Strange Chances. I think perhaps my life has been really rather full of strange chances from comparatively early days. I remember when I was at University, and this was towards the end of war-time. I was passionately interested in politics, but I had never really thought about taking it up as a career, because at that time I was reading for a Science Degree, which eventually I got.
One Christmas vacation I went to stay with a friend in a village not far-away from home, and we happened to go to the village dance with quite a large party of us. It was in a part of the world where there were a lot of Air Force Stations, and there were a number of Pilots there, and afterwards, as often happens at the end of dances, a whole crowd of us -em- went back to my friends home and inevitably we congregated in the kitchen. Gradually I suppose conversation turned on me because I had always been interest in current events, and I was talking about it. One of the young pilots eventually turned to me and said, ‘Well, from what you've said, your great ambitions really must be to become a Member of Parliament.’
That was really the first time I had ever thought about a political career. I was taking a Science Degree, and I intended to follow that with taking a law qualification, and I hadn't much money, and the prospect of a political career had seemed really rather closed to me. But you know I can still remember that scene today, there are some scenes that are really etched on your memory, you never forget them, you don't forget what people wore, and you don't forget the sound as they talked to you, and it's really as if you've just photographed both the sight and the sound. [end p1]
From then on really a political career seemed to me to become a possibility. Then I left University and went to work as -um- in research, but I didn't drop the political ambition and I carried on with my law.
Then another coincidence came. It was the big Party Conference, you know that we have every year, that year down at Llandudno, and again quite by chance I was sitting next to the John MillerChairman of the Dartford Conservative Association at the time, and he was looking for a candidate. I was only twenty-three and a very young woman, and to my amazement he asked me if I would like to apply for the seat. Well I did. There were thirty others. In the end I got it. That too was quite by chance. And so I think you could say that those two particular chances set me on the way to a career which I've loved ever since and which I know is absolutely right for me, and I hadn't been adopted long before I was asked to a small dinner party to introduce me around in the constituency, and there I met a Denis Thatcherman who I married some three years later. Some three years and two elections later, and my husband was an accountant, and once again I deflected my own life from my ambition apart from politics to go to the Patent Bar into the Revenue Bar where I practised for quite a time, and again quite by chance, and although I eventually qualified as a barrister it wasn't at the Patent Bar that I practised but at the Revenue Bar, and this too stood me in very good stead, and Mr. Heath said to me, “Look, there's never been a woman either shadowing Treasury or at the Treasury. Would you take on this job for me while we're in opposition?” That was of course before I took on transport, where I am now.