IT probably calls for a shrink, or a large glass of whisky. But I have finally admitted that Margaret Thatcher is my mother. Not literally, of course. My real mother is sparkier, just as tough, and wouldn’t take kindly to that idea. But politically, Thatcher has made us all her children. Of the prime ministers since the war, she was the one who changed the political weather.
With our privatised, still-powerful economy, our low direct tax rates, our sceptical attitude to Europe, our close relationship with the US and the disappearance of real socialism from our politics, we are still the country she shaped. Even today’s reforms of the public sector by mimicking the market — which seem to be struggling — had their origins in the Thatcher years... That’s why, in the fourth of my films telling the story of modern Britain, I say we are all — rebel or not — the children of Margaret Thatcher. I thought for a long time about that. When she came to power I was an enthusiastic Left-winger. I just couldn’t believe she would survive. And the truth is, she very nearly didn’t.
She was a lucky politician. Without the tax from North Sea Oil she’d have found it hard to get through those first, rocky years. If her Cabinet had been less wet they might have stopped her. If Galtieri’s Argentine forces had been better prepared we might have lost the Falklands war — and she would have been out. If the miners had been led by wily leaders, rather than the deluded Arthur Scargill, she might not have won that victory. Had Labour not been busy tearing itself apart in public she might have found her general elections a little tougher, too. Had the IRA been better informed about which bedroom suite she would be using they would have murdered her in Brighton.
And us? The great shake-out in British industry in the early Eighties was too tough, too drastic. Many companies that went then could still have been with us today. She could be harsh. The poll tax was a disaster. That’s the nature of revolutions. There are always victims, always mistakes. But this is a rich country now. And you can’t eat the fruit while sneering at the farmer.
Welcome to the fan club, Andrew.