Musings of a book event organiser
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Margaret Thatcher and me
Margaret Roberts, later to become Thatcher, was elected as Conservative candidate for Dartford, the then hard Labour constituency in which my father had his business HQ. She went on to marry Denis and were near neighbours of ours in Chelsea in the 1970's. I took a photograph of her, not long after she had been elected Leader of the Opposition, planting a tree near my daughters' C of E primary school in Flood Street. On May 4th, the morning after she won the 1979 General Election, I walked round at 7.30 am with our two terriers Buttons and Jockey to see her emerge from her house to be interviewed by Anna Ford for BBC TV. There was a mere handful of us curious bystanders. As many in the media have reminded us in the past few days, she was widely regarded as a joke, an accident that the Conservative Party would put right after a decent interval - what was expected to be a caretaker period - until the next man could replace her. I was 35 years of age. We had camping gas lights in our house, bought during the - quite literally - dark days of the 'winter of discontent' when electricity and gas were limited to a few hours of the day, corpses remained unburied and rubbish uncollected. Trade unions, some of their leaders now known publicly to have been funded from Moscow, operating so-called 'closed shops', calling strikes without ballots and picketing businesses that had nothing to do with their industry, effectively ruled Britain. Parliamentary democracy, that institution once called by Sir Winston Churchill, 'the least bad system we know' was on the back foot. I had first hand experience of union power myself when as a young journalist the print unions delayed for six months the opening of a regional paper of which I had been appointed women's editor. Later, as a Russianist, married to a man who was responsible for cultural agreements between the Soviet Union and the UK, I witnessed first hand the enormous admiration of everyone in that country for Mrs Thatcher's powers of argument, her belief in freedom, the rule of law, free speech and her ability to wipe the floor with their TV pundits who they unwisely put up against her three to one on live prime time TV. What a miscalculation! With President Ronald Reagan she brought down the communist regime that had led to misery for so many millions for nearly 75 years. She is rightly regarded in America and in Eastern Europe as the outstanding champion in our time of freedom under the law, of human responsibility as well as rights, and of parliamentary democracy world wide. I was, and am, and will remain, a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher. R.I. P.