(This is a guest post from by Alex Evelyn, President of Essex University Conservative Future)
Yesterday, ‘Memories of Maggie’, was held by Essex CF in the Lords. The event was hosted by Baroness Jenkin of Kennington. Celebrating the life of Lady Thatcher and appreciating the transformation she made to Britain: Free markets, property owning democracy, competition to our public services.
The opportunity for Young Conservatives to listen and question friends and colleagues of the last government allowed us to unravel the legend and misrepresentation caricatured by the left giving us all something more personal.
The evening consisted of four speakers Lord Baker, Baroness Bottomley, Lord Jenkin and Lord Sherbourne. All distinguished speakers who had a unique story.
Lord Baker spoke of Lady Thatcher’s loyalty to her government ministers. He talked about her dedication to ideas, allowing ministers to have ownership over their ministerial portfolios. There was also clarity of what she wanted to achieve and how she wanted individuals to get on. Lady Thatcher’s hatred of vested interest which prevented free individuals pursuing the best course of action drove her to rein in the unions – who were preventing ideas and economic growth in Britain.
Baroness Bottomley talked of Lady Thatcher charm and charisma. She also spoke of Lady Thatcher’s obligation to social mobility and her difficulty to understand individuals not prepared to better themselves. Lady Thatcher was never a snob and her ideology was centred on the strivers in life. Baroness Bottomley spoke of Conservatives being the doers of social justice; not the posers like the left – citing our commitment to charity and helping the neediest in our society.
Lord Jenkin discussed Lady Thatcher’s resolve to get the job done. She realised the taxpayer was sovereign and not a cash machine for state extravagance. The issue of privatisation demonstrated Lady Thatcher’s resolve with the breaking up of British Telecom rejecting the use of taxpayers’ money. Her headstrong attitude saw Thatcher win friends in unlikely quarters. Lord Jenkin shared a memory of canvassing in Ebbw Vale, formally Michael Foot and Aneurin Bevan constituency. A resident answered the door to Lord Jenkin and responded (queue Welsh accent) “I hate everything this government is doing and I hate Margaret Thatcher”. Lord Jenkin replied “I assume I will not be getting your vote”, for the resident to say “you will be getting my vote because she does what says”. This is a fine example of strong convictions winning friends in unlikely quarters.
Lord Sherbourne, Lady Thatcher speech writer, had the closest contact with her and would spend hours meticulously preparing speeches and PMQ performances. Lord Sherbourne cited her forensic eye over all aspects of government policy. The working atmosphere was intense with long working days all borne out of a desire to get things RIGHT! Lady Thatcher also had a remarkable ability to oppose her own government. Lord Sherbourne recalled a time when the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs had a stated policy from the Permanent Secretary, only for Mrs Thatcher to top and tail the letter and provide her preferred course of action.
Memories of Maggie was an opportunity for her legacy and ideology to be remembered in a respectful and dignified way by four superb speakers, who were able to articulate Thatcher the Lady, Thatcher the PM, and Thatcher the Champion for workers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the speakers who shared their ‘Memories of Maggie’ yesterday, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington for agreeing to host the event, Peter Botting for sponsoring the wine, and Essex University CF executive team for supporting me to ensure this event could happen.
We most certainly envisage hosting a similar event next year and if you would like to get involved please do contact me!