Margaret Thatcher said she used to marvel at his intellect, and you can tell why just by listening to him for an hour, he has a way of reducing the most difficult topics into ‘man on the street’ language. He recalled his time in government with extraordinary detail; it was rather amusing to hear that he thought he had invented the word Thatcherism during his 1981 speech in Zurich, but was sadly informed some years later that a Marxist magazine had used it describe everything they were against.
He went on to discuss his time as Energy Secretary, and how he helped prepare the country for a miner’s strike. It was particularly revealing to hear that the cabinet were initially hostile to his plans to stockpile coal at the power stations, thinking this would be a provocative act to the unions. However Lawson used the argument that instead of provoking the strike, this would deter strike action, as the unions could see the government was prepared. As you know the rest is history. There was a miners’ strike and Britain won. Lawson paid a special tribute to Joe Gormley, the former NUM President; Lawson had convinced Gormley that the strike would be bad for mineworkers which led to Gormley writing an article in the Daily Express. This led opinion against Arthur Scargill and the Nottinghamshire Miners decided not to go on strike, which would prove decisive in the government’s efforts to end the main strike. On Lawson's advice, Gormley was given a peerage by Margaret Thatcher - the only peerage given to a NUM President by a Prime Minister. How ironic.
Lawson went on to talk about his time as Chancellor, and the proud achievements he has from that period. He mentioned two things in particular; reducing tax and the “Big Bang” in the City of London. Firstly he said that he is a committed believer in the Laffer curve, and that theory was proven during his period in charge of the economy when he reduced the top rate of tax from 60% to 40%, resulting in an increase in tax revenue. It is important to note that Margaret Thatcher was nervous about reducing it to 40%, Lawson said she was more comfortable with the idea of a 50% top rate but Thatcher was persuaded by Lawson in the end.
Questions were then opened up to the floor and inevitably questions about today’s economic situation were raised, ranging from Margot James MP asking about quantitative easing to a question on the banking crisis. He stood firmly by his Big Bang reforms of the 1980s and said the City of London was, and still is, a huge asset to Britain and the economy. A more interesting question was asked about his opinions on the few departmental budgets that have been ringfenced from cuts. Lawson was not happy at the government’s decision to ringfence international aid, calling the 0.7% UN target “absolutely irrelevant” and claimed it was plucked out of the air. He went on to say the reason why we are the only country which will achieve the 0.7% target is because we are the “only country stupid enough” to do it. He then questioned the effectiveness of international aid itself, claiming in some cases it actually stopped countries progressing and recommended Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid for further information about that topic.
To learn more about Nigel Lawson’s experience at the heart of the Thatcher government and his opinions on the Coalition government you can buy his new book, Memoirs of a Tory Radical, HERE.
I will leave you with this quote from Nigel Lawson:
“[Thatcherism] is a mixture of free markets, financial discipline, firm control over public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, 'Victorian values', privatization and a dash of populism.”