after 1997. She was, let's say ungenerous, about German reunification, one of the happiest things that has happened in Europe since WW2. Her succession planning was appalling.

The fact is that there are great big gaps in Thatcher's legacy.

All of which said, though, the great thing about Thatcher was this: you might argue with the pace but you always knew the direction.

Very well put, Alex Swanson.

Strictly speaking isnt the debate a bit beside the point? In politics you need to be both. To be able to adjust to current events and surge forward when the opposition are weak, and to bide your time and move gradually when the opposition is stronger? You need to be a tactician and a strategist to really acheive.

Hopefully David Cameron will not follow Margaret Thatcher in being dazzled by academic economic advisors. Such academics apply their orthodox economic theories to the real world and replace common sense with obtuse abstractions. Much better that David Cameron look to captains of industry to offer advice on economic policy, the men and women who have hand-on experience of dealing with the real economy. Orthodox economists only see statistics, they don't see people. They are fine for supplying stats and economic models, but when it comes to the real world they are about as much use as second hand toilet paper. Margaret Thatcher would have done far better if she had listened to the advice of experienced collegues rather than putting faith Alan Walters for example.

By the way Mr Walters, wasn't the Euro meant to have been scrapped by now?

# its perhaps worth pointing out what Thatcher didn't do"

Alex, give her some credit ! In between reviving the Sick Man Of Europe, repealing trade union law, facing down the Soviet Union, building a genuine transatlantic alliance, recapturing the Falklands, reforming public services, breaking the back of inflation, cutting income tax and corporation tax....etc etc ...we also had 15-25 Scots MPs during the Thatcher era, major Education Acts, and the health service would have been reformed had the cowards not forced her out. She had just sent Ken Clarke to the D of H with that brief. As for her succession planning, the overall quality of her Cabinets were on a different intellectual level to what is on offer today, she should never have fallen out with Tebbit who would have been the ideal replacement, and she was duped like the rest of us by the useless John Major. Your comment about her German views are particularly bizarre given what has happened within the EU since she left office in 1990. As Nicholas Ridley correctly pointed out at the time, the EU is just a German racket to take over Europe.

"As Nicholas Ridley correctly pointed out at the time, the EU is just a German racket to take over Europe."

Such mindless, obscene bigotry is the sort of venom that will halt the Tories from forming the nexkt government. Germany has more MEPs than any others due to having a larger population - want to change that, have a *lot* of sex. They have exactly the same influence on Commission, Council, etc.

This Dave agrees 100% with the other Dave at 10.18:

"Cameron and Osborne need to get their facts and figures on Brown's mishandling of the economy ready to throw at him at every opportunity. The spurious figures on growth, inflation etc he trots off regularly must be challenged".

I really do think that ConHome should support this stance with all our effort to make a positive contribution to getting rid of this dithering incompetent (Brown not Dave!).

Boris made a very telling contribution after PMQs the other day. He stated that the PM "had deliberately misled the House" and demanded that he return to correct his misleading assertion.

DC has got to ad lib a bit and swat down Brown's misleading assertions immediately after they have been made - before asking his next question - as the 10.18 Dave suggests.

I largely agree with you James (1059). There are times to be more cautious and times to bolder. Some portfolios need to be handled more carefully, some more radically. But I think the debate overall matters. At the moment my own view is that we are too cautious and hope after May's elections - when we can assess the extent of Labour's vulnerability - we can decide how radical our messaging needs to be.

"DC has got to ad lib a bit and swat down Brown's misleading assertions immediately after they have been made"

David Belchamber, dead right! When Gordon Brown makes a claim about full employment David Cameron should be in Brown's face reminding him of the 1.6 million on JSA and that youth unemployment is up 20% under Labour. I'm sick of Labour getting away with these lies week in, week out. I know David Cameron has to stay on-topic during PMQs but its too high profile and opportunity not to refute Labour lies. Particularly over unemployment which ties in with questions of economic competence. We have the official Labour website claiming we have 'full employment' and the Conservative party doesn't do anything to refute it. If Joe Public thinks we have full employment he is hardly likely to shift his vote from Labour to Conservative.

