On This Day: End of An Era

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On November 28th 1990 the world watched in disbelief as Margaret Thatcher, a woman whos grip on power seemed so unshakable, left Downing Street with tears in her eyes. The Iron Lady had been toppled in the most unceremonious of fashions and she left behind a party at war with itself, a war with which we are only just coming to terms. As Ken Clarke, one of her bitterest opponents at the time said many years later ‘If I was doing an academic thesis I would say that the problems the Conservative party have faced in the last decade come from the fall of Margaret Thatcher and the circumstances’. Clarke and many of those who pushed her from power now, in hindsight, recognise it was a disastorous mistake which would result in a decade of opposition and infighting. Her fall left a bitterness and poison within the party that we have still failed to come to terms with.

But ultimately today is Thatchers day and a time to look back and reflect on the end of a remarkable premiership. And nothing became Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership more than her leaving of it. The last big performance of her premiership, delivered on the 23rd November, was a commanding one; a dying aria that played to a packed and enchanted House. Few have commanded the same intrigue, the same love and indeed the same hatred as Margaret Thatcher. Yet few have left office with such innumerable accomplishments to their name.

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The first woman leader of the opposition, the first woman Prime Minister, the longest serving Prime Minister since Salisbury, 3 general election victories including 2 landslides, record lows of inflation, record share and property ownership, a revolutionary figure who transformed Britain’s stagnant economy, tamed the unions, fought for the people of the Falklands, contributed to ending the Cold War and re-established Britain as a world power again. These are but a few of Margaret Thatchers accomplishments and they like her failings are part of her life and record. You can love or loathe Margaret Thatcher but you cannot be indifferent to her. Today marks a momentous day in Britains political history. 18 years to the day after she left office she is regarded by many millions of people as Britains greatest ever peacetime Prime Minister and her name still looms large over British political debate. But ultimately, despite the ravings of her dilluded detractors, Thatchers legacy is clear: She saved the nation and redefined the paradigms of political debate.

I and many others within the party and indeed the country were, are and will ever remain utterly devoted to her for the courage and conviction she showed during some of the darkest and most trying times in our history. Her message and her reforms were tough and sadly greatness and controversy will always go hand in hand. Abaraham Lincoln paid for doing what was right for his country with his life, Thatcher has paid for it with her reputation in some parts of the country but history has proven her right. That is enough. Today we mark the passing of an extraordinary chapter in British political history determined to remember and respect a most remarkable woman.

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14 thoughts on “On This Day: End of An Era

  1. Hi Dan.

    I have an issue with your commemorative piece, particularly the first paragraph.

    Ken Clarke does not think that it was a mistake to get rid of Thatcher. He certainly thinks that it had ramifications for the Party, but he does not regret his view. As far as he is concerned Thatcher had become a massive electoral liability, destablising the party and paving the way for a labour government. Her commitment to the unpopular poll tax and her dogmatic stance on Europe, was driving tory poll ratings underground.

    If you were to write a more balanced appraisal you could point out that from June 1989 the Tories were behind in the opinion polls consistently until December 1990. Five poll results prier to Thatcher’s resignation read, -14.5, -13, -16, -16, -8. In contrast, five poll results after her resignation read, +2, -4, +5, +5, +5 and so on.

    You could argue that in the long-term this lead evaporated, however this is irrelevant. The polls that mattered were the polls in November 1990, not May 1997.

  2. Actually, wanna know what I remember on this day? The first time women ever had a vote in a national election. The New Zealand General Election, 1893

    That, and the fact that that it’s Jon Stewart’s birthday.

  3. I don’t doubt that it was likely she would have lost. As fa as the public were conncerned you are right she had lost the benefit of the doubt and we would likely have lost the next election. But I believe, given the benefit of hindsight (and were I an mp at the time) that the Tory party should have backed Thatcher and ‘gone down together’ because after 11 and 1/2 years we were going down anyway…. it was only when. This isn’t meant to be a balanced appraisal, its not a full assessment of her legacy it is a piece commemortating a day I and many others regard as one of the worst in our partys history.

  4. Conservative MPs are exactly that, Conservative MPs. They are not Thatcher MPs. They were highly concerned that the Conservative party under Thatcher would hand the next election to Labour. I’m sorry, but they were entirely justified to force her out.

