The Thatcher Factor
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Margaret Thatcher. Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. The longest continuously serving Prime Minister of the 20th Century. A global icon. So why are some Conservatives so nervous about her?
Thatcher conspicuously rejected consensus. In a political climate where “compromise” is heralded as a great virtue – indeed, it seems to be the central plank of Rory Stewart’s leadership campaign – unwavering certainty in her beliefs seems shocking. But we’ve seen now where an over-emphasis on compromise will take us.
Repeatedly, Theresa May promised us we would be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. Repeatedly, she promised us we would be leaving on 29th March. Repeatedly, she told us no deal was better than a bad deal. Her obsession with compromise left all these promises broken. It seems reasonable to suggest Thatcher’s approach to implementing the EU Referendum result would have been rather different.
Margaret. Thatcher believed in ideas. Free people, free markets. Along with her ideological soulmate Ronald Reagan: a free world.
She was unafraid of tackling Socialism head on. “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” She packaged her beliefs in a relatable manner – the small businessman’s accounts; the housewife’s budget. She communicated her ideas with gusto, and expected push back. She never shied away from ‘making the argument’.
The Conservative Party needs to rediscover the power to argue and persuade. We need to stop being frightened of being forceful in our beliefs. The truth is: the general public has had enough. A Remain Parliament squabbling over how best to facilitate Remain whilst branding the majority of voters stupid, mendacious and worse is a horrendous sight. The political consensus is close to collapse. We are seeing precisely the rise in populism that is gripping the continent and which many of us predicted should Brexit be frustrated. Only by taking drastic action to correct our recent mistakes can we survive this meltdown. Voters are sick of bland managerialism; they yearn for politicians with principle.
Whoever becomes Leader and Prime Minister will need to re-engage and inspire our party membership again. They need to be on the members side. They need to be unafraid of being a Conservative. They will need to be much more Maggie, and much less May.