Strip away Labels, says Thatcher
Enjoying a rapturous reception last night on her first visit to the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs as leader, Mrs Thatcher made it clear that she has no intention of allowing the party or herself to be labelled Right-wing, Left-wing or centrist.
“We must get rid of labels,” she said. “We must not attach labels to groups or to people.
“Politics are bedevilled by labels. We must get rid of that and be known for what we are as people.”
She added, no doubt with “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” and “Thatcher the Hoarder” in mind, that she was one politician who knew “how falsely one can be stuck with a label.”
Though Mrs Thatcher gave nothing away about her Shadow Cabinet-making intentions, MPs were struck by a remark which recalled to some of them the “leasehold not freehold” phrase which summed up many weeks ago the case for putting Mr. Heath 's tenure of office to the test.
Alluding to possible changes in the Shadow Cabinet, she said that the people whom she appointed would “perhaps be there for a time, but not for all time.”
Those who came off the Front Bench ought properly to be regarded as powerful reinforcements for the back-benches.
The main theme of Mrs Thatcher's 10-minute speech was the need to have a clear Conservative message which appealed to people from all walks of life.
If they were to be ready with a detailed policy at the next General Election, they had to do a lot more research into ideas for countering inflation, encouraging investment and coping with the complex economic problems of the time.
“We must all get out and about, particularly among the people who work in industry and commerce. We must see that our local party associations are equipped to propound a clear political message,” she said.
“In the last few years some people have been feeling that there was an almost inevitable march towards Socialism.
“But when I first came into politics there was an almost inevitable march towards the Conservative society, with most people wanting to own their own homes, taking an interest in their children's education, welcoming policies for the reduction of personal taxation, and rising to the challenge of being responsible for their own future. We must fight again to recreate that spirit.”
Laying repeated stress on the need for “a clear, identifiable message,” Mrs Thatcher said that even this was not enough for a party that was coming back into power. It must have its policies well thought out and ready to be put into practice.
There would inevitably be practical problems which would have to be solved on an ad hoc basis.
“For example, if an industry got into difficulty you might have to help it out. But you would do so by making that industry fit and healthy again, so that it could tackle its own problems.
“This would be intervention on a temporary basis—quite a different form of intervention from going in to take it over.”
Din of applause
The 200 MPs present broke into applause at various passages in Mrs Thatcher's speech and cheered her to the echo when she sat down.
“It was an enormous din of clapping, desk—banging and cheering which seemed to go on for ages,” one of them said later. “I really can't remember anything like it at the 1922.”
Others applied to Mrs Thatcher's performance such adjectives as “simple, straight-forward, incisive, yet pleasant all the time.”
As one put it: “If she was feeling rather emotional about her election to the leadership, it was an emotion which the whole party seemed to share.”
The verdict of a senior back-bencher, Mr Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford): “For the first time in many years we have someone who is in rapport and sympathy with an audience. She likes people, she gets along well with people, and therefore she gets across to people,”
Mr Edward du Cann, chairman of the 1922 Committee and returning officer in the leadership election, assured Mrs Thatcher of the complete and strong support of the entire committee.
“We shall be fully with you in promoting and maintaining the unity of our party, in making our opposition in Parliament effective, and in working for final success at the next General Election,” he said.
“We were fortunate to have so many candidates of talent. We know now that we were especially fortunate to have chosen a leader whose courage, political skills and incisiveness are as clear as yours.”
Mr du Cann handed Mrs Thatcher a Valentine's Day card sent by an anonymous well-wisher.
The committee's thanks to Mr. du Cann, his fellow-officers and executive for the efficient manner in which they had conducted the election were conveyed by Mr William Clark (Croydon S.), joint treasurer of the Conservative party.
Replying Mr du Cann said they would re-examine in due course the revised procedure for leadership elections. But there was no need to “rush it.”
Mrs Thatcher intends to spend much of this weekend thinking about her Shadow Cabinet dispositions. She has indicated to friends that there will be no announcement of changes before Monday at the earliest. All the members of Mr Heath's Shadow Cabinet have agreed to carry on for the time being. [end p45](2) The Times, 14 February 1975
Tories get battle orders from new chief
More than 200 Conservative backbench MPs stood and applauded when Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the new Leader of the opposition, arrived at last night's regular meeting of the 1922 Committee to make the first declaration of her aims for the future of the party.
