The campaign guru: ‘Here endeth her lessons’ (The Times)

CPS Chairman Lord Saatchi writes for The Times on why Margaret Thatcher won three elections. 

To view the article at its original posting, visit The Times website

“Being interested in economics did not imply a heart of stone

Everyone wants to be immortal. Few are. Margaret Thatcher is. Why? Because her values are timeless, eternal. Tap anyone on the shoulder anywhere in the world, ask what Mrs Thatcher believed in and they will tell you. They can give a clear answer to what she stood for.

How did she do it?

Mrs Thatcher knew that in politics, as in the law, the jury seeks motive and intent. This is why she told Philip Larkin that her favourite line of his poetry was:

Your mind lay open like a drawer of knives.

On May 3, 1979, Mrs Thatcher’s mind lay open. She had a definite motive that Britain could be great again, and the intent to bring it about. To prove it, she developed all the winning arguments of our time. She presented a wonderful “ism” — Conservatism.

When everyone said that there was nothing that could be done with Britain, she disagreed. She could see Britain at Point A — misery. She wanted to get to Point B — happiness. She made a plan to get there. She was proud of Conservatism and what it could do. For example, she said: “Caring that works costs cash.” The Good Samaritan had showed that first you needed the money in order to do the good works.

She said that “a bigger cake means a bigger slice for everyone. But first you had to create the wealth to make the cake bigger.”

She said that a rising tide lifts all ships.

And she said that lower taxation was good for moral reasons because it meant more freedom and choice for individuals; and for economic reasons, because paradoxically lower tax rates meant higher tax revenues and more wealth creation.

Economics was always her priority:

National solvency is not so much an objective as conditio sine qua non for the attainment of any objective.

For this, she was routinely condemned for ice-cold brutishness by the Left and by some in her own party. They said that she was money obsessed. But she did not accept that an interest in economics implied a heart of stone. On the contrary she believed that individuals could not be free if they were poor because, as J. K. Galbraith, said: The greatest restriction on the liberty of the citizen is a complete absence of money.

Like Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson and all the great champions of liberal democracy, she recognised that a paternalist government, based on the benevolence of a ruler who treats his or her subjects as dependent children, is the greatest conceivable despotism and destroys all freedom. She saw that human dignity in fact resides in independence, individuality and self-determination. The guiding thread of her Conservatism was the need for humankind to be responsible for and master of its destiny — that the goal for each person is the fullest development of all their latent powers and abilities, their human potential. Her achievement was to capture those words for Conservatism.

She tried to set the new direction for the Conservative Party in the historical and philosophical traditions of British Conservatism.

Disraeli and Churchill would have been proud of the result:

Conservatives are not egalitarians. We believe in levelling up, in enhancing opportunities, not in levelling down, which dries up the springs of enterprise and endeavour and ultimately means that there are fewer resources for helping the disadvantaged.

As Margaret Thatcher summed it up, the facts of life do invariably turn out to be Tory.

So began the 20-year intellectual hegemony of the Conservative Party; triumphantly crowned at the end of the century when its old adversary made the historic announcement that Labour, too, would adopt Conservative economics.

Margaret Thatcher understood that if you stand for something you will have people for you and people against you. But if you stand for nothing you will have nobody for you and nobody against you. She knew that a certain idealism, a marching tune that people can respond to, is the essential precondition for electoral success.

When Margaret Thatcher was Leader of the Opposition 35 years ago, she founded the Centre for Policy Studies to express the benefits of free markets. The result was a revolution in economic policy and four election victories in a row.

Times change. By a Darwinian process, a new world order is evolving. But nobody knows its shape. To help to define it we need to do what she intended — search for real ideas with the zeal of a prospector hunting gold.

Beatrice Webb, the founder of the London School of Economics, used to say that people fall in love with funny things: “Some people fall in love with their chauffeur. I fell in love with Soviet communism.”

Mrs Thatcher fell in love, too. With the exact opposite. Most of all, she wanted a free man to be able to say:

“I am the captain of my soul.”

And that is how she became an immortal.

Here endeth her lesson.”

To view the article at its original posting, visit The Times website

Date Added: Tuesday 9th April 2013