As a Minister Mrs. Thatcher would be no shadow
Have you noticed that when politics enters a conversation, men usually dismiss women's opinions out of hand? Men tend to think that discussing politics is a strictly male prerogative and something about which women have no valid opinions.
Gradually, however, they are having to change this attitude as more and more women enter the political scene and prove that women have minds and opinions to be respected.
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, MP for Finchley and Friern Barnet, and Shadow Minister of Transport, is one woman who is doing a lot to get rid of the idea that women should leave politics exclusively to the male sex.
Hard-working, with an astute and lively mind, she has shown her male colleagues in the political field that she is a woman to be reckoned with.
At the moment she is the only woman Conservative MP with a Shadow Ministry.
But Mrs. Thatcher has not lost her femininity during her climb to the top of the male-dominated political scene.
Slim, attractive, mother of teenage twins, she always looks every inch a woman, elegantly dressed, with an obvious warm, sympathetic nature. And she is one of the most approachable MPs.
I went to talk to Mrs. Thatcher at the House of Commons this week before the summer recess, and found her looking cool and collected on a very hot and sticky day.
She looked tiny among the pomp and splendour of the House, but as she sat and talked to me on the terrace I began to understand how she had got so far in the highly competitive world of top politics.
Although she is a wife and mother and looks very feminine she is not soft when it comes to her career.
Mrs. Thatcher became interested in politics when she was very young and decided definitely to try for Parliament when she was at University at Oxford.
She explained that politics have had a fascination for her since she was very young. My “Alfred Robertsfather was on the local council and politics were discussed frequently at home,” she said.
“There were always books on politics and political figures around the house, and I used to read them and became interested.”
Mrs. Thatcher says that she continues her policy of discussing politics at home with her own family and her teenage twins, Mark and Carol are also interested.
It was not until Mrs. Thatcher was at Oxford University reading chemistry that her interest in politics became really pronounced.
“In my year there were a lot of people interested in politics, such as Ludovic Kennedy, the TV personality, Mr. W. Rees Mogg, Editor of “The Times,” and on the other side of the fence, people like Anthony Crosland and Anthony Wedgwood Benn,” she said.
“We used to have active discussion groups.”
After leaving university, Mrs. Thatcher first took up a job in chemistry but became interested in law and studied in her spare time.
She passed her law exams but her interests in politics had grown even more and she decided to try for Parliament, fighting one of the Kent seats in 1950.
That attempt failed, but she did meet her husband during one of the meetings there so the effort was specially worthwhile. She was married in 1951 and then politics took a back seat while she looked after her children.
Mrs. Thatcher's husband is in the chemical industry.
“I gave up politics while the children were small because I think they need a mother more than ever then.” she said.
“As soon as they became a little older and able to go away to school I decided to try again.
“My Denis Thatcherhusband gives me every encouragement. He would think it an awful waste for me to give up my interest and he gives me every support and co-operation. I couldn't carry on without his support.”
In 1959, Mrs. Thatcher became MP for, Finchley and Friern Barnet and now she is as much a part of the district as if she lived there.
“I am interested in everything in Finchley,” she said. “At the moment I am rather upset about the boundary commissions' proposals to cut down my constituency and am helping the fight to try to stop the proposals being carried out.
“And, of course, I am very interested in the road widening in Hampstead Garden Suburb—this was something that I was interested in when I first started out in Finchley and we are just getting an inquiry now.”
Looking to the future Mrs. Thatcher hopes to continue as MP for Finchley and to further her interest in the monetary side of politics.
“I have been involved with transport, social security, fuel and power, housing, law and the treasury,” she said.
“But it is the money side which dominates everything in politics. If you haven't got the money you cannot implement policies.”
Talking about her early days in Parliament, Mrs. Thatcher said that at first she became personally involved in all the problems that were brought to her.
“I got so involved that I became incapable of helping people,” she explained. “You have to be like a nurse and be rather dispassionate.
“It is difficult and time consuming work that I do and there is not much time to relax. But I enjoy my work which helps an awful lot because you don't mind putting in all the extra hours that you need.”
Mrs. Thatcher explained that the only time she had with her family was during the summer recess which normally coincides with the schools' summer holidays.
“Even during the recess I have correspondence to deal with and meetings to attend,” she said.
“I want to stay in politics, though. Everyone says that politicians are cynical and hypocritical but there are some very fine people in it. Politics couldn't survive otherwise.
“We can get a lot done here even with the system and all the drawbacks,” she added. “It takes a lot of time and we have to be patient. I try to keep as much contact as possible with people and their problems, especially in my constituency and that stops one from becoming cut off and sterile.”
When asked whether she had any difficulties because she is a woman in a man's world, Mrs. Thatcher replied that whenever she is asked whether women should take part in politics she replies: “More than half the electorate are women.”