Margaret Thatcher statue unveiled
by Sir George Young
I was glad I was present at this moment in our history - when Margaret Thatcher unveiled the larger-than-life statue of herself in the Members Lobby in the House of Commons.
Yes, she was frail - but when she spoke, one could see members of her former Cabinet paying careful attention. There they were, John Major, Geoffrey Howe, Douglas Hurd, Ken Baker, John Nott, David Young, John MacGregor, David Howell, Michael Howard, Ken Clarke, Tony Newton, Norman St John Stevas Norma Fowler and Norman Tebbit - and many others who worked with her such as Bernard Ingham and Charles Powell.
Given that she has suffered some minor strokes, the voice was clear and she captured the mood with some well-aimed jokes. The statue was in bronze “I would have preferred iron”; and “I hope the head stays on this one.”
Ted Heath would not have been amused. His bust, on a shelf nearby, is totally dwarfed by his successor as Leader of the Party.
As someone who liked the House of Commons (unlike, dare I say it, the present incumbent) she was genuinely touched by the honour that was being done to her. It is the first time a former Prime Minister has been honoured in this way before he or she died. She walked slowly through the Chamber, leaning from time to time on the Speaker’s Arm; and afterwards posed for pictures. I could not but contrast her fragile health with that of the Queen, who is exactly the same age.
So much has happened in the sixteen years since she was deposed - it seems even longer ago - that one has forgotten her achievements. The first woman Prime Minister of a major Western democracy; the longest serving Prime Minister for 150 years; and a lady who put this country back on its feet in the 1980’s.
They don’t make them like that any more.
And I thought Tony Blair missed a trick; he didn’t join us for the occasion.
This is the House of Commons Press Notice
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON WORKS OF ART
HOUSE OF COMMONS, LONDON SW1A 0AA
STATUE OF BARONESS THATCHER IN MEMBERS LOBBY
A full length bronze statue of Rt. Hon the Baroness Thatcher was unveiled this evening in Members Lobby by Rt. Hon Michael Martin MP, Speaker of the House of Commons. This over life-size statue recognises her contribution to British politics during her three successive terms of office as premier and records her rightful place in parliamentary history as the United Kingdom’s first woman Prime Minister.
The statue was commissioned by the Advisory Committee on Works of Art in 2003 from the sculptor Antony Dufort. The statue cost £80,000 and was funded by the Works of Art Committee, supported by the Speaker’s Art Fund. It was agreed that Margaret Thatcher would be shown during her last term of office, 1987-1990, and the sculptor worked from historic material as well as being given sittings from life. He has depicted her mid-debate, her right hand raised as she makes a point in the Chamber.
The statue looks directly towards the doors to the Commons Chamber, facing the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Around the walls are bronze busts of other Prime Ministers of the 20th Century: James Ramsay MacDonald, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Edward Heath, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Stanley Baldwin and Alec Douglas-Home.
Only three figures are missing from this otherwise complete historical series in Members’ Lobby: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Andrew Bonar Law and Neville Chamberlain. The Advisory Committee on Works of Art would be very pleased to hear from anyone who has portraits busts of these former Prime Ministers.
1. The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art was established in 1956 to advise the Speaker on matters relating to works of art in the House of Commons collection. The current members of the Committee are: Mr Hugo Swire (Chairman), Mr Peter Ainsworth MP, Mr Frank Doran MP, Lady Hermon MP, Anne Main MP, Judy Mallaber MP, Christine Russell MP, John Thurso MP, and Derek Wyatt MP.
2. For further information please contact Malcolm Hay, Curator of the House of Commons, on 020 7219 6218 or visit the website at http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/acwa.cfm