If she sought a monument: Six years ago Mrs Thatcher walked into a wilderness. We know about the woman. What happened to the place?

'WE MUST do something about the inner cities,' Mrs Thatcher announced in the afterglow of her June 1987 general election victory. What she meant, it was later suggested, was that something had to be done about the collapse of the Conservative vote in the inner cities.

Nevertheless, by September wheels were spinning. On the 15th, Mrs Thatcher flew to Teesside to do something quite unlike her: launch an interventionist quango, the Teesside Development Corporation.

John Voos, the Independent's photographer, says that most of his negatives from the day are of the backs of policeman. 'There was a lot of security. No public were allowed - it was a 'sanitised area'. We got no pictures at all, so eventually we asked her to walk towards us through the bit of waste ground. I took a picture as she walked away to get into position, and that was that.'

The photograph ran across the front page of the paper the next day - the caption told how Mrs Thatcher had met just one unemployed man on her tour: Eric Fletcher, of Grangemouth. He showed her some of the 1,000 fruitless job applications he had made. She told him to go and get retrained. The next day, cartoonist Nicholas Garland redrew the picture for the front page, and borrowed Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph in St Paul's Cathedral for a caption: 'If you seek for a monument, gaze around'.

Mrs Thatcher, frail crusader haloed by the weak sun, wanders alone into the post-

industrial wastescape: it is one of the two most powerful images of her reign (however, neither it nor Ken Lennox's photograph for the Daily Mirror of her tearful departure from Downing Street appears in her memoirs). The picture is one of the Independent syndication department's all-time best-sellers - when Mrs Thatcher did depart, it appeared in journals from Stern to the Los Angeles Times.

It is known as 'the wilderness picture' and it goes with stories of British industrial collapse brought about, partly at least, by Mrs Thatcher and her economic philosophy. But that, as it turns out, is not entirely fair. She may have shaming monuments, but the site of the old Head Wrightson steel foundry site in Stockton-on-Tees is not one of them.

Last week John Voos photographed Duncan Hall, chief executive of the Teesside Development Corporation on the same spot - though the area has changed so much that the two of them had to resort to aerial photographs before they could decide where it was.

Mr Hall is standing in the car park of a pounds 10m office block, the first of five to be built in what is now Teesdale, a 450- acre office and factory development; 280 acres are already let. According to the corporation, 7,000 jobs have been created on sites it has developed since parliamentary assent was given for the building of the Tees barrage in 1990. There are at least 3,000 more to come. It has spent pounds 200m of Government money, and attracted pounds 700m, so far, from the private sector.

'The private sector is building factories on Teesside for the first time in 20 years,' said Mr Hall.

The TDC long ago recognised the ambiguity of the wilderness picture, and it continues to use it in its publicity. Mr Hall said: 'The walk in the wilderness created a benchmark for us, a stunning visual identification of the problems of Teesside and of the requirements for the future.' It also, he added, usefully identified Mrs Thatcher with the project; later, she allowed the corporation to use 10 Downing Street to entertain potential investors. Her words of that day: 'Where you have initiative, talent and ability, the money follows', stay on the brochures.

Unemployment in Stockton-on-Tees is down, a bit - from 17 per cent of the workforce when Mrs Thatcher visited in September 1987 to 14.3 per cent last month. That is only 2,000 fewer people, but it is against the national trend.

And Eric Fletcher is doing all right. 'Grabbing Maggie was the best thing I have ever done,' he says. Now 40, he did indeed retrain, and got a job with a local printing firm. He recently bought his house and took a holiday in France. But Mr Fletcher still sees a wilderness. 'There are no jobs now, and there were no jobs then,' he says. 'I'm particularly worried for the young ones.'

Leading article, page 20

Book review, Sunday Review

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor