Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anecdotes from the Thatcher Statue Unveiling

A word of praise for James Hardy of the BBC. His report on last night's unveiling of Margaret Thatcher's statue struck just the right tone. Having been a journalist on the Daily Mirror, I suspect that James is not a card carrying Tory, but he capture the mood of the occasion beautifully.

Two anecdotes from the evening. My informant tells me that another person who acquitted himself well was Speaker Michael Martin. He led Lady Thatcher into Members' lobby from the chamber of the House of Commons. Assorted Tory MPs and 'old lags' from Thatcher Cabinets of years gone by were gathered to greet her. There was a touching moment when she saw Geoffrey Howe, who immediately held out his hand. Not a word was exchanged, but I'm told it was one of those 'moments' when words would have been superfluous.

It was also good to see John Major attending. A few years ago he wouldn't have been seen dead in her company. Time heals, I suppose.

An amusing exchange occurred when a Conservative MP questioned an 'Old Labour' MP as to why he was there. "I would have thought you would rather anyone else had a statue erected here," said the Tory. "Look mate, if it stops that bastard Blair from getting a statue, it's got to be a good thing," said the Labour MP. "No, no, you don't understand," replied the Tory, "In this new technological age, Blair won't be getting a statue, there will be a permanenet moving hologram of him on the ceiling of Members' Lobby." Just for a moment the Labour MP believed it.

From what I have seen of the pictures the statue captures Lady T perfectly. I hope to see it in the 'flesh' this afternoon. Apparently, if the doors of the Chamber are open, the statue is clearly visible if you're speaking at the Opposition Despatch Box. What greater inspiration could David Cameron have?!

One final thing. Somebody in the Commons has a sense of humour. Were the statue of Lady T able to look down, what would she see? A small bust of Edwad Heath on a shelf. How very appropriate.

Anyway, I'll be on TalkSport at 10.20 talking about Lady T should you be listening to Mr John Gaunt this morning!


Anonymous said...


What a very handsome tribute/ report on an Honest Politician

Newmania said...

I `m so pleased we are through that stupid period when the BBC pretended that noone had ever voted for her.

Great Post Iain I really enjoyed it

Anonymous said...

Appropriately the Lady is pointing towards the right.

As a matter of interest which particular part of the House of Commons is she pointing towards?

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'm no Tory myself, but I thought I detected a needlessly mean anti-Tory bias in the report - something like "some see her as the PM that put the 'Great' back into Britain, MANY MORE see her as a divisive old witch who ruined the country" (I paraphrase slightly...)

Guido 2.0 said...

As a matter of interest which particular part of the House of Commons is she pointing towards?

The exit. (Try not to let the door hit your arse on the way out.)


Dave Cole said...

Thatcher is visible from the Opposition despatch box... if Labour, heaven forbid! ever end up in opposition again, it will be a damned good reminder as to why we need to move back to Government.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you must remind everyone to check out the little film of the 'making of the statue' on the BBC.

It is brief, but gives an insight into how the artist captured her expression and manners at the despatch box, at the height of her powers.

I also understand that this sculpture was commissioned by Tony Banks ! See, he was a top geezer all along..

Reactionary Snob said...

Hear, hear - we still get the odd idiot who says she was the most unpopular PM ever. So unpopular she won 3 elections. So unpopular that every party has to frame its parameters to fit the world she created...


Dr.Doom said...

Don't you just love the Nazi salute?

Margaret showed promise, she hated everyone almost as mush as I do.

She was flawed because she loved herself. When you hate everyone, you have to hate yourself first and foremost.

Then and only then can you be truly hated back more so.

She tried, she really did try.


Chris Paul said...

Long may Dave/id Cameron be inspired by Lady T and not engaged on the other front bench. Surely the sculptor (rather horrendous IMO) is already working on a Blair with his left digit extended to touch Ms T's?

The Military Wing Of The BBC said...


Do you or anyone else know how the "no statues funded by state funds until 10 years after the death of the subject" rule was ended?

Was there ever such a rule or is it my imagination?

I very much appreciate the statue of Mrs T.

But there was a very good reason for the rule - are we now on the slippery slope of statutes of current leaders eg PMs, Chancellors, Council leaders, commissioning their own statutes via "independent" commissions whilst still in power?

Then after elections the new leaders could pull them down Saddam style. All paid for by us.

Anonymous said...

A good tribute to the best PM of modern times ( i think she out-classes Churchill). Btw- your tribute book to the Thatch Iain was superb. One complaint- it wasn't long enough!

Schoolboy-Error said...

At first look I didn't like it:like a cheap chocolate figurine.However on reflection I think that in comparison to the figure on the other plinth it shows a change of style and thus the passing of time and taste.In the internet and mass media age will time still grip these people in an enobling grasp?Or will the ready retrieval of all their faults keep them in the domain of the mundane?

The Hitch said...

I think we should follow the American example and name an aircraft carrier after the glorious lady.T.
It would also be a very apt way to commemorate her finest hour, The Falklands.
Imagine the pain the brooding cyclops would feel approving the expenditure of a billion on the HMS Margaret Thatcher (+:

Jonathan Sheppard said...

So how was it with Gaunty. The big gob told me I had my head up my political backside last time I locked horns with him on SKY. I hope you were rude to him!!

Anonymous said...

Iain, I rather think you mean that Speaker Martin 'acquitted' himself well, I really don't think we need to know that he was well-'equipped'!

jailhouselawyer said...
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jailhouselawyer said...

I would support the hitch on this one, as long as it sank like the Belgrano off the Malvinas...

Anonymous said...
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Manfarang said...

the hitch
I didn't know the Americans had named a ship after Maggie.
The USS Margaret Thatcher-commanded by Admiral Horthy no doubt!

Anonymous said...

Tone made me

The Leader of Tameside has already commisioned a statue of himself I believe

jailhouselawyer said...

I wonder what the scrap value is for this amount of bronze?

David Lindsay said...

"She outclasses Churchill", Simon?Get a grip! And get over her!

After all, what, exactly, was "Thatcherism"? What did she ever actually do? Well, she gave Britain the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs, and the destruction of paternal authority within working-class families and communities through the destruction of that authority's economic basis in the stockades of working-class male employment.

No Prime Minister, ever, has done more in any one, never mind all, of the causes of European federalism, Irish Republicanism, sheer economic incompetence, Police inefficiency and ineffectiveness, collapsing educational standards, and everything that underlies or follows from the destruction of patriarchal authority.

Meanwhile (indeed, thereby), the middle classes were transformed from people like her father into people like her son. She told us that "there is no such thing as society", in which case there cannot be any such thing as the society that is the family, or the society that is the nation. Correspondingly, she misdefined liberty as the "freedom" to behave in absolutely any way that one saw fit.

All in all, she turned Britain into the country that Marxists had always said it was, even though, before her, it never actually had been.

Specifically, she sold off national assets at obscenely undervalued prices, while subjecting the rest of the public sector (forty per cent of the economy) to an unprecedented level of central government 'dirigisme'. She presided over the rise of Political Correctness, that most 1980s of phenomena, and so much of a piece with that decade's massively increased welfare dependency and its moral chaos, both fully sponsored by the government, and especially by the Prime Minister, of the day.

Hers was the war against the unions, which cannot have had anything to do with monetarism, since the unions have never controlled the money supply. For good or ill, but against all her stated principles, hers was the refusal (thank goodness, but then I am no "Thatcherite") to privatise the Post Office, as her ostensible ideology would have required.

And hers were the continuing public subsidies to fee-paying schools, to agriculture, to nuclear power, and to mortgage-holders. Without those public subsidies, the fourth would hardly have existed, and the other three (then as now) would not have existed at all. So much for "You can’t buck the market"! You can now, as you could then, and as she did then.

Hers was the ludicrous pretence to have brought down the Soviet Union merely because she happened to be in office when that Union happened to collapse, as it would have done anyway, in accordance with the predictions of (among other people) Enoch Powell. But she did make a difference internationally where it was possible to do so, precisely by providing aid and succour to Pinochet's Chile and to apartheid South Africa. I condemn the former as I condemn Castro, and I condemn the latter as I condemn Mugabe (or Ian Smith, for that matter). No doubt you do, too. But she did not, as she still does not.

And hers was what amounted to the open invitation to Argentina to invade the Falkland Islands, followed by the (starved) Royal Navy's having to behave as if the hopelessly out-of-her-depth Prime Minister did not exist, a sort of coup without which those Islands would be Argentine to this day.

But then again, who cares these days? Or, rather, who really ought to care? When the next General Election is upon us, people will have the vote who were not born when she was removed from office in order to restore the public order that had broken down because of what, in her allegedly paradigmatic United States, would have been her unconstitutional Poll Tax. And by the time of the Election after that ... well, you can finish that sentence for yourself.

Darkersideofbridgetjones said...

She is a wonderful woman – who has had to put up with a lot of stick in the past! And, it wasn’t just from press or academics who at first had a superior attitude towards her. This was also true of much of her own party, especially the hierarchy. She was never an insider in Tory politics, despite this she was able to build up a loyal following. And throughout her Premiership, it frequently seemed that her biggest battles came from within her own Party rather than the opposition.

Anonymous said...

from Mike Snyder:

Don’t mean this as a witty (or otherwise) slander, but from the picture the Thatcher Statue reminds me strongly of the statue of HUEY LONG that stands in front of the Louisiana State Capitol (built by Long and the site of his assassination) in Baton Rouge. Believe that old Huey would have appreciated Maggie’s instinct for power; they were both idealists masquerading as bullies . . . and visa versa.

The handbag is a great touch - perhaps inside is a small bottle of Courvoisier?

As a confirmed lefty, I never drank Maggie's Kool-Aid. On the other hand, hard to understand the fierce loathing for politicos who are past it. Personally wouldn't want to give them (and their supporters) the satisfaction of letting them see how profoundly they'd disrupted my equilibrium during their heyday.

Re: the Belgrano, the deaths of so many Argentineans and Britons in a war that could and should have been avoided was and remains a terrible tragedy. But at least in Mrs. Thatcher’s war the other side was the aggressor.

