Tag Archives: margaret thatcher

35 years since Thatcher: A trip down Memory Lane

THE IRON LADY, MARGARET THATCHEROn 4 May 1979, Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street for the first time. The sun that shone down on her on the steps cast a decade long shadow. The culture of selfishness, instilling a belief that there was something wrong with paying taxes for good public services, pervades today. In recent years, only the Liberal Democrats of the major parties have gone into an election advocating a rise in Income Tax, albeit a tiny one, to invest in education.

We seem to be embroiled in this cycle of underfunding our services, complaining about them and then underfunding them some more.

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Paddy Ashdown warned Thatcher about CIA’s activities

Paddy AshdownEach New Year brings the unveiling of Government files from 30 years ago. This year’s revelations include some highly topical references to CIA approaches to British citizens.

In 1984 Margaret Thatcher ruled. Paddy Ashdown was one of 23  SDP/Liberal Alliance MPs – he did not become Leader of the Liberal Democrats until the merger of the Social Democrat and the Liberal parties in 1988. Before he entered Parliament he had been an MI6 officer, so he was well placed to observe the CIA’s activities.

According to today’s Guardian, this is what …

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Careful, Boris. Remember what happened to the last top Tory to liken the Lib Dems to a bird?

“The sooner we are shot of the great yellow albatross, in my view, the better.” So said Boris Johnson yesterday, taking a pop at both Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.

But, as a classics scholar, Boris should beware a little thing called hubris. At the 1990 Tory Party conference, Mrs Thatcher poked fun at the Lib Dems’ new logo, the bird of freedom, by performing the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” sketch:

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John Major: Class warrior

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major is back in the news today condemning the stranglehold on power and influence enjoyed by the elite:

In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class. To me from my background, I find that truly shocking.

This follows his unexpected intervention in the energy debate calling for a windfall tax on energy companies. In both cases Major seems to be taking on the role of Cameron’s One Nation conscience, speaking up for people in modest …

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Margaret: Myth of a Revolutionary

I never thought I would recommend a film from Martin Durkin, famous for climate change denialist hysteria on Channel 4. But in Margaret: Death of a Revolutionary (until 13th May) he pays tribute to the woman who did possibly more than anyone else to make climate change a globally recognised issue, leading to the formation of the IPCC. But no tribute for doing that in particular, obviously.

There is much that is wrong, and more that is missing (the poll tax!) and in the telling of Thatchers victory over and then defeat at the hands of the upper class …

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How Thatcherite are you?

margaret-thatcher“We are all Thatcherites now,” declared David Cameron on the morning of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. Not so, said Nick Clegg:

“He’s the leader of the Conservative Party he’s perfectly entitled to say that. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a Thatcherite. I’m a Liberal, she wasn’t a Liberal. I’ve always called myself a Liberal, I always will.”

Do you think you’re a Thatcherite? Well, the Daily Telegraph has devised a test to help you find out: you’re 10 questions away from finding out on how much you and The Lady (dis)agreed.

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Thatcher museum to be housed in former Liberal Democrat HQ?

Way back in 1981, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, the SDP was formed and took up residence at 4 Cowley Street, just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament. That building became the home of the Liberal Democrats after the 1988 merger between the Liberals and Social Democrats.

Today’s Times carries a report which suggests that our former headquarters could house the proposed museum to Margaret Thatcher. However, if you read the article in full, it amounts to little more than a bit of gentle stirring by Conor Burns, the Conservative MP who is a strong proponent of the …

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Ding Dong & Mrs T. It’s simple: don’t buy it and don’t ban it

ding dong ozAs journalists look to extend the reason to continue writing about Margaret Thatcher’s death, three quick points from me on the entirely bogus furore over whether the BBC should play Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead on Radio One…

1) Don’t buy the record
At least not in protest against Margaret Thatcher (if you just like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ please ignore). It doesn’t matter to me that it boosts Sony’s profits — though the anti-corporatist left might — but, seriously, is calling the first female prime minister a …

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Thatcher, Blair and the Road to Serfdom

Among yesterday’s many predictable tributes to Margaret Thatcher on both sides of the house, one from Labour MP Gisela Stuart caught my ear. (Hansard)

Whole generations have forgotten what 1979 was like. I came here from Germany in the 1970s. I know that Margaret Thatcher would not want us not to learn any lessons from the battles that she had fought—some lost, some won, and some which continue. I am thinking in particular of the role of the market. It is interesting that Margaret Thatcher considered that Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom” should be compulsory reading. Many Government

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4 graphs on Thatcher’s legacy: a richer but more unequal nation.

