Presented with the kind permission of Intelligence Squared.
Special thanks to Ted Maxwell.
The panel debate the motion: Maggie Thatcher saved Britain. Chaired by Martyn Lewis.
Arguing FOR the motion are Charles Moore, Lord Bell and Sir John Nott.
Charles Moore states that, for Maggie Thatcher, politics were the art of the impossible, and that’s why she made such a difference. He notes her affirmation of the principle that aggression had to be defeated in the Falklands War and her individual impact on Anglo-Russian relations. Moore believes that Thatcher embodies, expresses and magnifies the positive attributes of Britishness.
Lord Bell argues that this debate is not about the legacy Thatcher left, but whether she actually saved Britain at the time. He believes that she restored Britons’ pride in their country in a period when it was in decline as a world power, and states that history will reflect that she saved Britain when it was at a crossroads, leaving us a freer and more successful nation.
John Nott defends the policies of Thatcher, claiming that Britain needed a radical leader at that period in its history. In his view, Great Britain was the sick man of Europe and action had to be taken. Despite the unbearable pain of deindustrialisation and unemployment, Nott suggests that Thatcher took necessary steps to restore Britain’s prosperity.
Arguing AGAINST the motion are Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, Billy Bragg, and Diane Abbott MP.
Peregrine Worsthorne admits that he was a great fan of Thatcher’s at the time, but, in reflecting on her legacy, he has no alternative but to oppose the motion. He believes that Thatcher destroyed the old labour and conservative parties as well as the great tradition of working class solidarity and the upper class idea of public service.
Billy Bragg asks what the ‘greatest Conservative prime minister’ actually conserved. He outlines how she damaged the unity of the UK, the power of the armed forces and the monarchy, and criticises her economic policies for causing widespread unemployment.
Diane Abbott recognises the sheer immensity of her task in the face of such ‘established’ opposition, and points out that she is exactly the sort of person that Thatcher was supposed to have saved Britain from. While Abbott concedes that Thatcher was a truly remarkable person, who ruled the Tory party entirely through fear, she argues that the Iron Lady only saved a very particular Britain. There are other British people who are not so quick to believe that she saved them.
First Vote: 347 For, 142 Against, 157 Don’t Know
Final Vote: 393 For, 209 Against, 48 Don’t Know
The motion is passed by 184 votes.