Political Dinosaur or Political Legend? A Personal Reflection on the Passing of Mrs T

by Simon Lemieux

Margaret Thatcher
(image source: Wiki Commons)
It won’t come as any surprise, I guess, given part of my current role, that I’ve always been interested in politics. At university I was fortunate enough to hear a range of politicians come and speak. My personal highlights were the co-founder of CND, Bruce Kent, and the right-wing politician Enoch Powell, ex- Conservative and, by then, an Ulster Unionist. Yet one ‘big beast’ of politics was nowhere to be seen, let alone heard, on the university circuit in the 1980s; that’s right, the Prime Minister herself Margaret Thatcher.

Despite the lively political scene (think: the miners’strike and the neo-Trotskyite Militant Tendency seeking to infiltrate Labour), my chances as a student of hearing one of the most significant politicians of the last century was nil. But then a few years down the line (and the real point of this blog entry), the opportunity arose. 

The ‘Iron Lady’ was doing a tour to promote her recently published memoirs and was coming to Portsmouth Guildhall, so thus my one and only chance to see and hear a political legend came about. The title says it all really: it was like going to a music/rock concert to hear a famous band or performer who’d once dominated the charts but then slipped from the top. You expect all the old classic hits, maybe not quite sung in tune, hopefully not much new material and desperately pray that  they will not be a shadow of their former selves.

Well, she was true to form. I didn’t leave disappointed. The hall was comfortably full, the fans adoring and the old hits were played out. From what I can remember, it was very much a re-hash of ‘slaying the dragons’; top of the list were trade unions, European federalists, socialism, the big state, and probably the Argies as well – it would have gone down especially well in Portsmouth, after all.

The charisma and oratory were still there, there were no regrets (except perhaps that she hadn’t had quite enough time to accomplish everything she wanted to do) and no attempt to engage in respectful, sofa-based political dialogue. It was conviction and passion from the platform – just what those who attended expected. As the sub-heading advertising the somewhat crude entertainer Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown says, ‘if easily offended please stay away’. They did, and her audience were left alone to adore and buy signed copies of the book.
It had the atmosphere and enthusiasm of a religious revivalist meeting, but no sceptics waiting to be converted. I’m glad I went; I bought the book and gave it to my mum as a Christmas present (or was it birthday? The memory clouds somewhat at this point……). I haven’t heard another ex or current Prime Minister speak since. As for my mum, she’s still got the book but now votes UKIP without any great passion, which kind of says it all…