David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from Finchley, the former constituency of Baroness Thatcher. Panelists include Margaret Thatcher's biographer Charles Moore and Polly Toynbee.
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Tonight, we're in Finchley, the North London constituency
represented by Margaret Thatcher for 33 years.
Welcome to Question Time.
And good evening to you at home. Good evening to our audience here,
some of whom weren't born when Mrs Thatcher left office.
And to our panel, all of whom played prominent roles,
one way or another, throughout that era.
Ken Clarke, who became a minister
in the first '79 Conservative government.
Still sits in the Cabinet today.
Before becoming an MP, Labour's former Home Secretary,
David Blunkett, led Sheffield Council in the 1980s,
when the red flag was flown over the town hall.
The former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ming Campbell,
first elected to Parliament in 1987.
The Guardian columnist
and long-time critic on the left, Polly Toynbee,
and Charles Moore, who was editor of the Daily Telegraph
and publishes his authorised biography of Lady Thatcher
the week after next.
And needless to say, one of the reasons we're in Finchley
is because it was her constituency,
and what we're going to talk about largely tonight
is the Thatcher legacy
and what these people here on the panel, who lived through it,
think of it and what you, the audience, think of it.
And the first question's from Stephen Adams, please.
What would the country be like now
if Mrs Thatcher had not been chosen as Conservative party leader in 1975?
OK, Ken Clarke.
Er, well, it would have postponed, I think,
the inevitable change that had to come.
We were becoming a laughing stock in the 1970s.
We went on after 1975 to become a ridiculous laughing stock.
We had a winter where everybody went on strike
against everybody else.
We were propping up all kinds
of uncompetitive industries,
we were pouring money down the drain,
and trying to represent change, really.
It had to happen. I mean, it couldn't possibly go on.
Three prime ministers had failed to change it, really.
Heath, Wilson, and Callaghan.
And, you know, I was in the Heath government, actually,
so we tried and failed.
So all that happened would have been worse eventually.
Probably even more bitter,
if we hadn't had somebody in 1979 with the courage to take it on.
Did it have to be of the severity that it was?
Could it have been done in a different way
and achieved the same result?
Well, the severity was mainly caused by the severity of our opponents.
I mean, the idea...
What we've had in the last week
has been journalism and contemporary politics.
One day, we will get HISTORY,
which is altogether more nuanced and complicated...
-In about two weeks!
Well, the editor of the Daily Telegraph
says his biography is going to be history. We shall see!
We took on a powerful and embittered left opposition,
who turned everything into a fantastic struggle,
so the change and the demise of things that had no future
in the most old-fashioned economy in the big countries in Western Europe
would have been changed more easily if we hadn't had manic opposition.
I mean, they spent their life wrecking pay policies,
which both parties had used,
wrongly, actually, as the weapon against inflation,
and the sole aim of these trade unions
was to break the pay policies.
To show that their members were going to do better
than anybody else,
To use the ultimate in quite violent political force sometimes
to actually stop the government doing what it wanted to.
And so, there was bitterness in the '80s. I regret it.
I remember I went through picket lines,
it wasn't safe for a Tory to go to a university...
They were very, very fraught times.
I think people forget how tense things were.
But the idea that this was all somehow Mrs Thatcher,
when the government contained the most awful wets,
like Willie Whitelaw and Douglas Hurd, and me...
-..and all these people, is nonsense.
-It was a bitter, bitter time.
-We'll stop you there,
as we've got plenty to talk about. David Blunkett.
Well, would Jim Callaghan have been the Prime Minister through '79?
Would Edward Heath have won?
I don't know.
I know that my party was totally divided.
That we were drifting, that we'd lost the intellectual high ground.
But we'd discovered North Sea Oil.
We were prepared to use it
to invest in keeping people and putting people into work.
We would not have had the mass unemployment of 3.5 million people,
many of whom were put on Incapacity Benefit,
and the debate we're having about welfare today
goes right back to 1979 and onwards,
when we put people out of work. APPLAUSE
Would we have needed to sort ourselves out
in terms of a global economy? Yes, we would.
The necessity of economic survival would have made us
face up to some of the big challenges of modernity and modernisation.
But we would also have had a more humane Britain,
where we would have had a coal industry with clean coal.
We would be using it today,
in terms of the energy problems that we've got.
We would have invested in the renewal of heavy industry.
In my city, we lost 50,000 jobs,
engineering and steel jobs,
high-quality craft jobs,
within three years of me becoming leader of the council.
We were struggling to try and hold the city together.
Those things would have been different.
So, yes, we may not have modernised as quickly,
we may not have had the harsh reality of economic change that was coming,
and could have been done
with a planned and more moderate way forward,
but we would have certainly had a Britain
that had invested its resources in human beings,
rather than in an ideology
that destroyed and divided a city like mine.
Man there. You, sir.
It's refreshing when one surprises oneself,
and one agrees with one's political foe.
Now, I agree with Kenneth Clarke here,
and I disagree with David Blunkett,
because I think that he's imagining a past that just didn't exist.
In 1978, Barbara Castle put forward In Place of Strife...
..'68, I apologise.
Put forward In Place of Strife, and that was never adopted.
It never went forward,
and it was never that panacea that you describe, David Blunkett,
and those problems did exist in 1979,
and I think Margaret Thatcher was brave enough
to adopt and to tackle those. I am not a Tory.
Just up there, yes. In the dark blue.
Wages, as a percentage of GDP, I think,
were the highest they'd ever been in 1975,
and they've only fallen since,
which means that growth has gone to people who own businesses,
not people that work for businesses.
All right. And the man there, bang in the centre there. You, sir.
The same problems were being experienced
in all other European countries.
