Tributes to Lady Thatcher from four people who acclaim her role at home and abroad
We present tributes from four people from different walks of life to former UK prime minister Baroness Thatcher, who died at the age of 87 on April 8 2013.
Major Christopher Halsall, Tatiana Roshupkina, Sophie Shrubsole and Andrew Roberts offer their very personal perspectives of the controversial leader.
Major Halsall recalled that in the General Election held on February 23 1950, the seat in the Labour stronghold of Dartford in north west Kent was contested by a 24-year-old industrial chemist, standing as the Conservative candidate: her name was Margaret Roberts. Assisting in her campaign was a Young Conservative named Chris Halsall, who was in his last year at school. On one day Chris and Margaret were driven around the streets of the constituency, head and shoulders out of a large, open topped, Citroen car, taking turns to publicise that evening’s meetings through a megaphone. Chris admits that although he did think that she was a very bright young lady, he being of such a young age the car made a greater impression on him than Margaret Roberts! “Any thoughts that she might one day become Prime Minister never entered my head.”
Tatiana Roshupkina, translator and writer, commented: “Margaret Thatcher visited Russia for the first time in February 1984. Her message was simple – we want to move our relationship with the USSR onto a new footing and open up new vistas of cooperation. She supported Mr Gorbachev’s idea of ‘perestroika’. Then followed a visit to England of the Russian delegation led by Mikhail Gorbachev, and it was the start of a new phase in the relations between the two countries. ‘A man I can do business with’ was how she described Gorbachev.
“They discussed the liquidation of chemical weapons and a reduction in shorter and medium-range weapons. In Russia, Mrs Thatcher is credited with helping to end the ‘Cold War’ and together with Mr Gorbachev, with fostering good relations between the UK and Russia. For this the Russian people are eternally grateful to her. On April 15 2013, Books of Condolence in the British Embassies in Moscow and St Petersburg were full. Many Russians in St Petersburg went into the streets holding portraits of the former prime minister and slogans saying ‘Thank you, Margaret Thatcher!’”
Sophie Shrubsole, Conservative councillor for West Malling & Leybourne and deputy chairman of Parliament Street think tank, said: “Just after the funeral of Baroness Thatcher came to a close last Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron remarked that ‘we are all Thatcherites now’. I write as a 23 year old, and many of you may think, ‘but Sophie wasn’t alive during the height of Thatcher’s power. Where does her experience in the matter come from?’
“Every morning I rise and jump on a train, and heading off to work in the most exciting city in the world, London. I check on the world on my smart phone and listen to music on my iPod.
“But for young people in 1970s Britain, the story couldn’t have been more different. The three-day week was crippling the ability for Britain to function, constant power cuts becoming an accepted way of life. For many Brits, they could go an entire day without engaging with private enterprise: you name it, the State owned it.
Thatcher set about dismantling the power of the unions, transforming Britain from the sick man of Europe to a prosperous and proud nation.
“Most people in Britain have been touched by Thatcherism to some degree. It makes us question the convictions of our current politicians, from all parties and at either end of the spectrum. Figures in history are those that have defined generations, for good or for bad. Margaret Thatcher transformed society: we in Britain and Europe are surrounded by Thatcherism, a truly remarkable feat for a 1920s grocer’s daughter.
Andrew Roberts, a historian and a trustee of the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust at The University of Cambridge, commented: “Sir Winston Churchill, about to enter a public meeting, once paused and turned to a fellow Conservative MP as he took a large cigar out of his breast pocket. ‘Never forget your trademark, ’ he said, as he lit it and put it in his mouth. After Sir Winston Churchill, no Tory premier had quite so many trademarks as did Margaret Thatcher. There was the ‘handbag’, the ‘Iron Lady’, jutting jaw, the shoulder pads, the big hair, the basilisk stare, and above all, that unmistakable, highly trained voice that could run through every quaver and crotchet, from the cooing-dove softness of her 1979 St Francis of Assisi quotation on the steps of No 10 Downing Street, to the stridency of her ‘No! No! No’ to the single European currency in October 1990.
“Yet the woman behind the trademarks was a very different person from the one who used them all so deftly during her eleven-and-a-half years in Downing Street.
At a dinner given by Lord Cranborne in his house in Chelsea in the mid-nineties, Boris Johnson and I were by turns incredulous and mystified by the praise that Margaret – it was what she asked me to call her in life, and I see no reason to revert to formality after her death – heaped upon John Maynard Keynes. Wasn’t he the Bloomsburyite inventor of inflation, the author of socialist economics, we asked. ‘What else could Britain have done in 1945?’ she replied, before going on to lavish praise on his architecture for global economics as set out at Bretton Woods. Boris and I looked at each other, wondering whether we were being subtly teased in some way, but she then went on to praise Keynes’s anti-unemployment policies of the 1930s and it was clear she meant every word.
“The standard line that she had absolutely no sense of humour has been wildly exaggerated. At one formal Adam Smith Institute dinner, after no fewer than five male economists had given speeches before her, she began: ‘The cocks might crow, but it’s the hen that lays the eggs…’