Egremont Writing Competition: David Cameron is like…

The Conservative Party is one of the oldest and most successful political parties in the world, yet very few know about its history beyond 1975. Even David Cameron lets his ignorance slip occasionally: He once remarked that the Tories have always supported free trade, seemingly oblivious to both the fall of Sir Robert Peel and our commitment to tariff reform in the first half of the 20th Century.

Our ignorance about our own history severely limits our ability to think. The historian Tim Bale warns that Thatcherism both dominates and constrains how the Party thinks about a wide variety of issues, conceding the rest of the ideological spectrum to Labour. When analysing Mr. Cameron’s leadership, many right-wing pundits feel the need to compare him to either Edward Heath or Margret Thatcher – despite the Party having around twenty leaders since Peel.

In an attempt to dispel this ignorance, Egremont is launching a competition. We challenge you to write an article comparing Mr. Cameron to a past Tory leader other than Heath and Thatcher. The competition opens today and closes on Friday, 20th December, and we’ll publish them as they come in. After the New Year, the winner will receive a free bottle of wine. The entries will be judged on how well-written they are, their historical accuracy, and, most importantly, their originality. You can compare Mr. Cameron to Stanley Baldwin or Harold Macmillan, but these are somewhat predictable. We want to see original comparisons – like to Arthur Balfour or the 14th Earl of Derby.

Entries should be between 800-1000 words, though we’ll make exceptions for longer articles if we think they’re just too good. You should email them to either editors@trg.org.uk or t_ne@live.com (or both).

We’re looking forward to reading them!

If the Party wants more members, we must avoid ‘Tory takfirism’

image

Aaron Ellis

For nine months now, I have been chairman of City of Liverpool Conservative Future. I first became involved three years ago when I moved back to my hometown after university; I didn’t know anyone there anymore and the local CF branch was an opportunity to meet people. Thankfully, its members were all nice, smart, and laidback and I developed many strong friendships. When the opportunity came to give something back and help develop the branch, I took it, as I was emotionally invested in its success.

Unfortunately, a proportion of my time has been spent dealing with extremists. ‘Extremist’ is a better descriptor than, say, ‘Thatcherite’ or ‘right-wing’ because all Conservatives are, to a greater or lesser extent, Thatcherite and right-wing. Instead, these people hold an extreme point-of-view – typically a combination of hard, unfeeling libertarianism at home and chauvinism abroad – and who accuse anyone that disagrees with them of not being truly conservative. There is also only one way to show one’s commitment to the Tory Party: leafleting. If you aren’t willing to spend your evenings and weekends out leafleting, then you are pointless.

Though not exclusively Thatcherite, the ‘Iron Lady’ has a prominent place in their thinking – at least, their understanding of her does. Rather than appreciating that Lady Thatcher was a politician who (like any other) had to compromise, dissemble, and court popular opinion in order to achieve her objectives, extremists think of her solely as a ‘conviction politician’ who did none of these things. Thus one of the lessons they draw is that in order to be like Lady Thatcher, they should be intolerant of others’ views and be downright rude about them in the process.

Another lesson they draw is that being isolated from the mainstream is a prerequisite for gaining power. Lady Thatcher was an ‘outsider’, yet she won the leadership from the Establishment ‘apostate’ Ted Heath. In this way, as with their takfirism, extremists resemble militant Islamists. They also believe isolation is a prerequisite for power; after all, the Prophet went into isolation before the people of Mecca realised the error of their ways and embraced him. That Lady Thatcher spent only approximately four years on the backbenches during her decades-long parliamentary career and that Muhammad adapted his teachings to try to win over Jewish merchants in Medina is forgotten. No compromise; no dissembling; and no courting of popular opinion.

One extremist who ran for the Liverpool chairmanship described herself, without irony, as “the Iron Lady of the North” – a pitch that would obviously go down well with voters in this city. Months later, when I said she should try to win friends in the branch if she was going to run again, she dismissed the suggestion. She would not lower herself by participating in a ‘popularity contest’; it ought to be obvious that she is the best person for the job. In a democracy, elections are popularity contests.

The same intolerance is shown over leafleting. Given the membership crises affecting all the main parties, we need to be thankful that anyone is interested in us at all - particularly in the urban north such as Liverpool - and must try to persuade them to care enough to actively campaign. Those who join who think they might be Tories and think they like David Cameron, but aren’t entirely sure, do not want to be press-ganged into leafleting in obscure council boroughs they’ve never heard of, let alone will never live in.