London Tory, I lived in Scotland for most of the Thatcher era. I was a Conservative Party activist myself, but even to me, it felt like an occupied colony being run from afar by people who cared nothing for it. So far as I am aware, Thatcher never visited even once. Yes, there were Scottish Conservative MPs, but they were there as a legacy from the past, and those who were re-elected were so despite her. The present wasteland is a direct result of that era.

There may have been Education Acts, but they clearly didn't achieve anything. And to say she would have reformed the NHS is beside the point. She had ten years and didn't.

The Falklands would not have had to be fought if her govt had not given Argentina the wrong idea about whether occupation would be resisted. And don't even get me started about the military during the Cold War. Let's just say that in that respect my firm conviction is that Thatcher's reputation is pure legend and spin.

I'm not saying that some things weren't achieved - they were. But a lot else that could and should have been done, often quite easily, wasn't.

London Tory, Mrs.Thatcher is still to the fore because she was the greatest Post War PM. Period. Yes Cameron will be the next PM but we must not neglect our core beliefs.

The Polish PM got hammered in Europe for refering to the millions of Poles killed by Germans in WW2.He has a valid point. The re-unification has led to a Franco-German domination of Europe. Fact. It may not be PC to say it but we fought the Germans to defend democracy which allows us to have opinions.

Watch this space, the referendum in the Republic to vote NO to the new constitution. Nice spanner in the works and we need to say to Comrade Brown -let the UK vote.

Certainly a moderniser... a good example of which is this speech on climate change:

"The success of industry, commerce and agriculture has given us a standard of living undreamed of a generation or two ago. But we are only now beginning to understand some of the long term problems[fo 32] this can bring. The future of the community demands that business does not try to prosper at the expense of the environment.

That means that the chemicals and other materials we use must be disposed of in a way that safeguards the environment. It also means we must heed the dangers posed by the greenhouse effect.[fo 33] The fact that half the carbon dioxide generated by the industrial revolution is still in the atmosphere gives some idea of the size of the problem. And we're still adding three billion tonnes a year. To ignore this could expose us to climatic change whose dimension and effects are unpredictable. So energy efficiency is crucial.[fo 34]

We, who have inherited so much, must hand on a safe, secure future to our children and to their children; to all who come after us. As I said earlier this year: "No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy—with a full repairing lease."[fo 35]

And let's not forget that small things matter and can make all the difference to the local community. Like the external appearance of our factories and offices. And keeping the front of our shops clear of litter. Business can set an example here too.[fo 36]": http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=107413

Mrs Thatcher understood that climate change was an issue way before most others.

"we fought the Germans to defend democracy"

Derek Reid, but this clearly didn't extend to declaring war on the Soviets when they invaded Poland seventeen days after Germany did. Then at the end of the war, Poland, the land whose freedom our forefathers supposedly fought for, was handed over to our friend, uncle Koe Stalin, the very man who ordered the invasion of Poland. As they say in Germany...Verbrechen macht sich nicht bezahlt, soweit der Kontext nicht verlangt!

I must say that I don't like the anti-German attitude of many Conservatives.


You are a bit unkind to professional economists and overkind to "captains of industry". A lot of economists and a lot of captains of industry supported the ERM which was a predictable disaster. From my experience a small businessman has a much sharper sense of what the economy needs and what is good for the country than big industry types. I also think Sir Alan Walters had a much better idea of what the economy needed than you suggest. Lawson lost control. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon. We are all now suffering from a massive monetary expansion under New Labour.


What do you mean by "anti-German attitude"?

FWIW, I am extremely irritated by Germany's inability to deploy its forces more properly and widely in assistance of its NATO allies.

Margaret Thatcher is without doubt one of the five greatest Prime Ministers in British history. In terms of historical achievement, setting the agenda, and changing the entire political climate, only Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Churchill and Atlee are in her league. 18 years after her departure, the entire political debate in this country is still framed around her. Both main party leaders queue to be photographed with her, and clamour to be associated with her. The Tory Party tore itself apart for ten years over her, and the Labour Party changed beyond recognition because of her. Tony Blair imitated her (badly), Sarkozy and Merkel model themselves on her. McCain, Obama and Clinton are talking about her in the US Election race.

I quote just one of her many political scalps, Tony Benn.

"Mrs Thatcher was more than just a leader. She was a teacher."