She emphasized the need for “a clear Conservative message which appeals to all people from all walks of life” and for Conservative MPs to get out among people who work in industry and commerce to win back support in areas where the party lost ground in the past two general elections.
Mrs Thatcher, who has, to her embarrassment very often, been labelled “right wing” and “suburban middle class”, said that she wanted to get rid of such over-simple descriptions.
“We must get rid of labels”, she said. “We must not attach labels to groups of people. Politics are bedevilled by such labels. We must get rid of them, and be known for what we are, as people.”
Mrs Thatcher will be in Glasgow today to receive confirmation from the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party of her election as the new leader and will spend the rest of the weekend in consultations about the reshuffle of her Shadow Cabinet. Some announcement about changes is expected early next week.
It seemed to some Conservative MPs significant last night that she said it was essential that greater opportunities should be provided for talented members of the party on the back benches, and that there was nothing to be said, while the party was in opposition, against the idea that some people should “take a sabbatical” on the back benches.
That might mean that, in making her dispositions, some members of Mr Heath's team will be dropped.
She made no reference to the overtures made to her by Mr James Molyneaux (Antrim, South), leader of the United Ulster Unionists, for the 10 Unionists from Northern Ireland to receive the Conservative whip again.
If that happens Mr Powell, now the United Ulster Unionist MP for Down, South, will once again be accepted by the Conservatives as a supporter in Parliament.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Mrs Thatcher indicated that she did not intend to bring Mr Powell into her team.
The reception given to Mrs Thatcher and the ovation at the end of her speech were described by Conservative back benchers as tremendous.
Mr Edward du Cann, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, who supervised the leadership election, said it was pleasant that Mrs Thatcher should come to see her friends and colleagues at the Commons before she went to the confirmatory meeting to be held next Thursday by the National Union, where all sections of the party in West minster and in the country would be represented.
“We congratulate you warmly on your election”, he said. “I speak for all of us in the committee in saying that you have our complete and strong support.”
“We shall be fully with you in promoting and maintaining the unity of our party, in making our opposition in Parliament effective, and in working for final success at the next general election.
“I know, too, that I speak on behalf of the whole committee in saying how fortunate we were during the election to have so many candidates of talent. We know now that we are especially fortunate to have chosen a leader whose courage, political skills, and incisiveness are as clear as yours.”
Mrs Thatcher spoke of the need for having a clear Conservative message that appealed to people in all walks of life.
In framing their policies for the future, they would need to do much more research into inflation, investment, and the general handling of the economy. The object must be to have a policy that would bring success at the next general election.
Not only should MPs and candidates get out among the people who work in industry and commerce, but they must also make sure that local associations are equipped to propound a clear political message.
In the past few years, she said, some people had felt that there had been an almost inevitable march towards socialism. When she came into politics there was an almost inevitable march towards the “Conservative society”.
That meant most people wanting to own their own homes, having a deep interest in their children's schools, and giving a welcome to Conservative policies that had a close impact on their personal lives: for example, the Conservative desire to reduce personal taxation, and create the conditions that provided a challenge for people to take responsibility for their own future.
That was the kind of enthusiasm the party needed to bring back into the political arena. “We have to fight again to re-create this spirit”, she said.
“We must become more associated with those who work in industry and commerce, so that we know the real, practical problems that arise.”
Mrs Thatcher returned to her theme that the Conservatives must give a clear, identifiable message. “We shall win, not by being against something, but by having a clear, identifiable message which appeals to all the people”, she said.
“But even that is not enough for a party when it is going back into power. We must do a vast amount of research into the complex issues on which we must present a clear view to the nation, for example on inflation, economic growth, and world economic problems, and have our policies well thought out and ready to carry out when we come back into office.”
Inevitably there would be practical difficulties to be overcome on an ad hoc basis. One example was when sections of industry got into difficulties and there was a request for aid.
The party was not opposed to giving aid from the Exchequer, but it should do so with the object of making that section of industry fit and healthy again so that it could tackle its own difficulties. That was quite a different form of intervention from taking industry over and bringing it under state control.
The intervention which she saw as being justifiable would be only temporary.