France and Germany were getting rid of their coal industries.
If we'd had somebody in power who believed in consensus,
rather than confrontation,
we'd be in a far better place as a country nowadays.
What would the country be like now, is the question,
if Mrs Thatcher hadn't been chosen as leader?
Perhaps I can just answer the question by coming at it
in a today way, and go back.
I'm very interested, because of writing my book,
of all these people coming to me and asking about her
from all over the world.
I think that's very, very important.
We tend to look at it in a very British way.
There is nobody since Churchill
that the West of the world is more interested in.
And today, I've had call after call, interview after interview,
with people, particularly from Eastern Europe,
but from all over the world
who are absolutely fascinated by what she did and what she stood for.
And what they're looking for,
and which I think they found in her, whether they liked her or not,
is some sense of somebody who says, "What's wrong? What is wrong?
"Let's try and get at what's wrong,
"and let's find a way of putting it right."
And that's what she unquestionably did,
whether people all agree about whether she was right in her way.
That's a real leadership capacity.
It's something that changes the whole of politics.
It hardly ever happens, but it happened with her.
You sir, at the back, there. Yes?
Yeah, I think I very much agree with your point, and also with Ken.
Manufacturing was in decline, and that was inevitable.
I think the fact that Margaret Thatcher
really helped to change and control how our country was going,
and the direction it was going, has really made us the strong,
world global player that we are today in the services industry,
and that was all sparked, I think, from Thatcher's government.
I'm coming to you, Polly.
David Blunkett just said it wasn't inevitable.
It wasn't, because Germany took a different path.
It wasn't inevitable, because much of Europe faced the same problems.
Her legacy has left us
with a country that is far more riven, far more divided,
far more unequal than most of the rest of Europe,
who also faced those problems.
One of the myths, for instance,
is how brilliantly she dealt with inflation, which is true.
Inflation was the reason why there were all those strikes.
All of those unions were trying to keep their wages up
with the soaring inflation. Terrifying.
18%, it was running at in 1980.
It plummeted to 2% by 1986.
"Terrific," people say, "Look what she did."
But look across the Channel, which we rarely do,
in France, a socialist government achieved exactly the same.
Exactly the same drop in inflation.
Absolutely crucial to do, but they did it without the cruelty.
They did it without destroying whole communities,
without endemic unemployment, from which we still suffer now.
And this government is actually
trying to take away the props even from that.
If you look at the inequality she left behind,
when she came into power,
one in seven children in this country were poor.
When she left, it was one in three,
and it's scarcely got better since then.
Since then, we have become a far more deeply divided nation,
far harder to put together again.
I agree that bitterness was not inevitable.
It would have been much preferable...
But Heath had tried consensus, Wilson had tried consensus,
Callaghan tried consensus more than either of them.
Callaghan had killed off Wilson's attempts at trade union reform,
believed they would follow up his pay policy,
and they destroyed him
with the most ferocious winter of industrial action
that we had experienced. It was not possible.
And it's no good reading today's politics into it.
If you look at what we did, we were hugely unpopular by 1981,
because the crisis we took over was terrible. We didn't cut welfare.
Mrs Thatcher never cut public spending on public services.
-We saved money by getting rid of...
She cut local government!
-She did, Ken.
She cut 40% of the budget for Sheffield City Council.
Sheffield... We'll get onto local government spending if you wish.
Sheffield City Council was a sort of Marxist retreat, then.
LAUGHTER They've changed a lot, David,
from where you were.
We saved money by getting rid of loss-making industries
we were subsidising. My first job...
Which would have been subsidised.
..was privatised, British Road Services,
which owned a third of the lorries in the country,
including Pickfords, which was losing money...
But you haven't addressed what Polly Toynbee was saying...
..and being subsidised by the rest of the economy.
But you haven't addressed what Polly was saying,
which is France got rid of inflation
exactly the same, to exactly the same extent,
without doing it with a technique that damaged France.
But France had a different political structure...
-It had a left-wing government.
It had a centre-left government,
which did things that the left,
the real power in the country, Jack Jones, Huey Scanlon,
would not allow the left-of-centre Labour Party to do.
Ming, I'll come to you in just a second.
Man up there, on the gangway. You, sir. Yes.
Margaret Thatcher, she operated a one-man, or one-woman government.
Was she really a leader,
or a dictator hiding behind the name tag of a leader?
Oh, that's just a Spitting Image parody. She changed so much.
She loved political rows. I had a very robust relationship with her.
Yeah, but she imposes her thoughts...she didn't take on board
any suggestions from her fellow colleagues or ministers.
She took a lot of them.
She wasn't in favour of the health reforms I did when I started.
She wanted to do it a different way.
She wanted to scrap the health reforms at one stage.
You could have a serious argument with Margaret Thatcher,
so long as you knew what you were talking about.
So long as she thought you believed it.
So long as you understood the detail,
because she was dreadful on the detail.
She'd take you apart if you give her generalised rubbish
about what you were trying to do.
She was interested in the detail.
But all this stuff about this harridan...
She did speak 50% of the time, and she interrupted you,
but I speak too long, and I interrupt...
Ming Campbell, thank you, Ken.
She ran a very collective government.
Well, up to now, it's been an exchange of opinion.
Let's throw some facts in, if we may.
Margaret Thatcher won three consecutive elections.
And the only reason she won three consecutive elections
was because people believed, rightly or wrongly,
dictator or a one-man band
or whatever you may wish to characterise her,
that she was doing the right thing by the country.
Otherwise, they'd have voted her out. Now...
Now, I spent most of my time opposing these policies,
but the fact is, my opposition was much less attractive
than the policies themselves.
I want to go back to a point which I think Ken Clarke made.