And in Liverpool our problem is not that activists aren’t pushing enough leaflets through letterboxes, it’s that we’re hated. I work in a bar on weekends; when one of the previously friendly customers found out I was a Conservative, he started referring to me as “Tory c**t”. Our party brand is toxic in cities like Liverpool; we could fell entire rainforests and turn them into leaflets and it would not impact this basic political fact.

Yet whenever I have tried to argue that there are many ways members can contribute to the Party and none more or less Conservative than the other, my commitment has been questioned.

For many extremists, their inspirational text is The Road to Serfdom or Atlas Shrugged; for me, it was The Conservative Party from Peel to Major. In it Lord Blake, the great historian of our party, wrote that “[s]tern, unbending [ideology] has never paid dividends” to us.

Conservatism is a diverse political ideology, like any other; we all pick different strands from within it, and even some from outside it, and weave them together to form our own personal ideology. That’s how our Party has evolved and survived for so long.

If we become both intolerant and doctrinaire, then we will die.

Follow Aaron on Twitter.

Will Unite ruin Labour’s chances in 2015?

Ryan Gray

This afternoon, the Prime Minister stated that Andy Murray deserves a knighthood for his great Wimbledon victory yesterday. If one could be honoured for doing the most damage to a political party, then Len McCluskey would certainly receive a gong for his outstanding work. The Unite leader is determined to change Labour, whether it kills its electoral prospects or not.

It feels like we have entered a pre-Thatcher time. Unions are angry and loud; threatening strikes and dominating the Labour Party. During the Blair years, they were shoved in a corner, having no apparent influence. Fast forward to 2013 and things are quite different. Ed Miliband is in an awkward spot, given it was the unions that paved his way to winning the Party leadership: what were his biggest allies are now fast becoming his biggest enemies.

As we run up to the next election, 70% of Labour’s parliamentary candidates in 2015 are heavily linked to unions. Indeed, McCluskey refers to these as being ‘Unite MPs’. Of the 67 candidates selected so far for 2015, 27 are linked to Unite either through membership, employment or sponsorship. So its no surprise that people are beginning to question if Labour represent the majority of its own members, let alone the country!

Cracks have been developing in the Party for a while now, but they only became dramatically public this past week. For awhile we have heard left-wing commentators point out Tory divisions on gay marriage, the EU etc, but they have been quiet on the ever growing discontent among different groups of Labour faithful towards each other. Owen Jones recently attacked the Labour MP Simon Danczuk for sounding ‘like a Tory’ due to his support for coalition changes to welfare.

Martin Kettle has excellently examined how current events are suicidal for Miliband. Rightfully pointing out that ‘A Labour party campaigning on an old industrial class-based agenda, with extra powers for unions that are in other respects withering across British life, led by quisling politicians manipulated by union officials who in some cases are old Stalinists, in pursuit of a state-owned economy that would not work and would not be popular, may appeal to a few romantics. But it is an utterly bankrupt strategy.’

Blairite Dan Hodges predicts a showdown, which I see as inevitable also. With such high stakes on the line, expect a vicious debate within the Opposition. And its divisions are most certainly David Cameron’s gain. During PMQs last week, he ridiculed Mr. Miliband about his inability to deal with the unions, having possibly the best PMQs he’s ever had.

Rifts among Labour members and the unions represent a modern dilemma for the Party. Unions failed to reconcile with Blair after losing a bitter battle with Thatcher. After that humiliation, Unite and the far left are determined to make sure they never lose again. But one can not help but think that maybe their actions have done the exact opposite of what they had intended. While unions are powerful, they are not strong enough to take on the public, something Labour should realise if they want to win the next election.



Follow Ryan on Twitter.

To restore Tory fortunes, Cameron’s modernisation of the Party needs completing, not retrenching

Harry Fraser

David Cameron should remember the principles that got him in to Number 10 in response to the growing discontent from the Right.

In 2005 shortly after becoming party leader, he declared that he would not be a ‘prisoner of an ideological past’, and in the run up to the 2010 election defined himself as a ‘one nation, relatively liberal Conservative’. To stand the best chance of achieving a Conservative majority at the next general election, Mr. Cameron must reaffirm these testimonies and broaden his appeal further rather than turn his back on modernisation.

Recently there has been a marked growth in discontent towards the Prime Minister, and most notable is the grievances from the Right rather than the Left. The rise of UKIP and their populist message has frustrated the established political parties and has prompted calls for the Conservatives to assert more ‘traditional’ conservative values and reflect this with policies of that nature. A debate regarding the Party’s future is becoming more evident, a battle between ‘Swivel Eyed Loons and The Cameroons’, if you will.

