David Cameron may have days when he feels that half his Cabinet is against him, but it is doubtful whether even in his darkest moments he reaches quite the level of isolation and paranoia that characterised Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister – even during the weeks when she was basking in her Falkland victory.
She wanted to push ahead with a radical right-wing economic programme, which included privatisation, public spending cuts, the introduction of spending vouchers, and possibly even the dismantling of the NHS and its replacement with an insurance based system.
She knew that there would be dissent in the Cabinet, and there was. One day, in June 1982, she made a list on Downing Street notepaper. On the left she listed the Cabinet minister who were “Ag. us” and on the right, those who were “For us”.
The second list was considerably shorter, with only the four Thatcherite stalwarts – Cecil Parkinson, Norman Tebbit, Nigel Lawson and Sir Keith Joseph, plus Norman Fowler, who had a “1/2” by his name.
There are twice as many names in the other column – and she did not even include Michael Heseltine, the Cabinet minister most likely to start an argument with her.
Notably, though, she listed Sir Geoffrey Howe as being “against” though to outsiders it did not seem there had been anyone apart from Thatcher herself who had done more to push through the Thatcherite agenda.
But she never got on with him, and in the end it was Howe, more than anyone else, who brought her down after a long-running argument over Europe.
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