And it's... People forget just how awful it was
during the Winter Of Discontent.
Bodies went unburied.
People went to bed at night wondering if the gas
or the electricity would still be on in the morning.
The whole fabric of our society had reached a point at which
it might simply crumble away.
Now, I happen to believe that whoever was elected in 1979,
and in fact, if Jim Callaghan had gone to the country
in Autumn of 1978, instead of putting it off to the spring,
he wouldn't have had to undergo the Winter Of Discontent,
and he might well have won the election.
But whoever came in at the end of that most terrible period
was going to have to do something.
Yeah, but would they have done what Mrs Thatcher did?
Well, the policies, I think, were self-evident.
You couldn't continue putting money into industries
which simply weren't making money.
So you disagree with what Polly was saying?
-Just to get it right.
-Yes, I do.
Some of these industries,
you might as well have stood in the middle of the town square
and set fire to £5 notes.
-Ming, a lot of people would agree with you.
A lot of people would agree with you...
Let me just finish, because I want to make this point.
If you've got the right policy, you must implement it.
But if you have the right policy and you're going to implement it,
you must be clear about what the personal consequences
are going to be for the people who are affected by it.
And that is where my criticism of Mrs Thatcher arises.
For this reason -
I don't think she ever properly understood the kind of impact
it would have on mining communities, on Sheffield, places like that.
If she had, and there had been policies of mitigation,
using the riches of North Sea oil for further investment,
then I think she would perhaps have won even a fourth general election.
All right. "Never understood," Charles Moore, is what Ming says.
Well, I think Ming made some very good points.
I want to take up the divided nation idea,
which Polly Toynbee says Mrs Thatcher has bequeathed us.
I think it's a key point and it's sort of what Ming was saying,
that she came in because we already were a divided nation.
People were very, very bitter because of what had happened in the 1970s.
And it was... That's why...
People laugh about the Saint Francis of Assisi speech,
prayer that she quoted, but that's why she quoted it.
And, of course, because she had very difficult things to do,
there was a lot of conflict.
But I question whether we are left with a divided nation because of her.
I think, in many ways, it's a more united one.
And I'll give you a statistic.
In 1979, there were 29 million working days lost to strikes.
That is evidence of a divided nation.
In 1990, there were fewer than
two million working days lost to strikes.
We had industrial peace. That's peace, that's not division.
And, similarly, when Mrs Thatcher became prime minister,
the nearest Communist country was 500 miles from this country
and now it's 5,000 miles from this country
and there hardly are any of them left.
And Europe was divided, a divided continent,
because of the Iron Curtain.
And Mrs Thatcher was one of the leading three people to change that.
That is not a legacy of division.
She actually brought a lot of unity and a lot of harmony
-and people must remember that in their judgements.
The woman there and then I will go up to you. Yes, you first.
Not to sort of...underplay the devastation that...
you know, that must've... From the winter fuel strike -
I wasn't there, but I can imagine it was a horrible, depressing time -
but the reason people go on riots,
I know that there were numerous riots through the '80s,
and the reason that people strike and take such extreme action,
which affects them too, is because often these are people that feel
they have no other outlet to voice their opinions, so rather than...
No, no, that wasn't why. It may be true nowadays.
In those days, you went on strike
because you got more money once you went on strike,
the way that they were settled.
And if you didn't go on strike, your neighbour would go on strike
-and he'd get more money than you.
-But, Ken, you cannot think...
Wait. Let me bring in David Blunkett again.
And remember what Ken said about "manic opposition"
-that Mrs Thatcher faced from the trade unions.
And the divide was because of
the very, very clear difference of ideology that existed.
I'm not defending the Winter Of Discontent.
I was Chair of Social Services at the time in Sheffield,
just before taking on the leadership,
and we were dealing with the consequences
of the harm that was caused.
So I'm not wanting to go back to that era.
I'm answering the question of how it might have been different
and, you know, let's just take a deep breath.
If we heard now the words that she used, Charles,
"Where there is discord, may we bring harmony,"
and we saw what happened in those years afterwards...
Don't take my word for it, because in the end, yes,
the British people didn't have the chance to defeat,
the Labour Party failed to defeat her, but the people who decided
in the end that she wasn't for them was the Tory party.
They actually got rid of Margaret Thatcher
and if anybody tells you that she's a saint
and she's this most wonderful woman,
Ken, why, in 1990, did the Tory party decided to get rid of her?
Well, there's a very simple answer. I can answer for them.
You were the Brutus.
You were the Brutus that wielded the knife when the time came.
-Because she'd just failed to win...
-Ken was the man who did it.
And now, now we hear...
I will compliment you by answering this question and say,
if someone like Ken had become leader instead of Margaret Thatcher,
I think the history would've been very different.
I think Callaghan was due to lose, had to lose
once they've rejected In Place Of Strife, which was Callaghan's fault.
Labour had failed to reform the trade unions
in a civilised and European way, instead of which it led to disaster.
-If someone like you had taken over...
-Let me answer!
Mrs Thatcher... Let me remind people of what Mrs Thatcher said about you.
"I simply don't understand how Ken could lead
"today's Conservative party to anything other than disaster."
-That's what she said about you.
That was many years in.
I was with her from the moment she went in the front benches
as a Shadow Minister, all the way to the end,
and all she ever did was promote me.
That was years after she'd gone.
Let me answer the two bits of it, as briefly as I can.
Firstly, why was it so busy? It was our opponents, largely.
When we came in... We were very unpopular by 1981.
The first things we did were raise taxation.
We did not cut welfare
and, actually, we ended exchange controls.
And then we started trying to actually reform
this amazing sort of client state,
which was sucking the life out of the rest of the economy
into badly-run car companies or totally out-of-date car industry.
