Leading article: The smack of firm government

Click to follow
The Independent Online

You have to hand it to the ol' gal. Requesting that each of her new ministers write a short assessment of their department's prospects and receiving the usual round of whingeing over straitened budgets, Mrs Thatcher took to her blue pencil. "Too small" she scrawled across her Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe's, timid approach to cuts. "This will not do," she stamped across another. As for her attitude towards her allies, let alone her enemies, abroad, she told the Cabinet that she was "not in the habit of discussing the internal problems of the US with the Americans and they should not attempt to do with us".

Not exactly the present Prime Minister's approach to Washington these days, or the spirit of his interventions on Iran and China. Nor indeed is there the same robust policy towards public expenditure. But then Mrs Thatcher was a woman dealing with male colleagues, which makes her time very different from today's, whichever party is in power after the next election.