Margaret Thatcher is a name never far from the conscious of members of the Conservative party. Over recent weeks I have decided that the time has come for me to clarify a few misconceptions about my views as to what direction this party should take. It is no secret that I am a great admirer of Lady Thatcher. Her economic reforms were remarkable and I believe that they have contributed to shape the wealthy, powerful country we live in today. I also believe that her personal attributes as a woman struggling against the Tory establishment and her approach to the formidable circumstances she inherited in 1979 show remarkable courage and strength of leadership which few can match. She has changed our nation arguably more than any other leader in modern British history and naturally this provokes a deal of curiosity.
However my huge admiration for Thatcher has led many to believe that the nostalgic references to her, which are a common feature of my blogs, imply that I believe she should be the leader now and that we should slavishly adhere to her politics. This is wrong. My admiration for Thatcher is total but so is my loyalty to the direction that David Cameron is taking. As far as I am concerned it is possible to be both a Thatcherite and a Cameroon. The two should not be treated as polar opposites as they are not. I passionately believe that what Margaret Thatcher did economically David Cameron will do socially.
There is a longstanding tradition within the Conservative party to ‘divide and conquer’ as was the case when divided and conquered left wing politics. There is nothing wrong with using this approach against our ‘enemies’ but when we use it on ourselves it is us who becomes divided and conquered. There are zealots on both sides, the old guard and the modernisers, who seem to delight in treating the other as adversaries. It is these individuals that are responsible for the political wilderness this party has endured. By my own admission most of my own family and friends are part of that ‘old guard’ who refuse to acknowledge that change in the party is necessary. They are wrong.
Having said this I am also aware of many modernisers who do their best to dismember any devalue the lessons and legacies of our past for the sake of ‘modernity’. They painstakingly try to distance themselves from our past, even at times appearing to naively deny its very existence. I don’t think that Cameron himself is guilty of that charge but some of his supporters are. In the beginning he was rightly quiet on anything to do with the past, he was quiet on Lady Thatcher and he rightly fought to present a modern face to our party, a more human, compassionate face. I believe he has succeeded in this task and he faced down as much opposition from within his own ranks as Thatcher did all those years ago. It is at this time when he has begun to embrace our past, not devotedly but respectfully. This is how it should be. He now does not feel the need to shy away from Margaret Thatcher and feels comfortable enough to call her publicly ‘our greatest Prime Minister’.
He also feels comfortable enough to return to policies such as immigration and tax, unthinkable a year or 2 ago. What’s more the British people are now comfortable to talk about the past and about Thatcher due to a continuing evaluation of her legacy which is to our benefit.To conclude my view is that what unites us as conservatives is stronger than what divides us. We should be respectful of our past but not ruled by it. My nostalgic references to Thatcher are born out of my passion for history not a desire to live in it. I like looking back but neither do I lose sight of the fact that new history is being made, history that one day I can eventually look back on with equal enthusiasm.