James Brokenshire shares some personal thoughts on the sad news that former Conservative Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven passed away earlier today.
Baroness Thatcher will be remembered as an inspirational Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party. She literally pulled the country out of the mire. Transforming Britain from the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ into a country proud of its history and traditions but forward looking in outlook. A country promoting individual opportunity, innovation and enterprise rather than thinking this was simply the responsibility of the state.
It’s difficult now to think back to just how bad Britain was in the late seventies. A failing economy, bail-outs from the IMF and crippling union disputes leading to the Winter of Discontent. A Britain lacking in confidence and ambition fearing that its best days were behind it, not ahead of it. The reforms which Margaret Thatcher drove through quite literally changed the course of history and helped create our modern market based economy which we continue to benefit from today.
Of course change is never easy - and certainly not change on the scale which Britain needed at that time. A great deal of Margaret Thatcher’s reforms were delivered in the teeth of vehement opposition and charged protest often focused on her personally. With grit and determination she took on the unions and other vested interests to drive through public sector reforms and create a society more weighted to the needs of the individual rather than the state.
On a personal level, Margaret Thatcher’s leadership garnered my own interest in politics and ultimately in becoming an MP. Her passion, drive and determination were inspiring. She was able to talk about our country with a deep sense of pride and deliver a political message in a way which commanded respect and in practical terms which people recognised. She talked about balancing the family budget to draw parallels with dealing with country’s finances. She derided the use of terms like “infrastructure” saying she preferred to travel on roads and railways. Communication skills to make a political message resonate and as relevant today as they were then.
I had the pleasure to meet Baroness Thatcher on a small number of occasions. Her diminutive physical stature belied her sheer presence and personality. She was someone who you could not fail to listen to and who commanded your attention when she fixed you with a glint from her steely blue eyes.
Margaret Thatcher was a rare force of nature who broke the political mould - and in so doing changed the way that we think about our country and think about ourselves. She will be missed tremendously.