A generation on, the Thatcher legacy continues to provoke and divide. One of the questions it poses for liberals is one this government is still wrestling with: does inequality matter if everyone’s getting richer?

Margaret Thatcher’s answer was that it did not — as she famously illustrated in one of her last Commons performances in response to a question from Simon Hughes:

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Paddy Ashdown pays tribute to Margaret Thatcher (and shows Nick how it’s done)

MPs in the Commons and peers in the Lords have been queuing up this afternoon to record their tributes to Margaret Thatcher, including both Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown.

To read both their tributes, please scroll down the page.

Nick’s come in for some stick on Twitter, mostly from right-wing MPs/journalists, for instance Mark Reckless and Sarah Wollaston; even the usually fair-minded Isabel Hardman of The Spectator called it “sour”. I’ve both read and watched Nick’s remarks and don’t buy that criticism at all.

But two things do strike me. First, it’s a very perfunctory speech. The only two personal comments he makes are a nod to his Sheffield constituency (“where the mere mention of her name even now elicits strong reactions”) and a rather glib aside about her infamous “there’s no such thing as society” quote (I say glib because there’s a lot more to the quote than that: disagree with it by all means, but recognise there was a context to it).

Secondly, and more disappointingly, it tells us nothing about Nick and his views on Margaret Thatcher. Yes, of course the tribute is about her, not him; but surely everyone who grew up in the 1980s has a view on what she got right and what she got wrong? What’s Nick’s? Instead, he squirms round it equivocally: she “elicits” strong views… “whether people liked or disliked her”“remember her with all the nuance, unresolved complexity and paradox that she possessed.” There is a studied, deliberate vagueness here. I want to know what Nick thought then; and what he really thinks now. I think the closest we probably get to that is his observation that “much of her politics was subtle and pragmatic”: that’s the aspect I suspect Nick admires.

That’s why those Clegg-critics who sniped at Nick’s tribute surprise me: there’s far too little of him in his speech, not too much.

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Mrs Thatcher’s impact: how the public sees it now, how LDV readers saw it in 2008

The Guardian is the first off the blocks with an ICM poll asking the public’s retrospective verdict on Margaret Thatcher’s record in office. Here’s the topline figure of whether her 11-year premiership had been good or bad for Britain:

guardian icm thatcher

The paper also asked about specific policies, finding:

The sale of council homes and tackling of trade union power remain popular today, but people are less supportive of the fights she picked with Europe and tax cuts for the rich. Privatisation of the utilities and the poll tax remain deeply unpopular.

You can …

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Opinion: Dr Strangelove: or how I got utterly fed up with the Left

Yesterday Margaret Thatcher died.

Predictably social media exploded with chatter about the passing of an epoch-defining politician. Perhaps it says something about the kind of people I associate with, that I found myself reading one comment after  another proclaiming “Ding dong the witch is dead”. Some of my Facebook ‘friends’ have even posted grinning photographs of themselves celebrating the happy event.

Whatever it says about my social circle, it says plenty about the Left.

I grew up in a left-wing household. My parents were of the CND generation, Labour party members who supported the miners’ strikes. I had only just started school when …

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Margaret Thatcher’s death – what Lib Dems bloggers have been saying

However expected it might have been, the reality of Margaret Thatcher’s death triggered many of us to reflect yesterday. She shaped the country and, by doing so, she shaped all of us. That’s reflected in the number of Lib Dem bloggers who responded to her passing yesterday…

RIP Margaret Thatcher… and now for the pointless vitriol… (Mark Valladares)

… it’s been many years since she was Prime Minister, and a lot of the actions taken by her Government have stood the test of time. You might not like them much, especially if you were on the wrong end of them, but

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Liberal Democrats pay tribute to Lady Thatcher

Several senior Liberal Democrats have already shared their thoughts on the passing of Lady Thatcher. We’ll collate further comments on this page as they come in.

