MP Steve Barclay reflects on the life and legacy of Baroness Thatcher

MP Steve Barclay

MP Steve Barclay - Credit: Archant

THE death of Baroness Thatcher offers us an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary life and achievements of a grocer’s daughter who defied the odds to become the most influential peacetime Prime Minister of the 20th century.

Much has been written in recent days about her major achievements - helping end the Cold War, taming trade union bullies, defending national sovereignty in the Falklands, securing our European rebate, and rescuing the economy from the winter of discontent - to name just a few.

To millions around the world Lady Thatcher was a role model. President Obama cites her today to his daughters, showing girls can break any glass ceiling.

In power she also spoke to those living behind the iron curtain, speaking up for their freedom from government control and giving hope that they could break free.

For me, Margaret Thatcher’s belief in freedom from the state was the key not just to her international policy, but also her reforms at home.

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She was a grammar school girl from Lincolnshire who personally embodied her belief in a more meritocratic society. She was prepared to take on vested interests, in the City of London and with the patricians in her own party, just as much as in the large loss making nationalised industries.

Some voters today had not been born when Lady Thatcher left office.

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Her impact in changing our country can be felt in part by the strength of feelings she provokes so long after being in office.

It contrasts sharply with the level of discussion generated by her predecessor as Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, or as Conservative leader, Ted Heath.

Some changes resulting in unpopularity in parts of the UK were the inevitable consequences of de-industrialisation. But in accepting this reality and confronting it head on, Lady Thatcher ensured Britain was able to reform its economy more quickly.

Under the clarity of her vision and determination to reverse the ‘managed decline’ of the country in the seventies, people previously excluded opportunity were given a chance: The chance to buy their own house, own shares for the first time, access a career which had previously been out of reach, or pay less tax so they- and not the state- were able to decide what was done with their hard earned money.

She understood that financial freedom was central to any true freedom from the State.

Over the coming weeks we should take the opportunity to reflect on the relevance of Baroness Thatcher’s message today - a time when the government is so much bigger and its debt so much higher than when she was in power.

Like many within the Conservative Party I will also recall my own meetings with Lady Thatcher and Denis, not least their visit to Lancaster to support me during the 2001 General Election campaign, or the private reception with a small group of newly elected Conservative MPs in 2010.

On Wednesday it is with respect and fond memories that I will be paying tribute to the immense personal achievements of a remarkable woman who radically shaped the political landscape of all of our lives.

Above all Lady Thatcher loved her country. She did much to restore its national pride.

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