And that was how we started.
By 1983, the trade unions had taken our opponents
and we were fighting Michael Foot and the Labour Party,
whose policy was to leave NATO,
to become neutral in the Cold War,
to leave the European Union,
and to nationalise more of the commanding heights of the economy.
What heights there'd have been
if they'd nationalised them, I have no idea.
So the idea that the bitterness came from people like me
and Jim Prior and Geoffrey Howe and Willie Whitelaw,
all the people who were around Margaret...
The key people were Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe.
But the idea that we were injecting a bitterness,
which is not to do with politics, is one of the left-wing myths.
-You were the wets.
-I think you've made that point.
-You were the wets.
This was early Thatcher, that Ken's describing. Later Thatcher...
later Thatcher was something rather different.
When it came to what came, in turn, to be called the poll tax,
I mean, the lady wasn't for turning, to use her own phrase.
In spite of the fact that the evidence against it was overwhelming,
in spite of the fact that popular opinion was heavily against it,
and in spite of the fact that many Conservative MPs,
including perhaps the member for Rushcliffe,
were very concerned that if the poll tax didn't go,
so too would their seats!
Let me just say, just a reminder if you're watching at home,
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by texting or on Twitter.
Our hashtag is #bbcqt and you can follow us, @BBCQuestionTime.
Text comments to 83981.
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You, sir, in the front row here. Yes.
Ming told us that she won over the country in three general elections,
but she really didn't. In the '97 election...
Sorry, in the '79 election, the Tories got 13,600,000 votes.
Next election, it was 13 million.
And the next election, it was 13,700,000.
It barely fluctuated from before she took office.
They almost got the same number of votes in the past election.
-They still got the largest number of votes.
-We didn't win really(!)
The reason why she won those elections
is because the opposition was completely divided
and crumbling and incompetent.
She didn't win people over to her cause.
I was part of that opposition
but it wasn't her fault that we were crumbling.
It wasn't her fault.
No, not at all.
Can we take his point?
His point is she didn't gain ground, it was you that kept losing it.
She won elections by destroying the opposition.
When we talk about the history...
-She achieved sufficient majorities...
-..to form a government.
Now, you don't have to persuade me
of the virtues of proportional representation.
I've been trying to do that all of my life.
But you have to accept the fact of the matter - she got the mandate.
There were three lots of opposition.
There was Ming, there was Polly, who was part of the SDP,
and there was us, which was the old Labour Party.
And it was the old Labour Party that had to modernise,
that had to reform, that had to make itself electable,
particularly in the south of England. And, eventually, we did it.
Not courtesy of the Libs, not courtesy of the SDP,
but of listening to and responding to people.
And, actually, we've got to make sure we do that for 2015 as well.
Maybe courtesy of Mrs Thatcher,
which brings me to a question from Jonathan Ware, please.
I'll come to you, I know you've had your hand up for some time.
-Was new Labour Thatcher's greatest legacy?
All right. You can carry on, David.
Well, I'd settle for that rather than Pinochet and apartheid
and the things that she supported
that people want to forget this week.
Yes, in one sense. In one sense, we were.
What was the evidence she supported apartheid?
Yes, just remind us of that.
Well, the flags on the platform
when she was prime minister that denounced sanctions
and the ANC as a terrorist organisation.
Sorry, is to be against sanctions to be in favour of apartheid?
-Well, it was supportive of the regime that existed.
-Let me just...
Let me just say on this, this is absolutely untrue.
Margaret Thatcher had the closest engagement of all foreign leaders
with the attempts to release Nelson Mandela
because she was the only one... Because...
-Absolute nonsense - she called him a terrorist.
No, no, no sorry. No, no, no, she called...
She said the ANC was a terrorist organisation
which was undeniably the case.
But what she did was to persuade FW de Klerk to release Mandela.
And no other foreign leader had remotely that influence.
It had to be the white government who released him,
because they were the government.
She maintained an engagement with that country.
Well, I think the Americans had a part to play in that.
Of course. Of course Mrs Thatcher didn't do it alone,
but it's monstrous to say she's defending apartheid.
-And Nelson Mandela...
When Nelson Mandela came out,
he came to see her in Number 10 and he thanked her.
Well, I've seen him three times and I heard a different story.
-Can we just get back to what you asked me?
-New Labour? Yes.
I think, in part, we were.
Because I think it was a massive awakening of the realisation
that you cannot do anything if you don't get into power.
If you don't win elections,
you can have your glass of beer or your wine and you can reminisce
and you can get angry but you can't change people's lives for the better
and that did shake us to the very foundations.
And that's why Tony Blair eventually emerged as leader
and why we won three elections on the trot as well as Mrs Thatcher.
-OK. The man in the red and white shirt there. You, sir.
The reason Margaret Thatcher won the second election
isn't because she destroyed the opposition or the Labour Party,
it's because she sank the Belgrano.
That's not true, either.
She was the political mainspring for the liberation of the Falklands.
I don't think you can tie it down to the sinking of the Belgrano
and there's, recently, a far greater degree of open-mindedness
about whether she was right or wrong to do that.
The fact of the matter is
that, if Mrs Thatcher -
and I'm no supporter of Mrs Thatcher -
but if she hadn't had the courage to say to the British military,
"Go and get the Falklands back under British control,"
then it wouldn't have happened.
-You are quite a supporter, actually!
Well, your opening remarks were quite supportive of her,
that she had the courage to do the things that needed doing.
You have to be realistic about this.
There was a peace treaty on the table to solve the Falklands...
The problem, at the moment, about this whole debate
is that it's somewhere in between hagiography and hatred.