Nick Clegg, currently on a visit to Cornwall, had this to say:

Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics. Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no one can deny that as prime minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served. She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in

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RIP Margaret Thatcher

margaret-thatcherThe BBC and other outlets are reporting that Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke. She was Britain’s first and only female Prime Minister and one who changed the political landscape. While we in the Liberal Democrats often have disagreed with her, there is much to reflect on in her lasting legacy.

Our thoughts are with Lady Thatcher’s friends and family at this time. Comments are open below for tributes only, please.

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Margaret Thatcher, the 1983 election and the ‘bedroom tax’

margaret-thatcherLike Caron, I spent more than a healthy amount of my Bank Holiday Monday watching BBC Parliament’s re-run of the 1983 general election.

It’s not an election I remember (I was 6). But the symmetry of yesterday’s hyperbolic Guardian (‘The day Britain changed’) front page and the televised reminder of Margaret Thatcher’s first landslide seemed calculated to confirm the left’s view that 1st April 2013 marked the ultimate victory of those on the right who wanted (and still want) to destruct the welfare state.

What Mrs T, Geoffrey Howe …

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Half a defence of John O’Farrell’s comments on Margaret Thatcher

OFarrell-things betterI wonder if Labour HQ wish they’d read John O’Farrell’s 1998 book, Things Can Only Get Better, a little more carefully before he was selected to fight the Eastleigh by-election?

First there was his call for Labour voters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems to beat the Tories, as uncovered by Mark Pack here: Should Labour supporters vote tactically to beat the Tories? “Go for it” said John O’Farrell. (Incidentally, the Telegraph then ran the story here without any credit.)

And then yesterday, the Mail ran with …

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Proof that not *all* Tories are bonkers on Europe (and nor was Mrs Thatcher)

margaret thatcher europeAmidst all the Tory Euro-hysteria (‘Eurotic’, I’ve heard it described as: and I seriously hope I didn’t mis-hear) it’s easy to forget there are a few Tories, a diminishing if stoic band, who have kept tight hold of their senses.

And though it was David Cameron’s desperate last-ditch pitch for the job of Tory leader — his 2005 promise to his party’s Europhobes to withdraw the Tories from the mainstream centre-right EPP alliance, a policy even David Davis wouldn’t touch — which has, slowly but inevitably, dragged the party ever more fringewards, a few of his backbenchers remain hopeful they can persuade him, even now, to do the sensible thing.

Here’s some of what they’ve written to him:

We acknowledge the EU’s shortcomings and understand the desire and, under the Lisbon Treaty the possibility, to repatriate powers. However, we do our nation, as well as Europe, a disservice by not confidently exerting the same level of engagement and leadership as we demonstrate in organisations such as NATO, the G8, the UN Security Council or the Commonwealth.

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Opinion: Liberals must learn the lessons of Thatcher

It is a truth often acknowledged that Tony Blair and David Cameron, in moving their respective parties to the centre ground, left a gruelling obstacle on the road to a truly Liberal Britain.
But it’s not from those leaders that the next generation of Liberal Democrat’s must learn, rather it is from a leader who would regard liberalism as a dirty word, and many Liberal outcomes as inimical to her view of society, Margaret Thatcher.

The lesson for Lib Dems is that Thatcher understood that the less well off are just as aspirational as those born to wealth. The Tory method …

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David Cameron’s ‘a little and often’ leadership doesn’t suit him and isn’t Prime Ministerial

The Telegraph’s James Kirkup, one of that paper’s few fair-minded political commentators, has written a thought-provoking article, A devil’s advocate defence of David Cameron and No 10. His case for the defence is first, that we (public, media) shouldn’t assume the role of Prime Minister has always to follow the command/control style of Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair:

Implicit – and sometimes explicit – in the various critiques of the Cameron style and No 10 outfit is the idea that a Prime

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Thatcher papers show 25 Tory MPs considered joining early SDP

A number of things hit the headlines this morning as the Margaret Thatcher Foundation reveals papers from 1981.

The early morning BBC radio headlines focussed on a meeting between Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch around the time News International acquired:

Margaret Thatcher had a secret meeting with Rupert Murdoch at Chequers weeks before his 1981 purchase of the Times newspapers, newly released files show.

A note by her press secretary Bernard Ingham says the prime minister thanked Mr Murdoch for “keeping her posted”.

But the contentious issue of whether to refer the bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission was not raised.

