Friday, 14 December 2018

Tories pay tribute to Lady T

CONSERVATIVES from the Henley area have paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday, aged 87.

CONSERVATIVES from the Henley area have paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday, aged 87.

Campaigning in the Oxfordshire County Council elections has been suspended as a mark of respect for Baroness Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990 and won three general elections.

There will be a ceremonial funeral in London on Wednesday for Lady Thatcher, who died at the Ritz Hotel in London after suffering a stroke.

Henley MP John Howell said he was “immensely saddened” by her death as his own political ambitions were born during her time in Downing Street.

He assisted with one of her projects, the Know How Fund, which was designed to encourage former Communist countries in Europe to convert to democracy and free-market capitalism.

Mr Howell said this was “far-sighted”, adding: “With relatively little money it made a massive contribution to the transformation of the area and I happily joined Margaret Thatcher as a post-Cold War warrior seeking to instill the notions of democracy and of a market economy.

“These objectives were central to her philosophy and saw the end of Communism as a dominant player on the greater European stage.”

Mr Howell said he had received a number of emails since Lady Thatcher’s death that talked about her “iron will” and he said the current Government should continue her philosophy of “backing Britain’s hard workers”.

Home Secretary and Maidenhead MP Theresa May said: “Margaret Thatcher was one of the giants of the 20th century and one of our greatest prime ministers.

“As the first woman to reach that office, she remains an inspiration to millions of women of all political persuasions. Her considerable legacy continues to shape British politics to this day.”

Former Henley MP Lord Heseltine, who served in Lady Thatcher’s Cabinet, said he was sorry to learn of her death.

He said: “The illness of her last few years has been cruel and very difficult. I send my deepest condolences to [her children] Mark and Carol.” Lord Heseltine quit the Cabinet in 1986 following a row with the Prime Minister over the Westland Helicopters affair.

One of the conditions that the “Iron Lady” agreed with her party when she stepped down as premier was that Lord Heseltine would not be her successor.

Sir William McAlpine, of Fawley Hill, met Lady Thatcher a number of times through his brother Lord McAlpine, who was treasurer of the Conservative Party during her leadership.

He said: “I think she was a wonderful person and changed our country totally. She was an extremely kind person. When my mother was ill she wrote a personal letter, which was very kind for such a busy person to do. My brother absolutely enjoyed working with her. She was a forceful personality but at the same time very kind.”

Sir William, who is president of the Wycombe Conservative Association, was part of a group that accompanied Lady Thatcher to the theatre for a production about her time at No 10.

The show was inspired by Private Eye and Sir William said she found it funny. He said: “She could be self- deprecating and it amused her. She thought Yes, Minister was tremendous and it was very true. She was actually a very feminine person when you got to know her.”

His wife Lady McAlpine said: “My abiding memory is the way she always took time to add a little personal handwritten note at the bottom of any letter she signed — certainly to me anyway — and when talking she never seemed to be in a hurry, she was interested and listened.”

The last time she met Lady Thatcher was at the unveiling of a statue of former prime minister David Lloyd George in London in 2007.

Lady McAlpine said there had been rumours that she was “losing it” due to Alzheimer’s but the baroness was in good spirits.

She said: “She knew who everyone was and was particularly keen to talk to the children who were there. They found her interesting and ‘nice’ without having a clue what a colossus she had been.

“We were fortunate in having [her press secretary] Bernard Ingham as a close friend so we had ‘Maggie bulletins’ right up to the end as he saw her at least once a week.”

Lady McAlpine defended Lady Thatcher against criticism that her policies divided Britain and that she destroyed the mining and other industries by reforming the trade unions.

She said: “Someone needs to write the truth about the declining mining industry to counteract the suggestion that, by attacking the unions, she destroyed the industry.

“Obviously those who lost their jobs will blame her but it is not rocket science to understand that the unions were making it impossible for anyone to run a profitable business, especially in the face of competition from abroad. If a business cannot make a profit, it dies.”

Peter Hopkins, chairman of Henley Conservatives, said he met Lady Thatcher twice and she inspired him to go into politics.

He said: “Margaret Thatcher’s legacy for us in Henley is an encouragement to cherish our own little platoons, like our churches, the Round Table, Women’s Institute, scouts, YMCA, Kenton Theatre, Henley Partnership, Henley Good Neighbours, Henley Festival and many more, including our own small, independently owned and run businesses.

“We need to cherish our free press and our liberty and we need to encourage more enterprise. Although starting or running a business is a risk, Lady Thatcher would agree that the best time to start a business is always ‘now’.

“The millions of new jobs that have been created since Lady Thatcher’s call to enterprise are the best tribute to her and I hope that many other people will feel inspired by what they hear and read about her story to be enterprising, set up or join the running of a well-run business and support our own little ‘platoons’ in the town.”

Diane Sutherland, whose late husband Peter was president of Henley Conservatives for 50 years and met Lady Thatcher on several occasions, said: “We all thought she was a very strong leader.

“She was an incredible person and I think the country was very lucky to have someone like that.”

Peter Skolar, who represents Henley on Oxfordshire County Council, recalled his experience of Lady Thatcher’s fury during the Eighties.

He was the Conservative leader on Labour-led Camden London Borough Council when he was introduced to the PM at a function in Watford, where she was speaking.

Councillor Skolar, who lives in Shiplake, said: “Someone said to her, ‘this is Peter Skolar’ and she looked at me and said, ‘I know you, you are the leader of the Conservatives in Camden. You didn’t do very well in the last elections’.

“I was taken aback because I didn’t think she would know who the hell I was. For a Prime Minister to know the leader of the minority group of a London borough was quite impressive. She wouldn’t have been briefed about me because no one would have realised I would be there.

“I got well and truly ‘handbagged’. The exact words are probably unrepeatable but she was basically asking me why I didn’t do better. When she got going she was frightening. You didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that.”

Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council will both fly their flags at half mast on the day of the funeral.

Conservative district council leader Ann Ducker, from Goring, said: “She showed complete leadership, was very forceful and stood firmly by what she believed in. There are certain sayings we’ll always look back on, such as ‘This lady’s not for turning’. She was a revolutionary figure and gave encouragement for women to enter politics.”

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