And the fact of the matter is,
as someone pointed out a little earlier,
when you get history, then you get a better perspective.
And the problem for all of us is we were all engaged in it.
When I was elected to the House of Commons, I couldn't believe
the way Margaret Thatcher dealt with David Steel and Paddy Ashdown
and Neil Kinnock. She dominated the place.
She hit people for six twice a week -
because, in those days, we had Prime Minister's Questions twice a week.
-She was the most extraordinarily dominant figure.
-How come, though?
-Because the policies were right?
-Because of her presence.
-Because of her commitment.
Because of her belief, conviction. As I said a little earlier...
-Why didn't you have conviction?
-Well, I had plenty.
I had plenty of previous convictions!
It's not quite what I meant.
The point I want to make is she was a wholly dominant figure.
And what that persuades me of is the fact -
and there's some sense in what the prime minister said -
"Cometh the hour, cometh the woman."
And the point is, as has been said already, the opposition was divided.
There were three different kinds of opposition,
and she took advantage of that.
But when it came to the Falklands, rightly or wrongly,
if she had said, "No,"
then the Falklands would still be under the control of Argentina.
It was a damn close-run thing.
If another couple of Exocet missiles
had hit another couple of British warships,
if the flagship had been hit
instead of the Atlantic Conveyor, that had the helicopters,
then the whole thing would have been a monstrous disaster
-and she would have been booted out of office.
but let's come back to what lay behind Jonathan Ware's question
about whether new Labour was Thatcher's greatest legacy.
In other words, whether Thatcher or Thatcherism,
however you like to define it, changed the nature
of the political debate in Britain and has changed it for ever.
That's the contention. Polly Toynbee.
I think losing three elections did.
There were certain things she did that really have changed the nation.
One of which was to deregulate the City,
to set off... To set off that great boom,
to take the lid off the top
of salaries at the top,
of a sense of the "greed is good" world of the boys in red braces
from which we still suffer, unbalancing the economy
by shutting down manufacturing and relying on the City.
Now, Labour did the same. Labour didn't get a grip on that.
The golden goose was just too tempting -
it kept laying eggs for the Treasury -
and so I think Labour failed to put right
her most serious economic errors.
But I don't think we should be carried away by the idea
that somehow Labour was a pale shadow of Thatcher.
Just consider the things that Labour did which were really good.
Things like the national minimum wage,
things like tax credits that really did redistribute wealth
to a great many people,
things like repairing the appalling public squalor
this country had fallen into,
whether it was roads, schools, hospitals with leaking roofs.
There was a transformation of our great cities that really
were repaired under Labour's time.
I think to try and compare Labour's respect
and belief in the collective good and the need for civic values,
to try and compare that with Thatcher's "No such thing as society"
is really unfair.
It's very, very unfashionable to praise Tony Blair.
But I want to do it in this respect...
-You're not writing a biography, are you?!
It'll be a two edged sword, Charles. It'll be a two-edged sword.
He understood - and he learnt this and he would say this himself,
from Mrs Thatcher - that in order to be a successful leader,
you must talk to people who are not in your party already.
And Mrs Thatcher reached out tremendously
to a whole load of former Labour voters
in the upper working class, lower middle class -
the caricature would be something like the Luton car worker, was
the phrase at the time, something like that -
who saw her standing for their aspirations
and they were more interested in her than in her party.
Tony Blair understood the same
and he understood that Labour had destroyed itself
by being much too interested in itself
and not in the wider electorate.
And he was extremely successful about that.
And there, unfortunately, I think the resemblance
between him and Mrs Thatcher ends,
because he knew how to pull this one off
but then didn't know what to do when he'd won.
All right. Let's hear from some members of our audience now.
There's... I was going to come to you, yes, in the second row there.
It seems that Thatcher kind of affirms the idea
that new Labour was a continuation of her kind of free-market scheme.
When asked what was her proudest creation in life,
she said two words, "Tony Blair." So it almost seems that she knows
that, you know, she was an accomplice.
-She was putting the boot in.
-She was putting the boot in, you say?
-Damned with faint praise!
The person over there, on the right, you.
I think that, perhaps, her influence and her legacy was...
As one of the first women in politics,
was perhaps greater than the new Labour.
Because that's still impacting my generation today.
That it was a woman who was prime minister?
Yeah, definitely, definitely.
Because my generation look at her as a role model,
because she's managed to get this power and this position which,
unfortunately, today is still very hard for women in our generation.
And that is sort of aside from her policies?
Do you agree with her policies as well or you just saying,
"Being a woman was enough for me"?
I think the policies polarise opinion too much to be...
I can't, I can't generalise on her policies,
but just having that representation in government
is enough for a role model.
And it really does still impact me, especially today.
Can I just tell a very quick story about that?
Mrs Thatcher had to go to a dinner and it was a think-tank
and they were all making great, long speeches in praise of themselves,
and she got up at the end of it and she said,
"I've just heard nine speeches from men
"and I want to say that the cocks may crow but the hens lay the eggs."
-And here's another story.
It's the one where they were sat around, having dinner
and the Cabinet were there and the waiter says,
having given her the meat, "And what about the vegetables?"
She said, "They'll all have the same."
The old ones are always the best!
At least, of all the myths, that's an amusing one.
-That is Spitting Image, isn't it?
-That's John Lloyd.
-I mean, the answer to the question is yes.
You're talking about women?
No, Tony Blair as her greatest legacy.
-I want to pick up on women.
Hang on, I've got a question from... Let's go with women.
Anne Mullen, let's have your question
and then we'll go with that, but we can come back to the other points.
Did Margaret Thatcher contribute to feminism?
Did Margaret Thatcher contribute to feminism?
I go back to you, you're saying she did, effectively?
