Reading the Telegraph this morning I was shocked to see a story entitled “Nick Clegg: How Margaret Thatcher inspires me”. At first I thought April Fools day had come early but soon I realised that it was a genuine story with potentially important political implications. In an interview with The Spectator Nick Clegg admitted that at university he had been far more radical and opposed almost everything the Thatcher government was doing (typical student). But Clegg claimed that time had taught him a few lessons and with the wisdom of age he conceded that Margaret Thatcher had been right about many things. He stated; “I’m 43 now. I was at university at the height of the Thatcher revolution and I recognise now something I did not at the time: that her victory over a vested interest, the trade unions, was immensely significant. I don’t want to be churlish: that was an immensely important visceral battle for how Britain is governed.”
So why does this matter? Well it matters for one of two reasons – the first is that it is potentially a direct appeal to traditional middle class Tory voters, some of whom are disillusioned with some aspects of the “Cameron project” and who still hold Maggie in almost godlike status, and the other more likely option is that he is sending a warning to Gordon Brown that Lib Dem support for Labour in the event of a hung parliament is far from guarenteed. If the polls are to be believed then Nick Clegg could well prove to be the “king-maker” in the aftermath of the next election and given Cleggs endorsement of Thatcher and Thatcherite economics – economics he claims the Lib Dems are closer to than the Tories, Cameron could well have an ally in Clegg.
Either way I’m pleased because it seems that Mrs Thatcher has scored a political hat-trick – the Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative leaderships have all now publicly recognised the importance of her revolution and the largely positive effect it has had on Britain – a far cry from the fantasy and fiction that poisoned her reputation at the time. The latest endorsement confirms what we already suspected; Maggie, like Churchill before her, has become a national figure rather than a party political figure. Her legacy belongs to no political party but to the British nation as a whole and that to me is a positive development.