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 acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics. My thoughts are with her family and friends.

Meanwhile former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown told the Guardian:thatcher

There is nothing I have done in my life that frightened me so much as standing up in the House of Commons as a wet-behind-the-ears new Liberal leader and being ritually handbagged by her in front of the radio microphones of the nation (TV in the Commons did not arrive until later). I opposed almost everything she did (but found myself following many of them when I tried to get the Bosnian economy going by lowering taxes and freeing up the market). Though there will be many who saw her as the author of much destruction that we still mourn, much that she pulled down needed to be pulled down.

She was better as destroyer of old tired institutions and lazy ways of thinking than she was as the builder of new ones; better at defining divisions than building cohesion. But probably that’s what Britain needed then. Had we on the left not grown so lazy about our addictions to the easy ways of state corporatism, she would perhaps have been less successful at so cruelly exposing their hollowness. The pre-eminent attribute in politics is courage; the moral courage to hold to the things you believe in. And this, like her or loathe her, she had in abundance. Personally charming to all except those in her cabinet; fearless when taking on her enemies, even to the extent of making up some of her own; utterly implacable in her patriotism, albeit of a kind that didn’t always serve the country’s long-term interests. She won great victories for what she stood for at home and huge respect for our country abroad. If politics is the ability to have views, hold to them and drive them through to success, she was undoubtedly the greatest prime minister of our age, and maybe even the greatest politician.

And Paddy’s successor, Charles Kennedy, had this to say:

In extending sincere sympathy to the Thatcher family we remember today a landmark political figure, both at home and abroad. She was one of those politicians who made the weather. As a politically divisive figure – not least where Scotland was concerned – her legacy will always be controversial. And she continues to cast a considerable shadow across today’s Conservative party. But her impact – positive and negative – remains near immeasurable.

Leader of the Scottish party, Willie Rennie, issued the following statement:

Like many of my contemporaries I am in politics because of Margaret Thatcher. Although I did not share her political outlook, as our first female Prime Minister she changed the face of our political system forever. While in many respects she was divisive, Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly the leading political figure of her generation. Her impact on British politics and our country was substantial and enduring.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh party, tweeted:

If you’ve spotted any tributes that we’ve missed, please do highlight them in the comments below.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • paul barker 8th Apr '13 - 5:10pm

    I am a bit dissapointed by the slightly mealy-mouthed responses of some Libdems. Any tribute surely ought to mention that while she got many things wrong, on a whole series of political questions she was right at a time when many of us were wrong.

  • Paul
    She might have been right about deregulating airline fares . Thousands left the country at the start of her government and I suspect many of them are still living overseas.

  • Here in South Yorkshire she ruined the mining and steel industries and left Britain without a proper manufacturing base. She invaded the Malvinas in order to boost her flagging popularity and get a cheap victory in the following election. This heralded the way (as well as her chuminess with the equally ghastly Reagan) led to an aggressive foreign policy. She divided Britain as no other and set out to destroy the Trade Unions. She helped create a ‘me too’ selfish and self centered ‘i’m all right jack society’ where money ruled. She left us dependent on a banking sector and tourism. She sold off our public utilities and now we are paying the price! Her monetarist policies led to a growing divide between rich and poor and mass unemployment. Thank you Mrs. Thatcher – you left a legacy of naked and selfish individualism at the expense of community – and destroyed communities in the process. A tyrant to naked liberal neo-con philosophy.

  • I was 35 years old when Mrs Thatcher came to power, and well able to remember the reality of her actions; I disagree totally with the sentiment “on a whole series of political questions she [Mrs Thatcher} was right at a time when many of us were wrong.” My view then, as now, was that she was very, very flawed populist politician (very moderate language to respect the fact that she has died). Her legacy is plain and simple: The Banks; very little social housing; the North-South divied; a manufacturing wasteland…………and so on.

  • Tony Robertson 8th Apr '13 - 7:33pm

    Not being a Conservative I have never been able to get my head around why they so idolised her. It’s like me being a railway enthusiast trying to understand why some folks thought Beeching was doing us a favour by closing many of our railways.

