UK Conservatives prior to Thatcher

The Parliamentary Labour Party did not oppose the War, not sure where you go that idea. Certainly some Labour MPs were unenthusiastic about a war which had more than a sniff on imperialism about it, and they weren’t alone. But the Party did back it.

It took several weeks for the Task Force to be prepared and travel 9,000 miles to Falklands, time enough for lots of debate and some shuttle diplomacy. During this time there were various voices from the Left wanting to a explore every diplomatic and negotiated alternative to war. Tony Benn was quite voluable and predicted that public opinion would turn on the PM once the body count started. Foot the leader of the Party knew he could only go so far with any line the appeared like pacifism. As a young journalist and editor he criticised what he saw the appeasment of Hitler by the conservatives in the run up to WW2. The Left may have hated Thatcher for economic policies, but they were pretty much behind her when facing up to a Fascist dictator. The pacifists of the Anti-Nuke movement objecting to Nato was really a separate issue.

Thatcher was lucky. The Falklands War came out of nowhere and it was a close shave. If the Argentines had managed to take out an arircraft carrier, the war could have ended up with a humililating withdrawal. The poltical consequences would have been serious, like Suez. She would have had to resign. As it was, she bet the farm and won. It gave her the political stature to dominate her own party and press home her economic reforms and an important place on the world stage which she used to drum up business and attract investment.

I will be interested to see how The Crown covers Tony Blair as Prime Minister. A good start, but in the end his luck ran out.

As pretty well always happens. Not someone I would normally expect to quote, but I think it was Enoch Powell who said all political careers end in failure (as his own demonstrated). That’s basically how our system works: you carry on until you or your electorate decide that you can’t. Nobody ends on a total high.

It’s hard to see who might replace Boris. Sunak maybe? He seems to be coping OK with COVID problems.

Thatcher was the leader that Britain needed at the time. Just like Churchill popped up at the start of WW2, she popped uo at a time when we needed a strong leader to transfer government back from the TUC to the Commons.

Facing down the printers, the miners and the NHS was a tough call, but most people not in those trades were really disillusioned with the way they kept disrupting everyday life.

I was spending quite a bit of time in mining areas and Working Men's Clubs were where I spent my evenings. I do not recall any miner that I spoke to telling me that he wanted his son to follow him underground. On the contrary they mostly wanted them to be educated and then to work somewhere that didn't involve lung diseases and going for weeks on end never seeing the sun.

John Major? Yeah, he lost an election, but it was one the Tories were expected to lose (and he’d already won one a lot of people thought he might lose). He’s sort of widely respected now by those who remember him, which, going on quiz shows, includes a surprising number of young people.

I suppose starting out mediocre and ending mediocre isn’t a high bar to cross, but, still, he was prime minister in between.

Also, Major won an election the Tories had a good chance of losing, held his government together (just about) for a full parliamentary term and got his most tricky business through. Admittedly, he was lucky in the failures of both the Europhobe troublemakers in his own party, and the opposition parties until the last years of his government. Lord knows he had his limitations, but he had more depth of judgement than Cameron or (but who hasn’t) than Johnson.

It’s worth noting that Thatcher was really part of a movement within Conservative politics which had a range of objectives that had been developed over the preceding 10 years or so, she became the front for that strategy in her first term before moving on to revise and refine her own outlook and take much more direct control of her party and national policy which would then go on to become Thatcherism.

Perhaps her most influential initial architect of her moneterist philosophy would be Sir Keith Joseph - but these days he hardly seems to get a mention

Also - until he started going doolally - Enoch Powell, who regularly inveighed on fiscal rectitude, especially when Heath and his Chancellor panicked. And it was there back in 1958 when the then Chancellor and junior Treasury ministers resigned because Macmillan wanted big pre-election spending.

Interesting piece on current debates on re-orienting the Tories yet again:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/12/labour-boris-johnson-modern-conservatism