I first met Margaret Thatcher as a child at a constituency event she held in Finchley to thank her local activists for 40 years of service that had delivered her to the highest office in the land.
My Grandmother was one of the first people to campaign for Margaret Thatcher to be selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Finchley in 1958, she didn’t stop campaigning for her for the 40 years that followed.
The lack of character, connection and synergy that modern politicians have with the public at large is much discussed today, but the reason that my Grandmother campaigned for half of her life for Margaret Thatcher was not out of blind loyalty to the Conservative Party or to power, but because she passionately believed in her ideas, and in her extraodinary character.
It is the only reason one should campaign for someone else, but it is a luxury that my generation has not been afforded, in fact we can do little better than continue to campaign for Margaret Thatcher and her ideas, even in her absence.
The challenge now is to ensure that those ideas, and her character, are represented genuinely and in the full breadth of her own words and actions.
During her life, and since her passing, many have tried to claim the title of “Thatcherite” for their own political ends. David Cameron spoke on the day of her funeral and proclaimed, “we are all Thatcherites now”, and there are many in the feminist or fledgling libertarian movement that have begun to claim Thatcher as their own.
In her own words, Margaret Thatcher was a “good conservative, nothing more” and in many ways I feel that we have failed her as conservatives in hagiographically praising her, but not standing up for conservatism, for all of our views, however difficult the circumstances of the fashions of the day.
In her later years she was often isolated and lonely. It may seem difficult to believe now so many have come to recognise her true value, but when a colleague of mine organised a reception and dinner in her honour in 2004, he was placed under significant pressure not to do so by members of the Conservative Party, who felt Margaret Thatcher and full blooded conservatism was representative of the past, and should be left there.
Her legacy now rests in greater danger than being simply consigned to the past however, but in being taken by those who claim to speak for her, as various groups and ideological tenets scramble to erect her as their paragon.
Many of her supporters, whether they had the fortune to know her or not, felt her passing deeply and personally, but she doesn’t belong to us, or to anyone, in her work she left a greater and more authentic monument to her ideas and achievements than anyone else can ever construct.
I once wrote to the Czech President Valcav Klaus inviting him to contribute to new policy ideas for the Bow Group, he responded: ‘I am not an advocate of “new thinking”, but of freedom, parliamentary democracy, free markets and traditional conservative values. What we need to do in Europe today, in my view, is to return to these values and Thatcherite policies which the Bow Group used to support”.
I am proud to say I took the man’s advice.
The greatest respect that we can pay to Margaret Thatcher, is to serve not what we think she might have said, not what we think she might have done given “modern” circumstances, but in full acknowledgement of what she did say and she did do.
Her incredible character and the ideas she fought for are timeless, and will be as applicable and steadfast tomorrow as they are today and were when she lived so well.