10 April 2013

A Great Briton who shaped Great Britain

Benjamin's Blog would like to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher.

An extraordinary woman who showed that the Conservatives are not an elitist, out-of-touch party. The Conservatives made this working class girl from Grantham Prime Minister. She never lost any election after her marriage - leadership, constituency, or general.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham in 1925. It was a political family, with her father a Liberal (sadly), who had to stand as an independent for local elections. Scraping into Oxford University, she graduated in 1947, having been president of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946. And no, she didn't do the Boat Race.

After Oxford, she moved on to Essex, but was snapped up by the Dartford Conservative Association and she stood in the 1950 and 1951 general elections there. She was the youngest candidate, and the only female one. She lost both times to Norman Dodds, but shaved 7,000 off his majority over the two years, and then she married Denis Thatcher in 1951.

Mark and Carol Thatcher were born in 1953, and, as a result, she did not stand in 1955. It would be the last time she did not stand to be an MP until 1992. She, did, however, become MP for Finchley in 1959. By 1961 she was already on the front bench, being the Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (try saying that in a hurry). Even though the Conservatives lost in 1964 for the first time since 1950, Thatcher effectively received a promotion, to the Shadow Housing and Land Minister, and it was here where she first put forward the idea of allowing tenants to buy council homes. She then moved to the Shadow Treasury team in 1966. Bouncing from position to position, at the time of the 1970 election, she was Shadow Education Secretary.

The Conservatives' surprising victory (the BBC had to paint in extra numbers on their swingometer) meant that Thatcher was now Education Secretary. Now comes something that not many people know. The "milk snatcher" was not her idea, and she opposed the policy of entire milk removal, but was partially overruled by Prime Minister Heath. Free milk was already being phased out (at Thatcher's appointment of the post it was only for a certain group of children). Milk would now be given up to the age of six.

In 1975 Thatcher was elected to Conservative leader, and with some help from Gordon Reece and Airey Neaves, maximised her appeal to the voters. The final nail in the Labour coffin was the Winter of Discontent, where it was more likely that there would be a strike than there not being one, unemployment skyrocketed, and Thatcher's new appeal. Enough was enough. They called a vote of no confidence in James Callaghan in early 1979, something that you don't usually see. Even more amazingly, the opposition won, forcing a general election.

The election was held on 3 May 1979, and Thatcher won it, prompting this memorable speech:

"Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope." -- Margaret Thatcher, 4 May 1979.

Thatcher's line on immigration is one that Cameron is keen to adopt, limiting the number of people from one country who can enter. For example, she limited immigration from Vietnam to 10,000. She stole support from the National Front and Labour by saying that immigrants add a lot to this country but a minority should not become a majority.

Thatcher immediately set to work on Britain's dire economy. The cure was higher interest rates to control inflation, increase indirect taxes, and cut spending. The last two is the cure being taken by Cameron.

Curing Britain of trade union stranglehold, she made Britain truly great again. There's not much more to say, apart from that crushing victory in the Falklands, and this:

"U-turn? You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning." -- Margaret Thatcher, October 1980.

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