Why did Mrs Thatcher win three elections in a row?

CPS Chairman Lord Saatchi, one of the creative minds behind the famous election poster “Labour isn’t working”, looks at why Mrs Thatcher won an historic three elections in a row.

What lesson does Mrs Thatcher teach about winning elections? Was it her excellent TV coverage? Her use of mass advertising? Her private polling? Her press conferences? Not at all.

Mrs Thatcher was a romantic. She understood that dreams are important. She knew that in politics, as in law, motive is all. People give credit to someone whose heart is in the right place.

She knew that a certain idealism, a certain moral urgency, a marching tune people can respond to, is the essential precondition for electoral success.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher had a dream. And she expressed it simply:

Britain can be great again.

She could see Britain at Point A – misery. She wanted to get to Point B – happiness. She made a plan to get there.

To prove it, Mrs Thatcher 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 was proud of Conservative economics and what it could do.  For example, she said,

Caring that works costs cash

The Good Samaritan showed that first you need the money in order to do the good works.

She said,

A bigger cake means a bigger slice for everyone.

She said,

A rising tide lifts all ships.

She said that lower tax 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.

As Mrs Thatcher summed it up:

The facts of life do invariably turn out to be Tory.

For her emphasis on economics, she was routinely condemned for ice-cold brutishness by the Left, and by some in her own party. They said 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 and miserable. Liberty is liberty, and as J. K. Galbraith said:

The greatest restriction on the liberty of the citizen is a complete absence of money.

Mrs Thatcher saw that human dignity in fact resides in independence, individuality, self-determination.

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 subjects as dependent children, is the greatest conceivable despotism and destroys all freedom.

Hers was a just cause, a noble purpose, anchored in economics.

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 won three elections in a row.

Date Added: Monday 8th April 2013