If you look at her as a female role model, regardless,
and let's not take into consideration her opinions here,
but just take into question the fact that she had managed to reach a goal
in such a male-dominated world and I think that's admirable.
You are absolutely right.
Just by being there she changed things for women enormously.
Nobody ever again said a woman couldn't this or that.
But that is as far as it went.
She said she never wanted to ask about being a woman.
She hated feminism, she said she did.
She was the only post-war Prime Minister to have, for a while,
no other woman in her Cabinet.
She liked to look rather like I do today,
the one bright-dressed woman amongst a row of suits.
You didn't insist we didn't have another woman, did you?
I would be delighted if we were all women. It would be great.
She was a queen bee, she pulled up the ladder after her.
She did nothing for women in terms of the things that really mattered,
like childcare, which Labour did.
Like nurseries, which Labour did.
Equal pay got nowhere.
Women on boards, women in public life - nothing at all.
It's a great disappointment,
it often happens in companies and organisations that you have
the queen bee syndrome and she does nothing for anyone else.
Whereas women who really do help other women up the ladder can
make an enormous difference.
I think that was one of the tragedies about our first woman Prime Minister.
I come from Eastern Europe, from Russia,
and Margaret Thatcher is very popular in my country indeed,
even though her views on the Soviet Union and everything.
And I have to say that just being a woman really made a change,
because in history lessons we are told that it's the first
woman Prime Minister and a strong figure.
Right now, people in Russia -
they don't know details about politics and everything in the UK -
they are wondering why all the celebrations and riots.
-Over her death?
Well, to women she was a fantastic role model.
I agree with Polly. She was THE great role model.
It was an extraordinary achievement that the first woman Prime Minister,
in the Conservative Party.
Before the war we'd had Lady Astor.
She wasn't Lady Astor, but Margaret Thatcher from Grantham.
On every front it was an amazing achievement.
She did neglect to do anything for other women.
She liked working in a Cabinet of men.
On that she was weak, I will concede that, I agree with Polly on that.
but her very example made an extraordinary difference.
It broke a taboo.
When we elected her as leader I can remember old boys
on the backbenches saying, "It's all right here in London
"but in the North they won't vote for a woman as Prime Minister."
All of this was blown out of the water in 1979
by the fact that she could lead, and boy could she lead!
It's a pity that cut-out cardboard caricatures of her have been created
by the left, which young people who weren't even born then,
appear to believe. We deregulated the banks, Polly? We didn't!
We had the big bank bang, which stopped old boys...
To be a stockbroker you had to be a chap who knew the chaps.
It was a closed little silly circle. We let international companies in.
It was Gordon who abolished the Bank of England, which regulated...
He didn't abolish the Bank of England.
As a regulator, he did.
He put in the utterly useless Financial Services Authority,
which did no macroeconomic regulation, and we are still
suffering from the banking crisis which new Labour caused
by one of the very first actions they took when they took over office.
A number of women...
-I don't mind.
-That is the rewriting of history, by the way.
It is not rewriting.
I don't want to leave the issue of women.
There's a number of women with their hands up.
I'd like to go to them and then we'll carry on.
-Over there on the left, yes.
I'd like to agree with the two ladies over there.
Whether you agree or disagree with some of her policies, I think
Margaret Thatcher's a really good example to young women in politics.
I study politics now at university.
There are only a few girls on my course.
About 20 girls out of 110 boys, so we always look up to Margaret Thatcher
and see her as a great example that women can be successful in politics.
OK, and... Three women in a row.
Let's start over here and go to the right.
Yes, you first of all.
A single-minded self-righteous woman who really taught people
only to think about themselves and their family
and not care about anybody else in society.
-What kind of role model is that?
-Do you agree with her?
-Yes, I think I would have to agree.
Isn't it dangerous to have this idea that just because she was
the first female Prime Minister that we'll remember her just for that
-and forget all of the policies that have been detrimental?
I don't think it's to disagree with those who've said that it inspired
women to believe, "We can do it," and to be proud of someone becoming
the first woman Prime Minister,
to say that there is a contradiction.
The contradiction is this. People are always telling me,
and I want it to be true, that women do things differently,
that their approach is different,
that they don't have to be a mimicry of men.
They don't have to be tough and big boots and all the rest of it.
But the successful women in politics are,
including Angela Merkel in Germany,
so how do we square the circle
where people want really tough, strong leaders,
and in the next breath they want people who are gentle,
who are thoughtful, who are feminine?
-How do we get round that one?
I'll tell you how.
If you started by having... 50% of the Cabinet were women,
you would find the atmosphere would change.
-Only if they were competent, Polly.
-You mean as competent
-as all the male politicians?
No, I'm not saying they wouldn't be. I'm saying, only if they were.
True, the next state of feminism is going to be achieving that.
In those days, it is true, when I started in politics,
to be a woman you had to be tougher than any average woman.
The Labour Party only had Barbara Castle who could have led them.
-Yes, she could.
-I was a great admirer of Barbara
but she was a harridan. Her style...
-I shadowed her.
-What does a harridan mean?
-She was ferocious.
Was Margaret Thatcher ferocious?
I specialised in getting her to lose her temper.
I loved sitting opposite her and having this red-headed woman
flaring away at me, trying to tear me apart across the dispatch box.
Are you describing Mrs Thatcher in Cabinet?
I hope the next generation of politicians will have
ordinary women of ordinary temperament.
But I'm afraid when Margaret and Barbara were making their way
in a man's world, from an ordinary background, not privileged women
who got in on the edges, they did have to be that much tougher.
That explained her style, I think.
-She had to make sure nobody walked over her.
-OK, Ming Campbell.
