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Thatcher Archives Reveal The Lady's 'Surprising Detachment' from the 'Conservative Party'

Thatcher Archives Reveal The Lady's 'Surprising Detachment' from the 'Conservative Party'

You’d be forgiven for not having scoured the latest release from the Margaret Thatcher Archives today – but the Telegraph has, noting 10 interesting points about the newest tranch of documents being distributed, from 1984.

But one nugget that seems to have escaped most people’s reading of the documents thus far.

In a section about the Conservatives, the summary by Margaret Thatcher Foundation reads:

“It might seem strange to have a separate section on the Conservative Party in a page about MT, but at times in 1984 one senses a surprising degree of detachment between them. On one occasion she even put the words in inverted commas – as DT was wont to do when sacrificing yet another evening to some dismal event. But he wasn’t leader of the thing.”

The modern Conservative Party is often accused of having disdain for its members and failing to uphold conservative values. The fact that Mrs Thatcher, as party leader and prime minister, acknowledged this as far back as 1984 is a hammer blow to Tories who claim Lady Thatcher’s legacy as their own. 

Mrs Thatcher – as historians, and the excellent documentary by Martin Durkin ‘Death of a Revolutionary’ will tell you – set about a drastic reform not just of Britain, but of the Conservative Party as a whole. She, and her legacy, are not vestments of the Conservative Party to be wheeled out whenever it is expedient – such as the tat they flogged at Tory conference this year.

Instead, her legacy is one that belongs to her only, and that can and should be called upon by people who believe in the spread of freedom, a more pure interpretation of the word ‘conservative’, and those who campaign for Britain’s sovereignty, the aspirational classes, and the forces of the free market.

The Conservative Party I saw last week at their Birmingham conference could scarcely meet these requirements, as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless confirmed in their respective UKIP defection speeches.

But leaving the Conservative Party is not for everyone. That’s understandable. People like Daniel Hannan MEP regard the Tories as the high ground of right wing electoral politics. But they should also be the torchbearers of what Mrs Thatcher fought for, rather than becoming tokens to be wheeled out to please the party base when they get a little uppity. Unfortunately at the current time, this is all right wingers in the Tory Party have become.

No further evidence is needed than that provided by a senior, young Tory activist this morning, who posted a meme on Facebook that plastered the words “Never a Kipper, Always a Tory” across a pixelated picture of Mrs Thatcher. This is blind and partisan, rather than ideological or national loyalty.

If said Tory activist were to be intellectually honest about the meme, the poster would better reflect that it is UKIP who have carried Thatcher’s greatest ideas into the 21st Century, not the Conservative Party. I don’t know how you might put it. Maybe: “Kipper Ideas, Tory Party”. Much like David Cameron’s conference speech this week.

But don’t expect intellectual rigour on the run up to a General Election. The Westminster establishment appears to have less and less time for that. Why is why Thatcher did, and we all should, refer to the Tories as the ‘Conservative Party’. 

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