Recently saw a very interesting documentary, in which sailors who survived the sinking of the Belgrano met face-to-face with sailors from the submarine that sank her. Together they went on a mission to try to locate the remains of the Belgrano.

The Argentinean veterans stated that the Belgrano was a legitimate target of war, and that if THEY had had the opportunity to sink the sub or any other British naval vessel, they’d have done it in a heartbeat. Remember HMS Sheffield? On the other side, the British veterans were happy at the time that their attack was a success, and remain proud of their service. But they were FAR from triumphant; indeed, it was clear that they along with their South American counterparts were still suffering from posttraumatic stress.

The trip was a failure, in the sense that didn’t find what was left of Belgrano. But that really didn’t affect the best moment of the documentary: when the vets joined in a memorial service, the Brits standing tall in salute to the Argentine national anthem and the memory of brave men who had paid the ultimate sacrifice serving their countries.

C’est la guerre – which does NOT justify the armchair jingos who cheered this tragedy NOR denigrate the bleeding hearts (such as me) who deplored & still deplore the horrors of war.

Anyway, congratulations to Lady Thatcher, hope she likes her likeness. (At least Dennis isn’t around to dispose of it if she doesn’t, the way that Clementine Churchill destroyed the painting the House of Commons presented to Sir Winston!) Suspect that Iain will be rubbing her (the statue that is) for luck. And that little girls on school tours – including some pretty pinko ones – will look up and say to themselves, if she could do it, so can I.

Anonymous said...

Heartiest congratulations to Lady T. When she was Prime Minister she endeavoured to work to high ethical and moral standards. To the contrary, the present incumbent is to Truth what King Herod was to childcare. Little wonder then that he absented himself from the ceremony.

Astro-Turf Lawnmower said...

"if the doors of the Chamber are open, the statue is clearly visible if you're speaking at the Opposition Despatch Box"

Can't wait to see Brown's face when he's speaking from that Despatch Box in 2010 as the first Labour leader to lose a General Election in 18 years!

Anonymous said...

from Mike Snyder:

Mea culpa, got Lady T's favorite tipple wrong (hope that was my only error) - believe it was COINTREAU - just had one to steady my nerves.

Also, took another gander at the picture, and what I thought was a handbag looks to be an architectural detail. To bad, as handbag would have been a great touch!

Andy said...

Can't admit to strong feelings either way on the statue - was bound to happen sooner or later. My only hope is that the dancefloor on her grave is large enough.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

David Lindsay asks what exactly was Thatcherism. Almost implicit in that question is that it emanated from Mrs T, when I personally think that it was also a latent idea from the national psyche that was simply given a set of clothes.

One example he cites is the struggle with the unions. I am not sure what about the logic of his particular argument, but I suppose it is fair to say that the battle with the unions was one area that summed up, if not, symbolised the concept of Thatcherism.

My experience of that battle is quite personal. I worked in a heavily unionised profession and I have to say that the level of union corruption, the tyrannical use of the "closed shop" (there will be people reading this who mercifully do not know what a closed shop was)and the physical intimidation of detractors was worthy of Stalinist Russia. It had to change. You may not agree with the way it was done but boy did it have to change.

The idea of returning to those days of union control are rather akin to suggesting that we re-introduce slavery.

I think two things happened - there was a strong, honest, leader who had courage and insight and determination to win (which is what leaders are supposed to do)and a feeling nationally that something was wrong.

That last point I think is vital in understanding Thatcherism. If you like, the Poll Tax was an example of how she failed to take the public along, and the issue of union hegemony was the opposite. The will of the people was key and in many ways she had the will of the people.

(I am trying to think of one cause, in the last ten years, where Tony Blair has enjoyed the will of the people)

It was the right thing to do then and it clearly has been demonstrated as the right thing to do 25 years down the line.

Thatcher stood not merely as a great leader in her own right, but in symbolic relation to her era.

For that she merits a statue and much more.

Roger Thornhill said...

Can't wait to see Brown's face when he's speaking from that Despatch Box in 2010 as the first Labour leader to lose a General Election in 18 years!

I prefer to see it as TB being the ONLY Labour Leader to win in almost 40 years (if you include the next parliamentary term to about 2015). Come on, lets make it a full half century...Tone loves round numbers.

David Lindsay said...

Wrikled Weasel, have you considered that Constituency Labour Parties run by union closed shops full of Catholics, temperance Methodists and working-class Tories was what prevented the takeover, which has now come to pass, of the Labour Party by utterly unrepentant old Communists and Trotskyists? If you wonder why there are now so few MPs like Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Spellar, Peter Kilfoyle, and a very few others remaining in that vein, then there is your reason.

Or, have you considered that the undercutting of British workers by East European and other immigrants with inferior (if any) skills, and working for illegally low wages, would be impossible if the closed shop still existed?

Among other things.

It's never coming back, but its loss is certainly not an unallowed gain. It is at least arguably not a gain at all.

Anonymous said...

A hologram of Tony Blair would be very appropriate -- most have us have seen through him for years!