Margaret Thatcher is to blame for the rise of UK Independence Party, as no other leader can live up to her greatness, cabinet minister Eric Pickles has claimed. He says the so-called “Iron Lady” was “such a phenomenal leader” that more recent leaders are “shades of monotone.”
Pickles was talking to Total Politics magazine about the rise in Nigel Farage’s UKIP. He said: “In many ways it’s Mrs Thatcher’s fault. She was such a phenomenal leader. She affected not just the Conservative Party but the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. She brought the middle ground to the right.”
“What’s the difference between what Blair was trying to do and the difference between Major and Blair? It becomes shades of monotone.”
He went on to suggest the Conservatives needed to do more to understand why they were losing voters to UKIP.
He said: “I don’t doubt that the next election is really a choice between ‘do you want to see David Cameron or Ed Miliband through the door of number 10?’ I think people will make that decision, but it isn’t enough for us to do that. The reason why UKIP has done well is something that we need to understand about the way in which we connect.”
The suggestion by a Cabinet minister that David Cameron does not have the same popularity as Margaret Thatcher is likely to go down badly in Downing Street. The PM is often compared unfavourably to the late Conservative leader but this normally comes from pundits rather than members of his own government.
It is also likely that UKIP will seize on the comments as evidence that the Conservatives are out of touch with voters. While Farage is known to be a fan of Thatcher he has made it clear he does not believe it is her charisma that is missing from British politics, but rather her honesty and willingness to stand up for Britain.
Thatcher never forgot she was considered one of the greatest Conservative leaders. In his farewell address Conor Burns MP, who was a friend of Thatcher, told a story about getting a taxi to her house in the years before she died.
When the driver realised he was dropping someone at Lady Thatcher’s home he said: “Your fare tonight, guv, is you go in there and you tell ‘er from me that we ain’t had a good’un since!”
Burns said she replied “Well, he’s quite right.”