In response to the growth of electoral support for UKIP the Tories’ right-wing, anti-Cameron sentiment has currently culminated with the ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’, a number of proposals from various backbench MPs that they describe as a “genuine attempt” to show what policies a future Conservative government could deliver. Most notable of the 42 bills proposed were calls for a referendum on the Same Sex Marriage bill, abolishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change, renaming the late August Bank Holiday Margaret Thatcher Day and reintroducing National Service. All of these policies you wouldn’t be surprised to find between the covers of a would-be UKIP manifesto.

Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin identify that UKIP’s recent converts are much more likely to be low-income, financially insecure, and working class. The party is widely seen as to the right of the Conservatives – but that is not how UKIP voters view themselves. Whereas 60% of Tory voters place themselves to the right-of-centre, the figure for UKIP supporters is only 46%. Also interestingly 25% of Tories say they are in the centre, or even left-of-centre, the figure for UKIP voters is higher at 36%. (See here). This suggests it is more a protest thought process behind voting for UKIP rather than being ideologically drawn to the party.

Whilst it has enjoyed some gains recently this appears to be more of a blip than what is set to be a long-term trend. UKIP’s time in the limelight has led to just as much ridicule as acclaim and their support has already begun to dwindle.

Come 2015 the electorate will not be voting in protest as many did so in the May local elections, they will be voting for the party they believe is most competent at running the country. UKIP’s populist pick n’ mix manifesto will come under greater scrutiny between now and then, and Farage’s party have a long way to go before mounting any serious challenge of the political establishment.

That does not mean the reasons why people turned to UKIP should be ignored, however; nor should the fact that UKIP have a higher proportion of supporters from lower incomes than the other two parties. Cameron appears to be in a Catch-22 situation: He cannot afford to turn to the socially conservative right, which left his party in the wilderness for 13 years, yet he also can’t ignore the fact that increasingly he is seen as out of touch with the views of everyday people. When the public were asked, ‘Do you think that David Cameron understands people like yourself?’, the overwhelming response was a resounding ‘no’.

There is thus a belief that to restore Conservative fortunes and appeal to those that have jilted us for UKIP means reverting to more socially conservative, right-wing policies evident within the ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’. The zealous ideological pursuit of social conservatism conflicts with the notion that the Party is the party of pragmatism. Cameron’s modernisation of the Party has been more beneficial than damaging; we have seen a 100% rise in support from younger people since he became leader and it would be wise not to stifle trends such as these. Instead of pandering to divisive politics of the past, Cameron should stand firm by his One Nation principles that he committed himself to pre-2010 in order to offer real benefits to working people.

“One Nation Conservatism” is the idea that the country is strongest and most stable when united and when social antagonisms are kept under control with relatively centrist, pragmatic politics. The debates of the 2015 election will be centred on the economy and facing the realities of government has meant that the pursuit of Thatcherite economics has replaced the compassionate conservatism Cameron promoted before 2010.

The electorate are not screaming en-masse for more Thatcherite economics in light of hard economic times. In 2009 when launching The Big Society, Cameron warned of the dangers regarding a “simplistic retrenchment of the state which assumes that better alternatives to state action will just spring to life.” As the economy shows signs of recovery Cameron should spend the next two years reassuring the public the Conservatives are not ‘enemies of the state’ but are the real One Nation Party that can represent all.

Our problem is not that the Conservatives aren’t ‘right-wing’ enough, it’s that people still don’t believe they care. David Skelton provides a useful conclusion. He notes how Cameron has rescued his party from the scrapheap once, but his modernisation is still a job half done. The move away from divisive social policies of the past is half of Conservative modernisation, but until the party does more to connect with ordinary working people, Cameron’s mission will remain unfinished business.

Follow Harry on Twitter.

The One Nation Tory is alive and well: a response to John Harris

Nik Darlington 2.30pm

The passing of Baroness Thatcher has elicited a great deal of Tory stock-taking and soul-searching, as well as comment upon comment upon comment as to what the legacy is of Britain’s longest-serving Prime Minister of the twentieth century. As John Harris wrote in the Guardian"Thatcher’s death has Britain peering back through time".

In a subsequent article, born from his introspective itinerary around Britain researching Lady Thatcher’s legacy, Harris asks readers to “spare a thought for the late unlamented one-nation Tory”. His argument is that “centrist, socially-concerned Conservatism” had already died long before her, and largely because of her doing.