    Frankly, I saw Margaret Thatcher as being a negative influence on our society. Yes, OK I am from Nottinghamshire mining stock so you could say I have an axe to grind but even putting that prejudice to one side I just saw her as a divisive figure who seemed to be promoting a view of the world which on one level you could say was playing to our most self-interested instincts.

    It also has to be said that her government started what I see as the start of the decline in our financial institutions via the demutualisation of our building societies. This move, which seemed to symbolise greed over sensible management of savings, played very much to our more selfish instincts as we gained and then sold shares in mutual institutions that subsequently were either taken over by big banks or went bust because they were no longer managed well.

    Sadly, instead of being able to celebrate our first female Prime Minister I really do wonder whether she helped to lay the foundations for our seemingly more selfish society.

  • Thatcher’s patriotic obsessions led to the death of British culture and we still have yet to recover from her divisive and agnostic rule. If politics is about having an impact, then yes, she had an impact, if politics is about trying to leave the world a little better place than when you entered it, Thatcher leaves this world a failure. May be it is wrong to speak ill of the dead in some people’s eyes, but her failings are no less grave today than they were yesterday.

  • The only way to pay tribute to Lady Thatcher is to leave politics out of it. She was never right, and asserting that she was just begs responses that she wasn’t. Her death is still sad.

  • These comments are well chosen words, Nick Clegg’s contribution is particularly cleverly constructed. Paul Barker, you express disappointment and then adopt a similar pattern of comment yourself, leaving me unsure what you consider she was “right” about “at a time when many of us were wrong”.

  • Michael Berridge 9th Apr '13 - 6:13am

    Carrying on from what Tony Robertson said about Beeching, I respect Margaret Thatcher for one thing: she had the good sense not to privatise the railways.

  • @ DAVEN

    “The Banks”

    That we have them (are you saying this is good or bad)? They did exist before.

    If you mean the banking crisis, that was 2008 she left office in 1990.

  • Ed Shepherd 9th Apr '13 - 7:16am

    These LibDem leaders do not realise what the world is like now: low-paid, insecure McJobs for those who can find work, a lifetime getting by on benefits for those who can’t find a McJob or are sensible enough not to want one, with millions of people struggling to afford overpriced housing with funding from bankrupt (ironically, many now state-owned) banks. Meanwhile, the wealthiest had their privileges protected (ironically, I understand that Mrs Thatcher was a member of a closed-shop union for most of her working life and probably was still a member of it when she died) apart from those members of the working-class who were fooled into thinking that owning a few shares and an ex-council house would somehow make them able to live like Gilded Age rentiers (“we could be rich, Rodney!”). Definitely not all Mrs Thatcher’s fault, but she didn’t understand where her policies would lead.

  • I am going to refrain from voicing my “personal” feelings in regards to Thatchers legacy.

    But I do hope that the British Tax payer is not going to have to foot the bill for the costs of recalling parliament.

    Considering the deep cuts to welfare and other services that have just taken place, it would be extremely wrong to have an influx of expenses for MP’s to travel with their families , meal allowances etc to pay their respects and have a debate on Thatchers legacy.
    There are hundreds of thousands of families up and down the country going hungry and using food banks to feed their families, and that needs to be remembered foremost before any further expenditure on MP’s expenses.

    If MP’s do wish to take part in a debate at the commons on this occasion, then it should be by choice and at their own expense.

