Commentary (The Times)

Conservatism: "Grandees rally to Thatcher" (direction of policy under David Cameron)

Document type: Press
Source: The Times , 6 Jan 2006
Journalist: Andrew Pierce
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 445 words
Themes: Conservatism, Economic policy - theory and process, Health policy

Grandees rally to Thatcher

By Andrew Pierce

THE first signs of discontent among senior Tories emerged yesterday when grandees from the Thatcher era expressed unease at the direction of David Cameron’s drive for change.

Lord Young of Graffham, who was one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite ministers, first as Employment Secretary and then as Trade and Industry Secretary, was saddened by moves to break with her legacy.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Young said: “The legacy of Thatcherism is a revived business economy. The legacy of Thatcherism is that millions of people now own their own houses whereas before they were at the mercy of a faceless landlord, the local authority.”

Lord Young rarely strays into the political arena, confining his public thoughts to the business sector. But he was moved to speak after reports that Mr Cameron was not wedded to lower taxation, that big business needed to be tamed, and that he would not stick to Thatcherite ideology.

Lord Young said it was important that people were not allowed to forget the achievements of the Thatcher era. He said: “One of the miracles of Thatcherism is that trade unions can now only obstruct in the public sector. Under Thatcherism we went from the sick man of Europe to the healthiest man in Europe.”

Lord Bell of Belgravia, the advertising guru who masterminded the three Thatcher election victories, urged Mr Cameron to raise his sights above the reform of the Conservative Party, which had appeared to occupy most of his attention. “When is he going to address the problems and opportunities for Britain, rather than addressing the problems of the Conservative Party?” he said. “I am sure in the end that people will believe that the Conservative Party has changed, if he tells them it has often enough, but whether they will know what it has changed into I am not so sure.”

Another stalwart of the Thatcher era, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, said that he was comfortable with the language used by Mr Cameron. “We have to indicate that we are looking at life in a different way,” he said.

But Lord Hamilton took issue with Mr Cameron’s health policy. He said: “I worry that we will be going into the election giving people the idea that the health service is affordable. It is not. The implications are massive increases in taxation. We have to realise that in most civilised countries rich people pay something for their healthcare.”