Let’s be frank. The Tory Reform Group, its members and leading political representatives have not always seen eye to eye with all aspects of Thatcherism. Respected her achievements and they way she led the country in dark times, yes; but there have been policy disagreements along the way.

However, Harris is simply wrong. The ‘One Nation Tory’ might be a minority concern in today’s Conservative party, dominated as it is by people who cut their teeth during Mrs Thatcher’s battling leadership of the party, and the aftermath; but it is alive and well. Harris claims that every year he attends the Conservative party conference "looking for any signs of its revival…but it is nowhere to be seen". Based on attending a ConservativeHome fringe event, that is not surprising. Did he not care to call in to any TRG events, which every year seem to outnumber those of other Tory groups? Even stars of stage and screen turned up to Ken Clarke’s midnight party last year.

It is perhaps fashionable to presume there are no centrist Tories left, which is peculiar considering the efforts of David Cameron to steer the Conservative party in just such a direction - and indeed, it is more plausible to say that the party did not make it fully over the line in 2010 because it had not moved far enough in that direction, than it is to say it moved too far. It is even more peculiar coming from a Guardian writer, when that newspaper has on occasion so wholeheartedly championed Mr Cameron’s stewardship.

Perhaps it is simply thus: no Tory of whatever ilk can be as “centrist” or “socially-concerned” as the GuardianHarris may be a columnist, not an editorial writer, but he does a fine job of blending into his surroundings.

Harris is right that too slavish an adherence to the free market - a common and unfortunate conclusion reached by today’s self-proclaimed Thatcherites - has landed post-Thatcher political parties (including the Labour party) in hot water. As Sir Ian Gilmour said, “the balance will have to be redressed”.

Harris is right that the present plethora of Tory groups, if they coalesce at all, do so around one interpretation of Mrs Thatcher’s policies. Yet this misses the point, which is that the fact a plethora exists suggests how confused even Conservatives remain about her legacy and what to do with it.

Harris wonders “what would happen if the grandees of pre-Thatcher Conservatism were raised from the grave, and confronted with Britain’s current problems”. He need not resort to table-turning, though many have indeed passed away. Just look at Lord Heseltine’s continued role in public life at the ripe old age of eighty. His growth review, which at its heart recommends a more decentralised approach, has largely been accepted by the Government. Meanwhile, Ken Clarke’s experience, not least as a successful Chancellor of the Exchequer, remains indispensable to the Government. Though not necessarily a ‘pre-Thatcher grandee’, Lord Baker is a life member of the TRG and remains an influential figure in education policy.

Ed Miliband, as Harris says, has “tentatively” attempted to expropriate the ‘One Nation’ theme for the Labour party. I spelled out last October why Mr Miliband’s interesting approach falls flat. His post-Blair (and by extension, post-Thatcher) Labour party is in the grip of myriad interest groups fixated by an ideological nihilism. Signs of this are bubbling to the surface even in his own positioning, until now so often non-committal.

Michael Gove recently told a Policy Exchange gathering that in order to interpret her legacy honestly, we have to view Mrs Thatcher as a “historical figure” - much, indeed, with the detachment we deploy to consider Sir Winston Churchill, or William Gladstone, or even Pitt. Most agree that her prescriptions and demeanour were right for her time. Party political Conservatism has moved on; Thatcherism has moved on too. It means different things to its adherents today than perhaps it did even to Mrs Thatcher herself. In the same vein, One Nation Conservatism, so sidelined since the 1990s (and largely to do with a single policy issue: Europe), has moved on.

Our relative anonymity, and the fact John Harris thinks we are dead, might well be a problem. Yet we have in power a largely centrist, modernising Conservative-led government dealing with economic disruption and deeply moral dislocation - not least in education and welfare policy - that the opposition Labour party refuses to confront.

So while the Tory Reform Group does need to do more to get its message heard above the cacophony of Conservative voices (small ‘v’), I respectfully believe Harris’ pessimism is misplaced.

Follow Nik on Twitter @NikDarlington

The Lady: Reflections on a political matriach

Giles Marshall 8.00am

I was nursing a hot chocolate in a small café beneath one of the North Yorkshire peaks when someone told me that Margaret Thatcher had died.  There were no rumblings in the nearby mountains, no lighting strikes and the rain didn’t stop falling, but it was possible nonetheless to feel a sense of the profound.

