ORGANISATION WOMAN—THAT'S Margaret Thatcher
Sweeping into Merseyside yesterday on the crest of both a local and national swing to the Tories came one of the most elegant figures in Parliament to-day, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Shadow Minister for the Treasury and Economic Affairs.
And sweeping was the operative word. In a mint green linen dress and jacket and very feminine petal-covered hat over her blonde hair. Mrs Thatcher managed more engagements and general travelling in a few hours than one would think possible.
“Oh no, I don't mind a tightly organised schedule,” she told me. “In fact I rather enjoy it.”
When I spoke to her she had just arrived in Liverpool via the train from London. At midnight she returned from Lime Street, having fitted in one formal luncheon, an informal tea party with Conservative women from Bebington. Wirral, Wallasey and Birkenhead, one formal dinner, and one interview held at the home of Mr. F. Howard Andrews (chairman of the Wavertree constituency) and his wife.
Even her weekends can be as bad. To-day she'll be attending a bazaar and formal reception at her constituency in Finchley, as well as collecting and returning her daughter Carol, aged 13. from boarding school.
“It works like this,” she told me demonstrating with a table mat, a cup and saucer and a plate. “We live in a town flat … here (the mat), the constituency is … here (the cup and saucer), and Carol 's school is … here (the plate). All in a line, you see. So it's quite convenient.”
Sunday means collecting Carol 's twin brother, Mark, from his school in Harrow and also collecting Carol again. “They won't let Carol ThatcherCarol sleep at home during term weekends.”
The twins, says this efficient, cool-headed woman who passed her law finals at home four months after their birth, take Mother's activities pretty much for granted. “They were six when I first started in the House so they think it's part and parcel of life.”
So does her husband, Mr. Denis Thatcher, managing director of a chemical firm. “We first met when I was fighting the election in Erith and Dartford in Kent. No, I didn't ask him to vote for me. I just assumed Denis Thatcherhe would!”
An M.P. for the past seven and a half years, Mrs Thatcher has rapidly made for herself a success of politics. Her clear thinking and use of logic is one of her most exceptional abilities. A former research chemist who took up law and then politics, she is often asked how she combines all these abilities.
“Really, they are all a great aid to each other. My training in chemistry and law were all based on delving for facts and arriving at conclusions. They are all very logical. This is why they are such a great help to me as a Member of Parliament.”
She will not agree that her legal training necessarily polishes her public speaking. “Very often it can ruin your English with too many ‘wheretofores’ and words like that. Spoken English has got to flow otherwise it can sound so stilted.”
But she is positive that university brought out many dormant qualities in her. “I was president of the University Conservative Association at Oxford and we did a lot of speaking then.
“I think I probably had a natural talent for speaking anyway. But if you do have any talent at all university will bring it out. That's the marvellous thing about it.”
Coping with a family and such a time-consuming career, Margaret Thatcher believes, is possible. But if you introduce a third factor—such as the actual running of the house—then things will go wrong. And it is to prevent this happening that she relies on domestic help. [end p1]
The Thatchers have two homes to run. “We have a town flat and used to run a week-end cottage outside London. But we found the children felt very unsettled about this arrangement. They couldn't think of either as their actual home. They wanted somewhere that they could really call home, and neither a town flat nor a country cottage seemed to fit the bill. We moved in last Christmas to a rebuilt Tudor house in the country. It's big and there's plenty of room for the children. They love it,” she told me.
Mrs Thatcher will be spending the next few months painting and sewing for the new house. “I'm not marvellous at paperhanging. I have done a little but I prefer painting. Fortunately I can just paint over most of these walls.” She hopes to be finished for the children to come home for the summer holidays.
“That's the good thing about Parliament—the holidays coincide with school.”
Margaret Thatcher is a woman who has a dread of letting her brain get addled. “With the children still quite young I made a vow that I mustn't let this happen: it would have been all too easy as well.” As a result she makes a success of whatever she undertakes—marriage, politics, and the family. Her secret's simple: organisation.