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i Editor's Letter: Margaret Hilda Thatcher

 

I met Margaret Thatcher just the once, when she opened a party for a Japanese ad agency. £10k for 30 minutes' "work". Very Blair! In a queue for sushi, I offered to help with her chopsticks. She tore my head off, turning to hiss at Jeffrey Archer: "Keep an eye on Denis," who was by then enjoying the saki.

The towering political figure of our age was also the most divisive. It was there in the reactions to her death, especially that North-South divide. I am sad that – inevitably – some i readers wrote in to abuse her. There is a time for passionate dissent, but there is never a time for dancing upon a grave.

Mrs Thatcher made the macro micro, and vice-versa. She created a more aspirational society, but one also more selfish. Arguably, she created a more meritocratic Britain, but it's difficult to accept she did away with old-school ties, given today's old-school oligarchy.

My working-class Labour family should have detested Maggie. Instead they voted for her. Why? Unlike any politician since Aneurin Bevan she actually improved our fortunes greatly. Her right to buy your council house scheme single-handedly gave us the biggest improvement in all our lives imaginable. Plus, ordinary voters understood her conviction politics. You agreed or you didn't. Better this than trying to pin down the slippery fish of Blair and his heirs.

My late father-in-law, the former Army Quartermaster-General, Sir Richard Worsley, who helped plan the logistics of the Falklands War, told me the military admired her too – for decisive leadership. You can disagree with a war, but once in one you need a leader with nerve and strength.

Here's the big BUT: even as a young naive student it was evident our great council house deal came at a wider cost. I could not grasp the logic of Croydon Council buying back the property just three years later at a great loss – to them. And that's because there was no logic. It had sold off so much stock it was desperate.

But we were all right, weren't we? And that's how society polarised. The word "yuppie" became ubiquitous in the South, but entire communities were being devastated in the North, as Mrs Thatcher foolishly concluded Britain no longer needed a manufacturing base. Many have not recovered.

So, while I understand all this "ding dong the wicked witch is dead" stuff, whatever your view of her she will always remain one of Britain's most important and iconoclastic leaders. As our first woman Prime Minister she blazed a trail, proving that if you have extraordinary personal strength and conviction, married to ability, you can achieve whatever you want to, no matter who you are.

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