All of us, after all, live in a country whose political environment she has largely created, and the acres of print and online commentary that followed her passing were produced by men and women whose own outlook was shaped by her’s.

We are all children of Thatcher.  Progressives and reactionaries, lovers and haters, nationalists and internationalists, we have all had our political consciousness defined by the woman whose funeral procession will move along the Strand and Fleet Street and up to St Paul’s Cathedral this morning.  It is an extraordinary reflection of her impact.  Just as politics seemed to be retreating into blandness, and fewer people want to be bothered with political argument, it all comes flooding back.  Thanks to her.

My earliest political memories and actions are to do with the Lady.  I canvassed for her, as a member of a relatively political family, in 1979; rejoiced in her triumph at a preternaturally early age on that sunny May day; went on to join the Young Conservatives, where Mrs Thatcher would be greeted by enthusiastic ovations on the last day of the national conference, even while it was in the hands of some distinctly non-Thatcherite chairmen and vice-chairmen.  And even when I started to move away from the Thatcherite creed, I never doubted – no one did – the impact of this woman who had taken Britain by the scruff of the neck in 1979 and sought to re-boot it.  Meeting her in person was a defining moment, even if she did spend some time attacking the profession – teaching – that I had recently joined.  But then that was – and is – the point about Margaret Thatcher.  She had no time for false niceties.  She was blunt in her opinions and her actions, in the black and white world she looked upon, and she expected others to be the same.

There is an irony in the Ding Dong brigade being so triumphalist.  You can sing Ding Dong Socialism’s dead.  Or communism.  Or militant trade unionism.  And you’d be right in those instances.  Indeed, if you really must, you can remind everyone via a 1930s Munchkin song that the Lady herself is dead.  But her ideas aren’t.  Her legacy isn’t.  Enjoy the song while you can, you preening lefties, for Thatcherism has survived everything you sought to protect.

Yet of course, she also managed to destroy One Nation Conservatism, Egremont’s creed.  She gave it lip service, commenting, “We must learn again to be one nation, otherwise we shall end up as no nation”.  It was not truly a commitment to what we understand as One Nation Conservatism.  She was as happy to spell the end of a brand of conservatism that she considered weak and inarticulate as she was the trade unionism which had halted much of Britain in the months before her march on power.  Yet even for us, the last remaining outpost of old Toryism, her death is an event to provoke respect and to stimulate reflection.

Why should we respect her?  Why should we draw ourselves to mark her passing on this funeral day?  Because she is of a rare breed.  She is of a breed that sees politics as a can-do vocation.  A breed that allows no obstacle to stand in the way of political passion.  A breed that comes to political maturity at just the time they are needed, to change things, whether through conflict or persuasion, because actually, the change is so very needed.  A breed that makes the political world seem so much larger and so much more important because the scale of their own thinking and activity is so monumental.  We mark her passing because we know very well that she will be one of only a handful of political leaders whose name will remain part of the common currency of discussion and memory a century or more hence.  That is what makes her passing worth marking.

When this day is done the passions won’t much die down, and her name and legacy will still inspire furious argument on either side.  Nevertheless, we shall return to the oft dead-ended politics of today and may occasionally wonder what could happen if another person of the Lady’s ilk were to bestride the political nation again.  We might have some nostalgia for a time when ideas really seemed to matter, or we might be grateful for our less troublesome, more mediocre politicians.  But we will know that the era to which Margaret Thatcher gave her name was indeed an extraordinary one in the annals of British politics.  We are still living in its shadow.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesmarshall

Margaret Thatcher’s message for the TRG’s inaugural conference in 1975

Nik Darlington 9.00am

The morning’s newspapers are devoted to the death of Baroness Thatcher. The TRG made a statement yesterday and I made my own comments later.

While millions around the world mourn her passing, we remember her words at this organisation’s birth, in September 1975.

"I am pleased to learn of the formation of this new and vigorous group, and thank you for your good wishes to me as Leader of the Conservative Party.

As a nation, we face three problems:

First, we must beat inflation, or it will destroy the basis of our society.

Second, we must secure the future of economic and political liberty by genuinely distributing power and property among our people—a policy which is the reverse of that which the present Government is pursuing.

Third, we must play an active and influential part in world affairs, showing concern both for the western democratic ideal and for those nations whose primary task is to overcome poverty.

It is good to know that the Conservative Party can look to the Tory Reform Group for creative and practical ideas on these matters and for the will to see them through. We face the future with a sense of hope, and confidence in the capacity of our people to cope with whatever lies ahead.”