I wonder if the test of all this is, would it be as easy as a woman
to become the leader of the Conservative Party today
as it was for Mrs Thatcher?
She had a unique opportunity
because Ted Heath was very substantially devalued.
She had a quite remorseless determination.
She had all the qualities.
She also had the opportunity.
You are an amazing Thatcher fan! I'm really surprised!
She had all the qualities which David Blunkett's been suggesting
-are essential if you want to prove leadership.
-I don't think he was suggesting that.
What is certainly the case is that the opportunity presented itself.
The difficulty for women in the House of Commons, particularly,
is that a lot of local associations,
and I don't exempt mine from this criticism,
simply won't have women candidates.
There'd be more women in the Commons if local political associations
were much more willing to accept them as candidates.
-And your party's the worst, isn't it?
You could have all-women shortlists, like the Labour Party.
-If I may say so, one at a time.
-Why do you have fewer women?
I think the answer is as I provided it...
I think the answer is as I provided it...
local associations of all parties are often reluctant to have women
and they often make quite extraordinary demands
on women candidates, which they're unable to fulfil
because of their other obligations.
I want to try and explain why Mrs Thatcher behaved about women
in the way that Polly describes,
because she describes it accurately in a way, but she misses the point.
She believed that if she always talked of herself as a woman,
she would be ghettoising women.
She wanted to conquer everything.
What she kept saying all the time in her early years as an MP was,
"I want to be Chancellor of the Exchequer." She didn't want
to do the things which were always associated with women.
So she wanted to do things not associated with women,
like money, war and power.
She wanted to take over them because only when those had been
taken over would women really be equal or even more than equal.
It also brought in a completely different way of looking
at politics, a whole different way, particularly economics.
She used the fact that she was a woman to talk about economics
in common-sense terms, about what happens in the household budget.
She didn't practise it. Honestly, she didn't.
We can debate that. The point I'm making is that she changed
the language, argument and thought of politics and economics
and that arose to a large extent from her sex
and her understanding of her sex
and her different perception of the world from men, and that's key.
It led from her obsession with the Chicago School of Economics,
that's where it came from, nothing to do with her sex.
No, no, it is to do...
She was intellectually persuaded of something
that proved to be intellectually barren.
Even in the 1950s, she was arguing in her election addresses,
she was only 25, she was saying,
don't listen to what all the expert men tell you.
Think about, you're a woman and you have to manage your household budget
and you know what it's like and I will tell you, and so on.
This is a very big change, it's a very big spread of democracy
and a very big taking away from an elite
-and making something clear, clever and true.
-It was clever.
It's not just clever, it's big and true and different.
The man in the pink shirt? We must keep moving.
Going back to what Ming said about the lack of women in politics
and how it's down to local constituencies, why don't the other
parties follow Labour's lead and introduce women-only shortlists?
-Which you would like to see?
-Yes, to start with.
-You, sir, on the left?
Were Mrs Thatcher's policies the forerunner to the banking crisis
-and the scandals from 2008 until now?
-We have touched on that.
-Yeah, but Ken then rewrote history.
-You said Ken rewrote history.
-I did not. The Bank of England was the regulatory body.
And it was utterly useless.
The big bang we introduced in the '80s, which Labour did not oppose,
because they could hardly get into bed with the kind of people
that dominated the City of London before the big bang.
Were you in favour of the Americans buying our finance houses and banks?
I'm in favour of attracting inward investment,
the City of London was transformed into the capital of Europe.
Were you in favour of what happened in the banking sector?
I'm entirely in favour
of allowing international banks to come to London.
London was very nearly the biggest financial centre in the world.
What it lacked, thanks to the changes Gordon Brown made,
-was a proper regulatory body.
-No, no, no.
I think we're going to get nowhere with that.
You, sir, with the spectacles, then a question from over here.
Ken, at the end of the day, it was Gordon Brown who gave
independence to the Bank of England of England because you people
were manipulating interest rates in order to win elections.
No, we weren't.
We're talking about Thatcher
and I want a question from Mr Fernando, please?
What does it say about our country in the eyes of the world when some
citizens are celebrating or rejoicing the death of a prime minister?
It's a question that picks up on the point that the lady
from Russia made - what does it say about this country that
citizens celebrate the death of a prime minister? Charles Moore?
I think what you have to think about is how this is being covered.
At any one time, there will always be some people
who are horrible and misbehave.
The question is, how much attention do you pay to them
and how many are there?
What's going on here is the media, and very particularly the BBC,
which tried for 24 hours to be nice about Mrs Thatcher
but the strain couldn't stand any longer,
..is promoting day after day
the idea that she's very divisive and particularly the idea
that people are trashing her reputation by celebrating it.
There are lots of very rational, sensible criticisms of Mrs Thatcher,
it's important to hear them.
There are a tiny number of people being vile
but they're being bigged up every day on the TV and the radio,
and particularly on the BBC, and I heard today a ludicrous thing
on the PM programme, the BBC's trying to get this
Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead up to the top of the charts
by going on and on and on about whether it should be banned
and all this nonsense.
By the way, Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead,
the reason that song is sung, I think, is that the witch that's dead
-is the Wicked Witch of the East and...
-It's the Wizard of Oz.
Yes, and the Wicked Witch of the East is the witch who's died
and it was Mrs Thatcher who defeated the East, and in this tale...
-I didn't mean that.
-In this tale, Mrs Thatcher is Dorothy!
-So in that case...
-So you're walking the Yellow Brick Road.
So you'll be voting for it to go top?
THEY ALL TALK AT ONCE
At least...don't come the Tin Man.
This notion of conspiracy of the BBC to do down Mrs Thatcher...
It comes naturally to them,
they don't have to conspire. It's in there.