  • @Psi. You are perfectly correct; “the Banks” is a very inadequate description of a huge subject. Mrs Thatcher believed in self-help, self-reliance; she had a (selective) admiration for ‘self-made’ men (yes, men – she was never enthusistic about successful women in general). Her views had a down side, however, in that she admired those who made money, but had a distain for those who did not (“losers” was a term she used). Starting with the sale of Council houses, through the privatisation of state-owned corporations, Mrs Thatcher was the driving force of a new, febrial ‘get-rich-quick by fair means or foul’ national psyche. People boasted of their latest house price valuation, millions were proud of their newly-aquired shares (soon to be sold to big investors). This permeated all social layers, the financial services industry, however, was where the unregulated making of ‘paper money’ eventually led to a catastrophe. You are correct that the banking crisis occurred years after she left office, the foundations of that collapse were proudly laid by Margaret Thatcher. Why didn’t governments between 1990 and 2008 step in and ‘cool’ the whole financial sector? Because the majority of voters rather liked what was going on; building societies were lending big money at insanely low rates, ex-tenants now had real estate equity, cash loans were easy to come by for endless consumer goods. All very popular with the voters, hence Messers Major, Blair and Brown just let things rip. And even the LibDems went along with it all. One final point, I mention above that Mrs Thatcher admired self-made men, the fact is that she admired such people as long as they shared her political views, and their were many who did not – Michael Heseltine is the most famous of many – he was the wrong kind of Conservative and not ‘one of us’. The irony is that in the business sense she was not a ‘self-made man’.

  • @David: Thatcher had many, many flawed policies and ideas, but liberating a British territory from fascist invasion was not one of them. (Although ending British patrols in the area was…) That some on the left still refer to these as the “Malvinas” is something I will never understand.

  • paul barker 9th Apr '13 - 9:55am

    Thinking about Thatcher more & trying to remember the 70s. The largely forgotten fact now is that the 2 previous Governments had been destroyed by the Labour Movement, if a third had gone the same way its hard to see how Democracy could have survived. Even in the late 70s there were serious figures talking about the need for a Military Coup but that all died away after Thatcher came into office.

  • Paul Barker
    Democracy? It was what Lord Hailsham called Elective Dictatorship.

  • Martin Lane 9th Apr '13 - 12:29pm

    No doubt they will be dancing in the streets of Buenos Aires, especially the surviving crew of the Belgrano.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Apr '13 - 12:49pm

    @Mark H: That’s the section of the left that takes a knee-jerk anti-British line on everything, so supports any movement that is antagonistic to UK interests. Just like they used to support the IRA.

  • Mark H

    Well Mark whether one calls it Malvinas or Falklands it was Britain who took the Islands from the Republic of Buenos Aires in the 19th C. Retaining it is just part of the left overs from British colonialism from which we now need to eschew ourselves. We are a moderate size European power and our destiny lies as part of a united Europe; no longer a colonial power with pretensions. Certainly the military Junta (to which Thatcher hadn’t exactly disapproved previous to the invasion) sought popularity by going into the islands but equally Thatcher, facing a rising LIberal/SDP threat to any hope of her returning to power in the next election also sought popularity and possibly the only hope she had of winning that election by sending in a so called task force. She merrily gambled with the lives of our troops (some killed were as young as 17) to undermine the huge surge in the Lib/SDP Alliance caused because of her policies that had resulted in millions on the dole. The’Falklands’ election was disgracefully paraded as Thatcher’s war victory election and in it she managed to stampede the reasoned opposition to her dreadful domestic policies. As Dr. David Owen had in fact pointed out she had only not long before removed protecting vessels round the island and even signalled to the Argentine Junta that there was a possibility that terms could be arranged. Indeed Argentina has consistently argued that the position of the islanders would not change under Argentine and only we could remove their British citizenship. As a final point today in an interview with BBC Look North a mother from Rotherham said she would never forgive Thatcher for the death of her soldier son on the islands in the 1982 conflict. (war is an exaggeration; to compare her with Winston Churchill is ridiculous!)

  • @David Orr: Well said, the Falklands was one of histories worst examples of politicans playing games with people’s lives.

  • The Falklands was one the few things Thatcher got right. the Islander have frequently voted to remain British and thus should remain British until they vote otherwise.
    My problem with Margret Thatcher was her economics fire sale excuse policies. She did not rescue the economy she simply sold enough stock to create a boom that ended in 1990 . The voodoo magic of Thatcherism and Reaganomics was then re engaged by Clinton, Blair and Bush until it again collapsed in 2008. Margret Thatcher was polarizing not because she was any kind of great leader or pantomime villain but because she promoted herself as one. Blair was also polarising, but there is no personality cult attached to his leadership. Thatcher gets compared to a lot of dictators, but was really more like a big pop star with lots of adoring fans and lots of publicity, but the back catalogue is actually pretty threadbare.

