Mrs Thatcher rallies her team for early election
Mrs Thatcher told Conservative Party agents last night to get their election machine ready. Speaking on the eve of her party's conference in Brighton, she made clear her belief that the Government cannot survive much longer and rejected any possibility of a coalition.
No compromise likely with other parties
Election fever began to build up in Brighton last night, the eve of the opening of the Conservative Party conference, when Mrs Thatcher called on the party's constituency professionals to be on the alert for a general election at any time in the next few months.
There need be no doubt that Mrs Thatcher thinks that the Government, with its internal strains and a sterling crisis, cannot last much longer. “Get your election machine ready” , she said, when she delivered the leader's traditional address to the annual dinner of the Conservative agents.
Mrs Thatcher was opening the theme that will dominate the Conservative conference this week: the attack on an increasingly socialist Government that has lost the right to rule by its economic failures.
She urged the Conservative agents to make sure that the by-elections pending in the autumn at Workington, Walsall, North, and Birmingham, Stetchford, were won by the Conservatives.
She set out to leave no doubts in the minds of her professional workers about the ruthlessness and the resolution with which she means to fight all her political battles. And at the headquarters hotel she has already lifted the spirits of constituency leaders and ensured that the conference mood will be for party unity and an unremitting attack on the Government.
In her speech Mrs Thatcher also disclosed her attitude to electoral reform in Britain when she discussed the results of the West German elections. She has often privately avowed her preference for the first-past-the-post system, and her comments on the West German coalition that keeps Herr Schmidt in power showed that she sees no reason to change her mind.
All in all, Mrs Thatcher demonstrated in her speech that she is no coalitionist, and is not likely to be persuaded into coalition. She presents herself as out to win power for the Conservative Party as a counter-revolutionary force, with a decisive majority in the Commons that will enable her to govern on the basis of the new strategic document, The Right Approach, without any compromise with leaders of other parties.
If there is to be a change in the electoral system, she argued last night, it could be founded only on the recommendations of a Speaker's Conference in which all parties had played their part.
Speculation is current in Brighton among constituency leaders about whether Mr Heath will arrive and declare his intention to intervene in conference debates. Mrs Thatcher's strategic document, unanimously approved by the Shadow Cabinet, is less than an olive branch extended towards Mr Heath, but it certainly goes a long way at least to vindicate the Conservative years 1970–74 and thereby satisfy Mr Heath's sense of amour propre.
The probability is that Mr Heath will attend and will choose to speak in Wednesday's key debate on party policy, which is to be opened and closed by Sir Keith Joseph, the party's chief policy-maker, who led the way in unseating Mr Heath from the party leadership early last year.
Mrs Thatcher will not address the conference until Friday morning's traditional party rally, and she will then again sound the trumpet to alert the party for an early general election.