Mrs T avoids U-turns as she does star turn
Even the Rent-a-Mob of the Left, let alone Mrs Thatcher's opponents in Parliament and the country and the “wets” in her own ranks who mutter about her policies, would have been dismayed at the weekend.
The Prime Minister, “at home” at Selborne Hall, Southgate, with 202 members of Finchley and Friern Barnet Conservative Association at the annual constituency dinner-dance, was in firm form.
No sign of a U-turn. No sign of admitting there was even a possibility of a miniflaw in Government policies. She gave an off-the-cuff resumé of her view of the way things are going … and the faithful 202 responded with a standing ovation.
Mind you, they always do. Mrs T is preaching to the converted at the annual dinner and, come Hell or high water, the Faithful 202 are representative of the thousands who won't be tempted by Social Democrats or whatever and have hitched their waggons to Mrs Thatcher's star.
You could be excused at times for thinking it was a family dinner party rather than a political occasion. “The toast is,” said Councillor John Tiplady, the constituency chairman, “Her Majesty's Government, coupled with the name of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher.”
Up jumped 200 dinner jacketed or elegantly gowned guests to raise their glasses and reply in unison: “Margaret.”
Fleet Street may dub her “Maggie.” The “in-thing” in the family circle is to say “Margaret.”
Poor Mr Tiplady, welcoming his distinguished VIP friend, inadvertently included her husband, Denis, among the guests when in fact, Mrs Thatcher was accompanied by her son, Mark.
Mr Tiplady covered his tracks by announcing that Mr T. was at a rugby dinner—Private Eye please note!—and the Prime Minister smilingly told us: “Denis is at another scrum.”
The “family” enthusiastically applauded the award of an MBE in the New Year's Honours List to Mrs Thatcher's political agent in Finchley, Mr Roy Langstone.
The Prime Minister, praising dinner organiser Mr Ron Thurlow, said she had been instructed to mention the names of all the social committee— “Ron's Gang of Six.”
It sounds informal and almost light hearted, but there was a serious content. Mrs Thatcher started by a backwards glance at the General Election that swept her to power, and said: “When you look at the alternative that might have produced a government we had a good miss.”
That produced the first applause of the evening and a series of deep throated “hear, hears.” Then Mrs Thatcher discussed the economy.
Yes, it had been difficult. No, it was not easy to live within your means. But it had to be done.
Then, in her best “The-lady's—not—for—turning” mood, she added: “Others have tried. They got frightened, they retreated, they threw it away. We must not do that.”
She skipped from the world recession to over-manning in industry to the question of strikes.
Under the Tories, she said, Britain had had the least number of strikes for the past 41 years. Britain had to prove to the rest of the world we were not “that strike-ridden country.”
At an international company in Harlow last week she was told that productivity there was better than at its factory in Germany. “I have to tell you there were no unions in that factory,” said Mrs T. “They have a works council. We can beat the world when we get down to it.”
Discussing unemployment, she said that practices designed to protect jobs had, in fact, led to the loss of factories.
“They may not like what I am doing but they do realise what has to be done,” she said.
What about the money the Government had given to British Leyland? “I have been alternatively blamed and praised—so I must be right,” was her answer. The money given was designed to help the car components business. On the old Mini production lines there were 130 people—the new Metro had 38.
Later this month Mrs Thatcher goes to meet President Reagan in the USA. “We are entering into a new chapter with a new president,” she said. “He and I think very much alike. There will be a close relationship.”
I can produce 202 men and women who lapped it all up. They seemed quite happy with the way things were going as they recharged their glasses at the bar at the end and then danced to the music of Dick Davis and his Band.