  • Christine Headley 10th Apr '13 - 12:23pm

    And she laid the foundations of the Expenses Scandal. She didn’t want to see MPs paid the ‘going rate’, so set up an expenses system without enough by the way of checks and balances. (Tempted to spell that ‘cheques’…..)

    ‘The Banks’, the destruction of so much manufacturing industry (some was doubtless expendable, but not all), MPs’ expenses. I see so much of what is biting us now as being a consequence of her government.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Apr '13 - 1:13pm

    Argentina owes its existence, both as a concept and as a nation, to previous Spanish colonialism. And it’s not clear which bunch of Europeans discovered the islands first; what is known is that the islands were uninhabited (except by penguins) at the time. Their ownership had been disputed long before the UK took control in 1820; it is misleading to imply that the islands had been under continuous Spanish/Argentine control before then; they had not. Argentina’s claim to the Falklands seems to be based largely on Argentina being the nearest large country to them, a logic by which Indonesia should be permitted to re-invade East Timor. So discussion of “colonialism” is really irrelevant: both sides are as colonial (or not) as each other. To talk about “British colonialism” as if it were the only kind of colonialism involved here is typical trendy-lefty thinking where the UK is always in the wrong in any international dispute whatever the actual facts. I agree with Glenn: what matters is that the people living there now want to remain under UK control.

  • ‘I agree with Glenn: what matters is that the people living there now want to remain under UK control.’

    and in the recent laughable so called referendum the one person brave enough to oppose British colonial rule was to be subject to intimidation and even thrat – so much for the onderful islander’s idea on democracy – actually no so different from Thatcher herself!

  • The Falklands/Malvinas absolutely depend on Argentina. Britain cannot (and of course) eventually will not keep propping them up and subsidizing them. Britain cannot afford to keep overseas imperial possessions that fell into our hands in the 19th C.; those days are gone thank goodness. We are a small European state dependent on European trade and co-operation and that is our future. What should rightly happen is we grant sovereignty to Argentina whereby those islanders that want to take up Argentine nationality can do so whilst the rest can remain British citizens. Argentina, has already stated there will be no change in the status of those living on the islands. However they will get the economic benefit of having Argentina pay the bills (so will we in Britain). It is madness to even consider hanging on to islands thousands of miles away.

  • Paul McKeown 13th Apr '13 - 3:12pm

    @david orr

    I have rarely seen such unmitigated tosh in all my days of reading LDV.

    1) There is almost no contact between Argentina and the Falkland Islands, so there can be no question of one being dependent on the other.
    2) In your next sentence, you completely reverse your statement of dependency, saying that the Falklands are propped up by the UK.
    3) That’s hardly the case anyway; the Falkland Islands are sitting on vast natural resources, so they can look forward to financial independence. All that the Falkland Islanders need from the UK is their sovereignty, backed by the military and diplomatic might of the British State.
    4) You attribute goodwill to the Argentine state, despite its record of military invasion and hostile language; either that or you don’t care what happens to the Falklanders.
    4) You come up with some utterly fanciful idea of handing owners of the UK handing the Falkland Islanders over to foreign servitude. Whilst the Falklanders wish to remain British Dependents, they will remain so. Until Kingdom Come. Amen.
    5) You claim it is mad to “hang on” to the Falkland Islands. You are wrong. There is no question of “hanging on” at all. The Falkland Islanders are the only people who get to decide their fate; it is they have chosen to remain a British Overseas Territory. There has been no coercion from London, whereas Argentina’s plans do not involve consulting the Falklanders at all.

  • As the name Malvinas (Malouines) suggests, the first claimants to the Falklands were neither British, Spanish, nor Argentine, but Frenchmen from Saint-Malo.

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