Thatcher charm draws out a shy town
Crowds come out for Tory Leader's flying visit
By Paul Johnson
The people of Brecon, perhaps unused to playing host to VIPs, at first seemed shy of coming out to welcome Mrs. Margaret Thatcher yesterday.
Minutes before the Tory leader arrived in the town on her tour of the Brecon and Radnor constituency the streets were almost deserted. It looked as if the locals were going to let pass unnoticed what some said was the first walk-about by a politician in their town.
“It takes royalty to get them out on to the streets. They won't get excited at anything less,” said a policeman on crowd control duty. But he was wrong. The welcome, if somewhat delayed, came as Mrs. Thatcher started moving through the narrow side-streets of the old market town.
People emerged from houses, shops and cafes as word went around that the Tory leader was on a flying visit.
Indeed, when she reached Brecon's indoor market it must have seemed to Mrs. Thatcher that the whole town was packed inside waiting to greet her.
Disappointing none of the autograph hunters, she signed all sorts of bits of paper produced hastily from shopping bags and purses. At one stage she even put her name to a price tag that had been sticking out of a pork pie only moments before.
The grocer's daughter from Lincolnshire looked perfectly at home talking intently with the stallholders over the price of food before making a bee-line for a dairy counter where she bought some Carmarthen butter. “I was determined to get some of this when I came to Wales,” she said.
As the crowds hemmed her in there was always husband Denis, staying politely in the background, or one of the group of middle-aged distinguished—looking gentlemen that seemed to surround her, ushering her forward and making a path through the crush.
The Brecon walk-about was just the start of a demanding day for the Tory leader. Similar meet-the-people exercises were staged at Rhayader, Builth Wells and Talgarth, as well as two factory visits. In all her 140-mile trip took more than 10 hours to complete.
Included in her itinerary was a visit to the Royal British Legion factory at Llanwrtyd Wells, where she bought a patriotic red white and blue Welsh tweed dress and coat.
Her tour was more than a pleasant country visit to meet some new faces. With a Labour majority of just over 3,000, the Brecon and Radnor seat could be easy meat for [end p1] the Tories if a general election produced swings such as those seen in the county council elections.
Mrs. Thatcher was in buoyant mood later in the same day when her party stopped at Llandrindod Wells. Mr. Lloyd Haward Davies prospective Tory candidate for Brecon and Radnor, told an audience of more than 200 party workers that the Conservatives were beginning to be recognised as a force to be reckoned with in the area.
“When I first came to Brecon and Radnor four years ago, hardly anyone believed we could win this seat. Now, it's difficult to find anyone who believes that Labour will hold it at the next general election,” he said.