Bill, I'm just hoping that David Cameron will listen to Industry and perhaps even set up a think-tank comprised of top businessmen to come up with suggestions etc. On the subject of inflation, there are many factors that drive it, from monetary expansion, to currency differentials pushing up the price of imports, to cost-push pressures like having to write the cost of interest or increased wages onto final goods and services. The only way to deal with inflation is to undertake the correct measures needed at the time. We can protect ourselves from imported inflation through producing more for our domestic market. The way I see it, the more we are dependent on the global economy the more elusive will be price stability. On the matter of Germany, well I find there is a lot of negative sentiment towards the Germans, which is sad because I've met a lot of Germans down the years and they are a very fine people. I agree that all members of NATO should play their part, however troop deployment is a sticky issue in Germany with many.


Surely we've had enough of think tanks and top businessmen undr New Labour for Pete's sake.

As for the Germans, characterising a people is always potentially invidious. I travelled and have lived in Germany. I can think of places I'd rather be and rather not be. But why according is it that "troop deployment is a sticky issue in Germany with many"? Are you saying Germany's past is still a legitmate factor in shaping policies and attitudes today?

Bill, on the subject of Germany and troop deployment, I think certain people use Germany's past as a way of having to avoid certain commitments. On the subject of think-tanks, well I wouldn't copy the Labour model. I was thinking more of a corporate state style body giving real hands-on advice. What we particularly need is someone with a crack knowledge of forex, something that I think is very little understood by politicians. In an economy dependent on imports like ours we need to understand the role that currency fluctuations play in importing inflation. There is a real danger now that with Sterling weakening and rate cuts needed to revive the economy the differential between the pound and the Euro will widen significantly and that will push up the price of food, in turn creating a demand for higher wages. This shows the danger of being too reliant on imports. Its no coincidence that we have suffered inflation regularly since the pound was floated and since we've opened up or market to EU foodstuffs.


Germany should pull its finger out. The US and
GB stood by its side during the Cold War. It's not just Germnay though.

For far too long the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia and perhaps a few other countries have done the lion's share of the work of protecting the free world whilst others have sat on the sidelines whilst reaping the benefits of world order.

Bill, with the increased co-operation with the CDU perhaps this is a subject that can be raised by Liam Fox. I go into a lot of German political forums and like to read what they are thinking and many consider NATO to be nothing more than a tool of US foreign policy. I get the feeling that there is a lot of left-wing sentiment growing in Germany and this is manifest in anti-American sentiment. Do you remember the German magazine covers that were on ConHome last year? America is seen in Germany as being hegemonistic and using democracy as a concept to cover for imperialism. Interesting to see the rise of the new fangled 'Linke' party in the recent elections. We shouldn't be surprised though, Germany has always had a very strong left-wing current right through its modern history, its always been bubbling under the surface.


It's nothing new. There was loads of left wing anti-US sentiment in Germany thirty odd years ago. There was loads of opposition to Pershing in the 80s. At the time one was tempted to say to them: go and live in East Germany if you don't like paying the for the cost of freedom.

When Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister I understood what Conservatism was. Now I'm just confused!

The Sale of Council Houses an Achievement? It did benefit all those lucky enough to buy them on a Council Loan for a minimal outlay of a couple or so thousand pounds. I have always opposed the sale of such Social Housing on the basis that it seemed a cynical way of buying Votes. Where I live these houses now sell for circa £200,000 each, however it leaves those in the Community unable to purchase property in that price range out in the cold. That Policy caused the fragmentation of Housing Estates in a manner that has prevented the proper redevelopment of the same, and has caused local Community Charge and other Tax Payers to make financial provision yet again for those in need. This is done through Housing Associations and the provision of Hotel and other privately rented Accommodation.

This Policy went hand in hand with the enfranchisement of Leaseholds. Freeholders were required to sell their freeholds to tenants for very little. Again this policy was a way of not only buying votes, but getting the Government 'Off the Hook' for of a sudden it realised that a tidal wave of such tenancies was about to come to fruition, and be the cause of an almighty Rumpus.

That Government Policy was nothing short of legitimised Theft.