But as …

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Opinion: Never mind ‘disrespect’, “Iron Lady” is just not a very good film

The film “Iron Lady” starring Meryl Streep has attracted a fair amount of Tory ire. Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East said in the House of Commons:

This week I attended the screening of The Iron Lady and was disturbed by the way in which the film portrayed its subject. Can we therefore have a debate on respect, good manners and good taste, as I found the film—although brilliantly acted—to be disrespectful to a Member of this Parliament?

While I once met Mrs Thatcher, and Denis, it will come as no surprise that, as someone who got involved in politics as …

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Andrew George writes… A veil of initiatives

The Iron Lady cast a steely shadow over the Westminster village last week.

Memories of Baroness Thatcher’s reign of heavy metal terror still strike fear in those who inhabited the place in the days when she would mercilessly handbag anyone who dared to cross her path.

Last week, of course, her major Hollywood biopic was released. Fearing unfavourable comparisons, the PM appears to have gone into manic overdrive; launching an overlapping series of popular-sounding and eye-catching initiatives.

Having spotted that City fat cats are still awarding themselves performance-related perks, which bear no relation to their performance, the PM has become quite cross. …

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Tim Farron MP writes: Sorry Dave, but you’re no Mrs. T…

I have yet to watch Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. I’m sure it will be fascinating, but I just fear that it might also be a bit too painful – I find it hard to divorce my views on the politics of that era from my memories of avoidable hardship experienced by the community I grew up in. Then again, perhaps I should try and get over my Thatcherphobia and view her record a bit more dispassionately. Where better to start than Mrs T’s record on Europe?

Sat behind me in Parliament, amongst the ranks of my valued coalition colleagues, …

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The Coalition’s Political Plan B, Mrs T, and TINA: what does this spell out for the Lib Dems?

The political aftershock of George Osborne’s autumn statement is just beginning to sink in: the Coalition’s 5-year austerity programme, designed to end in 2015 by the time of the next general election, is now a 7-year programme straddling two parliaments.

This poses problems for the future of the Coalition, and for the Lib Dems in particular, encapsulated here by the FT’s Philip Stephens:

Here’s the paradox. The effect of sticking to economic plan A has been to shred the coalition government’s original political strategy. In the heady days after the 2010 election the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats signed up to

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LDVideo | George Osborne’s GQ award embarrassment: when political jokes go bad (and when they go right)

The Chancellor George Osborne has been left red-faced by his controversially potty-mouthed acceptance speech at the GQ awards when picking up a gong.

His references to the magazine’s adult content, and use of the word ‘wankers’, has attracted widespread criticism for crudeness, and conduct unbecoming the dignity of his office — even his usual supporters in the Tory party, such as ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie, have turned on Mr O. See what you think here:

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Opinion: Driving better performance across public services

25 years ago, when I was Leader of Kingston Council, Margaret Thatcher was planning to introduce Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) for services like bin collection and road sweeping. The Council Director responsible for these services started working out what measures he would take to improve efficiency and cut costs. But then the government announced a delay in CCT so he proposed shelving these plans. I said no.

I often recall this incident when the subject of competition in public services comes up. Liberals should never be afraid of competition where it is likely to lead to better public services. Nor …

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Opinion: The postcode lottery – why freedom to be different is a good thing

Few things are more likely to generate a round of applause at a public meeting than condemning the so-called postcode lottery. And of course random unfairness in the quality of a service – the ‘lottery’ aspect – is a bad thing, especially if people are paying the same but getting worse outcomes.

But what about difference – where one part of the country or one neighbourhood does things differently compared to another? What if it’s not a lottery but a choice?

And if people have freedom to do things differently and better, can we accept the risk they’ll not succeed and things …

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Would the coalition dare to cut welfare back to Labour levels?

After adjusting for inflation, welfare spending today is an astonishing ten times higher than in 1948, according to figures published in yesterday’s Guardian.

The graph shows that the sharpest rises in welfare spending were both under Conservative administrations (presumably not unconnected with the recessions at those times – 1981-84 and 1991-94 – though the bill rose in all but three of the 18 years of Conservative government).

Only under Churchill and Eden in the 1950s did the welfare bill fall slightly.  Under Macmillan it rose about 50%, and the welfare bill Labour inherited in 1997 was almost double that they’d handed …

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