Daily Telegraph: John Howard - Margaret Thatcher was my 'guiding light'

Tim Stanley talks to the former Australian PM about conservatism, liberty, and what he learnt from Britain’s first woman prime minister.

To read the full article, see the Daily Telegraph website.

“Western governments aren’t doing enough to defend and promote Western values. That’s the message that John Howard, the former prime minister of Australia, brings to London ahead of Wednesday’s international Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty, hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies and sponsored by The Telegraph. Mr Howard also has some helpful advice on how to tackle Right-wing, Ukip-style revolts and their populist champions. “Deal with the issues,” he says, “don’t deal with the person.”

The big theme of Wednesday’s event is Thatcherism and its legacy, and Mr Howard offers the perspective of a leader who arguably had as much impact on his country as Margaret Thatcher had on Britain. The wily 74-year-old was born into a Methodist, small business family in Sydney, and is very conscious of the parallels with Mrs Thatcher. A hearing impediment in his youth left him with lifelong use of a hearing aid, a slight speech impediment and one of those in-a-hurry personalities associated with young men with obstacles to overcome. He entered Parliament for the centre-Right Liberals in 1974, at the age of 35, and by 1977 was appointed Federal Treasurer, a position he held until the party’s landslide defeat in 1983.

Mrs Thatcher was an early inspiration to Mr Howard, both as a radically conservative Treasurer struggling to get his way in a cautious Liberal government and as an intermittent opposition leader in the 1980s and 1990s. “Her great reforms were in what you might call the freedom areas,” he says, particularly in the labour market where both she and Mr Howard preferred the “freedom of contract” compared to the “corporate state” arrangement that was prevalent in Britain and Australia (“beer and sandwiches and all that sort of thing”). In her willingness to take on unions and the state, he argues, “she was the guiding light”.”

To read the full article, see the Daily Telegraph website.

Date Added: Tuesday 17th June 2014