Peter Walker, the founder of the Tory Reform Group, who served under Mrs Thatcher as Energy Secretary in the pivotal period of the miners’ strike, responded with the following words:

"The members of the Tory Reform Group are holding their inaugural conference in London today and have asked me to convey to you their good wishes and to express to you their determination to do all in their power to see the early return of a Conservative Government and the defeat of the Socialist Government that is doing so much harm to our country.

They have also asked me to tell you that besides your being able to rely upon their fullest support in bringing victory to our Party they hope they will be able to make a creative and constructive contribution to the preparation of our Party’s policies for the years that lie ahead.”

The “Socialist Government” was indeed defeated in 1979. Margaret Thatcher went on to revolutionise British politics, and change the course of not one but two political parties as even her Labour opponents under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown comprehended the sea change before them.

For our part, the Tory Reform Group remains wholly committed to continuing that “creative and constructive contribution” as we all work towards the return of a Conservative Government in 2015.

What is Mrs Thatcher’s legacy? Britain.

Nik Darlington 4.30pm

Margaret Thatcher did not get everything right. What politician does? But her legacy is not just a few policies here, a few new organisations there. Her legacy is the Britain we know. For how many politicians can we say that?

She changed the direction of the country’s travel. Not by a margin of degrees, but by right angles.

The Telegraph's Peter Oborne wrote recently:

"In a way that is probably hard for those who did not live through this period to understand, for the best part of that decade the very existence of the British state appeared to be under threat. Politicians from all mainstream parties seemed quite unable to cope with what appeared to be insoluble problems. Only the far Left was wholly confident of the answers, and the situation only started to clarify with Margaret Thatcher’s victory in the 1979 general election."

The very existence of the British state. Say those words again. The more you do, the more implausible it sounds - but on a certain level it is as plausible as the rising sun. Over the course of the troubled 1970s, Britain had become nigh on ungovernable. Like today, global currents were in part sweeping the country along a course it could neither understand nor control. Yet infamous “enemies within” wrecked successive government attempts to reign them in - whether Ted Heath’s industrial policies of the first half of the decade, or Wilson and Callaghan’s palliative care in the latter half.

Ken Clarke said in 1985, when Paymaster-General:

"When we returned to office in 1979 one very major reason was that we were elected to curb excessive trade union power…and the abuse of trade union power vis-à-vis employees within trade unions.  The background was that a good Government had been swept out of power in 1974 by a political miner’s strike, and the Labour Government in the late 1970s had been firmly controlled by trade union bosses."

Mrs Thatcher’s government learned valuable lessons from her Tory predecessor’s failures. In contrast to the popular perception of her as a bludgeon, she was cautious. She knew when to pick her fights. She was better prepared. And she had an answer to the economic malaise of the time.

Following the 1984-85 miners’ strike, Britain witnessed its lowest rate of industrial unrest for half a century, with 1.92 million working days lost in 1986. In 1974, the country lost 14.75 million working days and over 6 million in 1975. The alleged ‘Winter of Discontent’ contributed to almost 29.5 million working days lost in 1979 alone. Thenceforth, strike activity was in overall decline - with the obvious exception in 1985.

We can argue till the end of our days about the merits, motives and consequences of Mrs Thatcher’s policies - and people will continue to do so, not least because hers is a fascinating period of study. When an undergraduate, I took a history course named, simply, ‘Thatcherism’ (taught by one of the 364 economists, no less). It converted me from a misty-eyed admirer to an awed, respectful and yet critical supporter. It enthralled me like only a genuine watershed in history can.

It cannot ever be doubted that Mrs Thatcher stood firm to her purpose. Her obduracy on certain issues earned her enemies, but it earned her many, many more adherents. ‘You may not have agreed with her, but at least you knew where she stood,’ is the typical refrain.

The Thatcher legacy is rich and multi-faceted. On industrial policy, certainly, she made the greatest break with the immediate past - not least in that she succeeded in bringing (relative) harmony where there was discord. On many other policies, she set in train a revolution that has traversed three decades of British life: privatisation for instance (a word she hated), a liberal economy based on a powerful and flexible financial sector (and subsequently fruitful symbiosis between other professional services such as law and accountancy), and - oft forgotten - a firm hand of environmental protection.

Today we remember across the newsreels - and tomorrow across the newspapers - a great woman, and a great Briton. Meanwhile a family weeps, a country stops, and an entire world mourns.

Follow Nik on Twitter @NikDarlington