It's a persecution complex.
If you look at the total coverage in the last four or five days,
it's almost universally been favourable to Mrs Thatcher.
Can I say, I'm ashamed of people, for example, in Glasgow,
where I come from, who danced Scottish reels in the main square
because I think that's thoroughly distasteful and unacceptable.
The idea that this is somehow part of a natural built-in revulsion
fostered by the BBC is frankly
to exhibit a persecution complex which is unjustified.
Well, there are people in South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire,
the areas I know very well, whose fathers and sons still don't
talk to each other, whose neighbours don't talk to each other.
People fell out so badly, the hurt was so great, the anger remains.
I don't justify them going out in the street and celebrating.
We need to respect our past leaders if we disagree with them,
we need to respect those who've given their lives to public service
even if we detest their policies.
But I think to understand why a very few people have behaved the way
they have, you have to understand the bitterness that still remains.
I really hope that from next Wednesday
families can come back together again,
communities can be healed and people can put this behind them.
-So now he's criticising Mrs...
-No, I'm not.
What David is doing is criticising Mrs Thatcher for dying.
-Oh, come on.
-He's saying she's being incredibly divisive.
I'd rather she hadn't died
in the lead-up to the county council elections, you're right,
-I'd have liked her to have been out there for ever.
Of course people should have the right to protest and demonstrate.
She was very divisive.
The best person on this subject was Charles Powell,
her life-long confidante and great ally, and he said,
"She'd have been disappointed if they hadn't," and he's quite right.
She was divisive, she liked to fight, she got a lot of fights,
she stirred up huge passions on both sides,
as we see in this audience, of people who were passionately devoted to her
and people who thought she was destroying the country.
It remains the case, and particularly now that we have a government...
In the very week when these enormous £19 billion of cuts to benefits
have come in, and she happens to die that very week
when all those old sores are being re-opened, all the old wounds,
when this government is following absolutely in her track
and actually, as Ken said, doing things she never did.
She didn't dismantle the Health Service,
nor did she make such deep cuts in benefits either.
We're not dismantling the Health Service.
What we are seeing is Thatcher Mark Two, but infinitely worse and deeper.
OK, I'll come to you in a moment.
We only have a few minutes left.
I would like to get some more comments from the audience.
I'll come to you, Ken, in a second. The man in spectacles there?
Was it right to recall Parliament
to eulogise Margaret Thatcher for so long?
-I was surprised it was done. It's never been done before.
Actually, I sat through most of it, it was perfectly all right.
Inevitably you start deteriorating into people re-running
political arguments but you want to be tasteful and sensible,
but these are divisive politics.
The trouble was the 1980s was a deeply divided time.
On the hard right and the hard left, people continue to create,
for the benefit of today's young, a caricature of what it was about.
The bitterness was not all caused by Margaret Thatcher,
with Arthur Scargill being an innocent player in the division
between the Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire coalfields,
which David and I remember only too well.
The nation was divided. Bitter and difficult changes were taking place.
Then people add silly things like,
"The present government is destroying the Health Service,
"just like Mrs Thatcher."
-The Health Service continued throughout Mrs Thatcher.
Keith Joseph tried to reform as soon as she got in,
because it was a hopeless bureaucracy,
it was struggling to meet the demands upon it. That didn't work.
I had long discussions with Margaret, we started a health reform
to try to make it work, and were accused of privatising it.
New Labour took the purchaser-provider divide,
our approach to bringing in other providers,
much further than before and it's silly to say,
"This dreadful woman's destroying the National Health Service."
-It's this government. This government!
-I have to stop you all,
in favour of the person in blue in the second row from the back.
There's been a lot thrown round about history
and how things have been inevitable in all the topics we've touched on
and I'm a history student and I think a lot of people are misusing
the idea of, everything's inevitable and how things are linked.
I think a lot of what the discussion on Mrs Thatcher's been about
is actually deflecting attention
and denying responsibility from today's politicians
for the problems they face by relating them to a time
which, let's face it, was very, very different and was also 30 years ago.
-It's good to learn from history rather than living in it, really.
I wasn't alive during her reign but parts of her legacy...
I know what you mean.
..but part of her legacy's still evident today and you can't fault her
for the policies she tried to bring in
with, as Charles said, the trade unions,
the numbers going down from 29 million to two million,
the privatisation she done and the other stuff.
But most importantly, this country was seen as a laughing stock,
the sick man of Europe,
and we weren't at the end, so all credit for that.
All three parties now believe in free-market economics
combined with a social conscience.
We have a different version, each of us,
of what that means policy by policy, but that is a new consensus and
the events of the 1980s shattered a nasty, dying and bitter consensus.
The old left is now dead and we have right-of-centre parties.
There are hands still up. I have to stop.
MAN: You ought to be shouting about the social housing system!
Our hour is up, unfortunately,
and we have therefore to stop, I'm sorry.
Next week, we're going to be in Aldershot,
and the politicians on our panel, I don't know who they are yet,
but they'll be joined by comedian and TV presenter Griff Rhys Jones
and Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell.
The week after that, we're in Worcester.
If you would like to come to Aldershot next week
or Worcester the week after, you can apply to the website,
the address is there.
You can call us on:
My thanks to our panel,
my thanks to all of you who came here to Finchley.
Particular thanks to the Catholic high school here who allowed us
to take over their hall at very short notice for obvious reasons.
From Question Time, until next Thursday, good night.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
David Dimbleby presents Question Time from Lady Thatcher's former constituency of Finchley.
On the panel are Conservative Cabinet Minister Ken Clarke MP, Labour's former Home Secretary David Blunkett MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Ming Campbell MP, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and Lady Thatcher's authorised biographer Charles Moore.