Those enforced Vendors who had invested their savings in the Freeholds of such rented Housing did so in the knowledge that although rents were low due to Rent Controls (and the effect on the Market of Security of Tenure Legislation) There was to be a Capital Gain to compensate at some specific date.

As for the Unions,what happened to all that oil money?

What a Mess was made of our Railways, and come to that all those other Public Services sold off.

The Financial Mess that the Western World seems now to be in, is the Baby of the 'Me Now' Thatcherite Culture, where so ever it occurred.

Certainly Mrs Thatcher as she then was,provided Leadership what a shame that posterity has to clear up the mess 'Thatcherism' has left in its wake.

The sole consolation for those of us who spoke out against Mrs Thatcher's Poicies at the time, is that we were right,but like everyone else we have had to suffer under the two more recent Regimes.

re: Mr Swanson:

"Her [Lady Thatcher's] succession planning was appalling."

She never planned to be succeeded at the time of her overthrow. I have read questionnaire responses at the local offices from people who still, even now, say they won't vote for the Tories because of assasination of Mrs Thatcher. As you write, Mrs Thatcher left a lot unachieved. I don't really see how you can complain about that if you think she should have curtailed her term in office in 1989 - she achieved a lot in the time she had.

Otherwise - as a unionist with a Scottish father and two Scottish grandparents, I must unfortunately agree with you strongly on Mrs Thatcher and Scotland. It will take a long time yet before the Tories seriously recover in Scotland (one must have faith that we'll get there in the end).

re: Mr Ridley and the po-faced John Smith:

"the EU is just a German racket to take over Europe"

Just a German racket? Don't forget the French!

(their population is not, incidentally, a happy accident for an in-any-case europhile Germany - the clout that their population gives them surely makes them more pro-EU - would they pool sovereignty with China, conceding many votes to China on the grounds that it has a larger population? Mr Smith's argument is a bit circular).

Yes, she was a moderniser, and yes she took things one step at a time. But she also had clearly stated ambitions. To cut income taxes, for example, in the 1979 manifesto and in The Right Approach, the opposition's pre-election statement of policy.

Sadly, the public school duo are still trying to spin the party that what they are proposing is the same approach, updated to reflect today's circumstances. They are not. They are proposing to raise taxes to pay for any tax cuts. They have no plans to reform the nation's failing public services: education, health and transport. This is not the approach Mrs. Thatcher took in opposition. It is more a reversion to the approach of those who came before her.

"She was, let's say ungenerous, about German reunification, one of the happiest things that has happened in Europe since WW2."

I didn't realise that it was the job of the british government to fund badly thought out ideas.

Didn't german reunification cause black wednesday?

Margaret Thatcher a tortoise? I think she'd agree.

"I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end."

Votedave, one think about Margaret Thatcher is that she is respected across the political spectrum. Most of my family are socialists but all of them say that Margaret Thatcher was a principled politician, although of course they don't agree with her perspective one bit. Still, being respected is a pretty good legacy.

CCHQ Spy (10.05) mentioned Margaret Thatcher's geru Keith Joseph.

Mrs Thatcher had three gerus: Keith Joseph, Lord Harris and Enoch Powell.

It may be hard for Dave Cameron to accept, but these three were the thinkers behind Thatcherism. Mrs Thatcher had the courage to put it into action.

I don't agree with David Cameron on everything, but his Telegraph article linked above is excellent – crediting Mrs T for her great achievements, e.g. saving Britain from economic decline, but also directing our attention to today’s major problem: social breakdown.

While we still have major economic challenges due to a "decade of debt" and GB's failure to prepare the economy for harder times, our main challenge now is our broken society resulting from “years of failed state planning and denial of social responsibility”, and evidenced by crime, falling school standards, the worst rate of family breakdown in Europe… David Cameron seems to have an understanding of the problems we face and knows what he wants to do to about them - and a sense of when to be a hare and when to be a tortoise? As it was the Conservatives who had solutions to economic decline in Mrs T’s time, maybe it will be us who’ll have answers for today's challenge too - social breakdown.

There may have been many things that Maggie was unpopular for but worldwide she was the best thing that ever happenned to the UK.
From Harold Wilson having to go begging to the World Bank like a third rate country she put the GREAT back into Great Britain.
Unfortunately Gordon Brown's policies are on course to go back to the days of Wilson.

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