    And its all very well you looking at this with the benefit of hindsight, but Conservative MPs had to do what was right for the party. Maybe if Thatcher had been more willing to listen to criticism she may not have found herself at odds with the interests of the party.

  5. Actually women had the vote in Isle Of Man was before New Zealand.
    http://www.gov.im/lib/news/mnh/125thanniversary.xml
    Who cares whether the Tories would have won if Thatcher had stayed in charge. Thatcher was the emodiment of doing what was right rather than electorally popular. All governments eventually lose power – in the long run you will be judged for what you did when you had power.

    PS – Lots going on today. Can we focus on the past a little less?

  6. I would actually say Im more Thatcherite than Conservative. As David Cameron has said many times since… I would have backed Thatcher because politics is a team game, you owe loyalty to your leader. She was elected Prime Minister in 1987 by the people in a landslide and it was not for 400 MP’s to push her out. It was for the people. They were cheated, she was cheated.

    I don’t know about that Sahar but thank you anyway :P Ive got to take these compliments when I can as I rarely recieve them lol

  7. You do owe loyalty to your team leader, but there comes a point where team members have to decide whether their team leader is doing the them more harm than good. Personal loyalty cannot be sustained indefinately while the whole teams goes down.

    You say Margaret Thatcher and the public were cheated, but you conveniently miss the fact that Thatcher had become hugely unpopular and her removal transformed the Conservative’s poll ratings. This hardly suggests the public felt cheated.

    As for Margaret Thatcher, she has to accept much of the blame for her forced resignation. Her divisive politics and uncompromising policies, alienated support. If anything she failed the party, not the other way round.

  8. Her removal transformed our poll ratings fleetingly. And you know as well as I do polls as fickle. The polls predicted Labour would win in 1992… they lost. Ultimately I believe the party went wobbly… unforgiveably so. Yes Thatcher made mistakes but I prefer to look at the bigger picture she led us to unprecedented success and transformed the country. For that I would have fought for her as much as I might have thought her judgement was failing her. I would have let her serve out her term with dignity and hopefully she would have recognised her failings in time for the next general election. I think we’d have lost but then again you never know do you? Stranger things have happened.

  9. “Her removal transformed our poll ratings fleetingly”. – Depends what you mean by fleetingly. We did significantly better in all the major polls after Thatcher’s resignation, and right up to the 1992 election.

    If I were an MP in 1990 I would have given her the same advice which she received from all her cabinet ministers. She had certainly been successful in the past, but she had become unsuccessful and was forcing the party towards electoral oblivion. And I don’t care how big she was, she wasn’t too big to be cut down by the Conservative party.

  10. Dan, the biggest problem I have with your views is they are so.. party political. For want of a better phrase.
    I agree with Daniel far more.
    To illustrate my point:

    “I would have backed Thatcher because politics is a team game, you owe loyalty to your leader.”

    No you do not. You owe your loyalty to your conscience, and to the people you serve. this is all a matter of party politics. And sometimes I do think it would have been better if she’d not been forced out because then we would have lost, which may well have lead to a difference in 2007 and 10 years of Blair, and would also may have stopped people like yourself seeing Thatcher in such a biased, rose-tinted way.

  11. If Thatcher was so wonderful for the party, why did she not try to heal some of the bitterness instead of undermining John Major and others at every oppurtunity.

  12. Record unemployment. Record low Tory poll ratings. Record for worst ever tax idea: the poll tax. Record for humbug – disgracefully disloyal to every single Tory leader that followed her. Every single one.

  13. Record unemployment – give it a few years before you claim that…
    Record low poll ratings – Browns were worse than Thatchers, polls change in a heart beat
    Poll tax – Ill give you that one
    Disgracefully disloyal – can you blame her?! The way the tory party treated her was abysmal. They feared for their seats when in actual fact alot of people only voted tory over the preceeding 11 years BECAUSE of Mrs Thatcher. They owed her their loyalty.

    I was and remain of the opinion she could have recovered her position in much the same way Brown has now. All that bitterness and squabbling aside she was the greatest modern day leader the tories or indeed the country has seen.

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