Iron Lady on the doorstep as Tories launch a doorstopper
Ann Treneman: Parliamentary Sketch
All eyes of the press pack outside Downing Street were glued to the ornate iron gates as they opened at 2.58pm. “Coming now!” cried a TV man. “Now! Mrs Thatcher arriving at Downing Street!”
The dark green Jaguar purred towards us. Until that moment, I hadn't quite believed that it was true. Then I saw her, or, more accurately, her never-changing candyfloss hair helmet bobbing in the back seat of the car. The icon had landed at No 10.
The heavy black door to No 10 swung open, and Gordon Brown hurried out to be at her side. She had emerged, slowly and with help. She wore a dress of deepest fuchsia, so bright that she put the herbaceous border to shame. She clutched her black patent handbag, which would have been pure dominatrix except that, on her, it looked natural and matched her pumps perfectly.
They walked, slowly, and when at the doorstep, they pivoted round, in impeccable Come Dancing style, for the photographers. “Is Mr Brown your natural successor?” shouted Nick Robinson of the BBC. Her face, a mask, did not change.
They pivoted again and vanished. They did not reappear for more than two hours or, to be precise, 132 minutes. The hacks fought about whether her dress was fuchsia or cerise. There were quite a lot of “back to the fuchsia” jokes, if you can call them that.
We watched, desperate for the net curtains to twitch. The political equivalent, Mr Brown's adviser, would occasionally emerge with titbits. Maggie and Gordo had met in the Thatcher Room (the one with the Apollo Moon rock, apparently) for about an hour. She had had tea (little sandwiches and cakes) in her old flat above No 10 with the Brown family. And, yes, Sybil the cat was there. A custodian named Bill, who had been there when she was, had known that she took her tea black. He then served it to her. It was all rather sentimental until you remembered exactly who these two people are.
They say that revenge is a dish best served cold but I think that now has been trumped by Mrs T. For yesterday revenge was served with tea and cakes and how sweet it must have been. She is said to be hurt by the way the Camerons have treated her. Mr Brown would do anything to infuriate the Tory leader. Last week he told us how he and Baroness Thatcher were both conviction politicians. Now I think we know what they share a conviction about.
The timing was perfect for them and perfectly awful for the Tories. It was supposed to be Quality of Life day. Earlier that morning I had watched as five men in suits had presented a 547-page document called Blueprint for a Green Economy. It was so heavy that it was more like Doorstop for a Green Economy. Inside, the endless paragraphs were delineated by numbers, such as 126.96.36.199.1. It just seemed beyond ridiculous.
The man in charge of Quality of Life was John Gummer. Yesterday, he looked a bit like the Nutty Professor. “I am a Tory,” he cried. He said that the document was in the tradition of Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and Disraeli. And, of course, Mrs Thatcher.
The lady herself begged to differ, I think. She emerged, at 5.10pm, a glowing Gordon by her side. Sarah Brown was there too. Mrs T was clutching flowers wrapped in polka-dotted cellophane (a present from the Brown children).
She may be frail but, as the cameras clicked, she raised her hand in that famous wave. She wanted that picture taken.