Editorial: This is not yet the end of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy

When an illustrious predecessor dies, there are immediate political consequences that are far from benign - as David Cameron may yet discover

Share

With its unstinting praise of a “great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton”, David Cameron’s paean to Margaret Thatcher was all that might be expected. But the death of so illustrious a predecessor is not only a time of commendations and condolences. There are also immediate political consequences that are far from benign.

Despite the 23 years that have passed since the Iron Lady was ousted from Downing Street by her own once-awestruck MPs, the Tories remain wholly in her shadow. Throughout his tenure, Mr Cameron has trodden carefully, attempting to “detoxify” the “nasty party” of which she was – rightly or wrongly – emblematic, without leaving himself open to charges of disloyalty. “There is such a thing as society,” he ventured when he won the leadership in 2005, “it’s just not the same thing as the state”.

Baroness Thatcher’s death brings a certain liberation. Mr Cameron is no longer constrained, even symbolically; the past can be treated as the past. Except that his increasingly unruly party, smarting at the restrictions of coalition, is as avowedly Thatcherite as ever.

Nor are such sentiments restricted to the old guard. Of the 148 new Tory MPs elected in 2010, the vast majority are Mrs Thatcher’s children. And as tributes are delivered in the hastily recalled House of Commons today – some of them by its newest members – comparisons between the mythologised past and the frustrating present cannot fail to be made.

Mr Cameron will not come out well. Where she won three elections, he failed to oust a tired incumbent who oversaw the worst economic crisis since the Depression. Where she was radically effective, his hands are tied by Liberal Democrat obstinacy on every Thatcherite tenet from tax cuts to employment regulations to Europe. Where she has become the archetype of the conviction politician, his more trenchant critics dismiss him as a mere “PR man”.

Sometimes death draws a line. For Mr Cameron, at least, this one will not.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities