Norman Tebbit: You Ask The Questions

The former Conservative minister on: who do Thatcherites vote for now? And did you ever own a leather jacket?
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The Independent Online

Is the EU a bad idea - or a good idea badly executed? DANIEL VALENTINE, Manchester

The idea of a union of western European nations having sufficient in common and little enough in difference for them to grow into a single democratic state with one government, one currency, a single tax and welfare system, defence force, police and judiciary, was a brave, idealistic but not impossible ambition. However, as both Churchill and De Gaulle realised, Britain's history, legal system, governmental conventions and trading interests precluded this country from being able to merge into such a state. Our entry was sold to the British people on the false prospectus (which I signed up to) that we would not be required to give up our national sovereignty or our traditional ways in favour of a Napoleonic structure. Since then the European Community/Union, being unable to digest Britain, has spread its borders too far to be able to maintain the homogeneity which it needs to become a state.

How do you think history will view Margaret Thatcher's time leading Britain? RICHARD MAY, by e-mail

Mostly with admiration. She delivered us from the corporate state dominated by trades unions, gave our friends and enemies alike reason to respect us, laid the foundation of economic success and gave an example followed by many countries overseas. Above all, with President Reagan she sealed victory for the West in the Cold War.

What was your biggest mistake in office; and what was Maggie's? HAMISH McINTYRE, Edinburgh

My greatest failing in office was my failure to carry through either the potential General Motors or Ford deals to solve the British Leyland problem. Margaret Thatcher's was to fall out with Chancellor Lawson, which led to her isolation and overthrow by Heseltine and Howe. My biggest mistake of all was made out of office when I left it to Major to succeed her.

Have you ever owned a leather jacket? TED MULLET, London

Yes. I bought it second-hand for ten shillings just after the war. Alas, falling off bicycles and motor bikes did it no good and I sold it on after several years for half a crown.

How true was your Spitting Image? LINDA TALBOT, Ipswich

It must have had an essence of the truth or it would not have stuck. Personally, I liked him.

To me, Conservatism equals self-interest and fear of other people; Socialism equals belief in human solidarity. Can you correct this impression? R WATES, Paris

My dictionary tells me that socialism is "an economic and political theory advocating collective or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods". It does not mention "human solidarity", whereas Conservatism is defined as "a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability stressing established institutions and preferring gradual development to abrupt change". It seems that you have got the wrong end of the stick, as they say.

Have the Tories gone soft? THOMAS SMITH, London

I do not think Tory supporters have gone soft, but I think the Tory leadership believes the electors are too soft to take the hard decisions which the country is now facing.

With David Cameron espousing policies similar to those of New Labour (and to some extent the Lib Dems), which party do voters who believe in the values of Margaret Thatcher turn to now? M HOWLEY, Wirral

They have to realise that democracy is an active, not a passive concept. So those voters have to become activists, join the Conservative Party, work in it, seize control of it, and make it the vehicle of their aspirations.

What is the single most useful piece of advice you could give to David Cameron? P COUCHMAN, Reading

Don't take voters for fools.

Why shouldn't Jonathan Ross make risqué remarks about Lady Thatcher? CORNELIUS GROVES, South London

Risqué remarks would be one thing. For the BBC to use the compulsory levy of the TV licence scheme to pay a multi-million pound salary to a foul-mouthed slob using obscene language about any public figure is another.

Why are you so angry all the time? CLEMMIE O'NEILL, Aberdeen

I am not angry all the time. But I am angry that a country which has been capable of independent democratic self-government longer than any other, should be reduced to the status of a European province led by a puppet of the President of the United States.

When was the last time you flew a plane? ARTHUR REID, Eastbourne

30 March 1977.

How can we encourage politicians about climate change to make hard choices on our behalf before it is too late? EVE BAKER, by e-mail

Climate change is happening - but then it always has been. Two thousand years ago Greenland was green, and the Romans had vineyards up to Hadrian's Wall. Five hundred years ago the Thames (admittedly slower flowing) froze over regularly. I do not know to what extent our present lifestyle is causing or accentuating climate change. Clearly it was not a factor in the past changes. So the first requirement is to stop being hysterical. We could stop pretending windmills are much more than gesture politics and get on with nuclear power. The second is for us to show some signs of willingness to make some hard choices ourselves. We could all reduce our energy needs without compulsion. If we take hard choices our politicians might be encouraged to do so too.

How do you relax? JULIA NEWTON, Royston

With some difficulty. Gardening, shooting, cooking, talking over food and drink with friends, listening to music.

How far should Britain follow the Bush administration into the moral abyss? R N ENGLAND, Duncraig, Australia

Since the United States is a more religious country than the United Kingdom and President Bush's policies - right or wrong - are more principled than those of Mr Blair, I think the question lacks meaning.

Do you agree that the US and England have been too slow and reluctant when it comes to criticising Israel? MAJID HUSSAIN, by e-mail

Yes, but that is because Israel's actions are reactions against those who do not accept its right to exist.

I can still remember the terrible pictures of you after the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton. How do you feel now about the event and what has since happened in Ulster? STEVE PRICE, Hove

I deeply regret that those in the senior ranks of IRA/Sinn Fein who authorised and planned the Brighton murder plot have not only gone unpunished, but are now on the taxpayers' payroll and treated as democratic politicians. While it is undoubtedly a good thing that the violence of IRA/Sinn Fein and the other terrorist groups is much reduced, their criminal activities and blank refusal to accept the judiciary or police force of Northern Ireland are worrying. Peace brought by surrender to criminal violence is an uncertain, fragile and dishonourable peace.

Do you believe in forgiveness? Could you ever forgive the Brighton bombers? ANGELA ELLIOTT, Welton le Marsh

I could forgive those who planned, authorised and carried out the IRA/Sinn Fein murder plot at Brighton, but only when they repent, show remorse and by their actions seek atonement, and by seeking forgiveness acknowledge their criminality.

What do you perceive to be the greatest challenges or threats facing our nation at this time and how do you advise your leader to go about tackling them? JAY WRIGHT, Durham

Leaving aside climate change and terrorism, which we share with other nations, the most serious is the social instability consequent upon unlimited, unmonitored, uncontrolled immigration of people unwilling to integrate or abide by British customs, cultures and laws. That is made worse by the progressive collapse of educational standards leaving a skills shortage and a surplus of near unemployable semi-illiterate and innumerate school leavers, undisciplined, without moral standards, living in urban areas with inadequate policing, and a judiciary infected by political correctness and imported legal concepts which fail to distinguish between rights and entitlements.

What are you most proud of? AMANDA RUCKLIDGE, London

In my political life, having designed and carried through Parliament the reform of trades union law which changed Britain's industrial relations from among the worst in the industrialised world to be among the best. In my personal life, I am most proud of my wife, who has overcome both ill health and injury.

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