Organizational Communication – Discussion

Organizational Communication – Discussion

HBS Thatcher Case

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Harvard Business School 9-497-018 Rev. May 13, 1998

Research Associate Jennifer M. Suesse prepared this case from published sources under the supervision of Professor Herminia Ibarra as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

Copyright © 1996 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685 or write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

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Margaret Thatcher

When Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1979, she began a Conservative revolution that would come to be known as Thatcherism. Following her personal inclinations toward fiscal rigor, freedom of choice, and individual responsibility,1 Thatcher used her three consecutive terms in office to radically change the place of government in the lives of the ordinary citizens she had been elected to represent.

From the Falkland Islands to education reform, Margaret Thatcher presented her principles with an unflinching conviction. Her strict policies were almost always controversial, inciting ferocious debate among colleagues, Party-members and citizens alike. She reduced spending, tax rates, inflation, and the size of the civil service, while unemployment and the gap between wealth and poverty increased. She battled with the trade unions, privatized previously nationalized industries, and encouraged free market economics. “The first woman to lead a British political party or a major Western nation,” write historians Juliet S. Thompson and Wayne C. Thompson, “Thatcher had the determination of a visionary and the ruthlessness of an outsider. She did not come from the establishment and never owed her success to it.”2

Indeed, when Thatcher was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, to Alfred and Beatrice Roberts, she was about as far from the insider’s world of the British Parliament as possible. An early alliance with her father’s political ambitions, however, would launch her toward the leadership of the Conservative party.

1 Principles of Thatcherism adapted from page 23 in Margaret Thatcher: A Bibliography by Faysal Mikdadi (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993). 2 Juliet S. Thompson and Wayne C. Thompson, “Thatcher’s Leadership.” In Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister Indomitable, edited by Juliet S. Thompson and Wayne C. Thompson (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994), page 3.

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Early Life: The Blooming of Margaret Thatcher (1925-1959)3

Her Father’s Daughter Alfred Roberts’s energies, those not consumed by running his shop and sub-post office, were all directed toward climbing the rungs of political power and influence in his town. Elected to the local authority when Margaret was two, Councilor Roberts worked his way up to alderman and finally, 18 years later, to mayor. Grim Grantham, heavily bombed during World War II because of its munitions factory, imposed curfews and constant rationing. As chairman of the town’s finance committee, and as local food officer during the war, he was in charge of dispensing jobs, government housing, and basic foodstuffs. By making himself the provider of basic needs, he gathered to himself the powers of a political boss.

Alderman Roberts gave his two daughters little license for fun or luxury. No bikes, no garden, no hot baths. The family seldom sat down to a meal together and never shared a day off, except Sundays, when, preacher Roberts decreed, they would attend chapel three times. No amusements, not even the Sunday papers, were permitted in the house. There wasn’t much display of affection. Life was deadly serious, all about self-improvement and dedication to duty.

* * * * *

And so this fanatically upwardly mobile father chose his second daughter to make an alliance with—an alliance that worked because when he pushed Margaret, she responded. His needs coincided with her own temperament and ambition. It was obvious at the time that men were the only people who mattered. She would make herself into a woman who would be just like her father if he were a woman. Similarly, it enhanced Alderman Roberts to show off his studious daughter. She was a perfect little lady and served him well as companion and substitute for his homebound wife. He did not have to make a boy out of her, which allowed Margaret to grow up maintaining her femininity.

* * * * *

Education She vividly recalls things the girls at school had that she didn’t have. “Some were fantastic in sports, some were fantastic in arts. I could do accurate drawing, but I just couldn’t do a portrait, and I wasn’t talented.” In areas where her abilities were merely ordinary—music, art, sports, attracting boys—she gave up. If she couldn’t excel, she would not compete.

When she was 10, her father saw to it that Margaret got into the grammar school at the “right” end of town, where he was on the board of governors. The grammar school was competitive, entered by examination, and represented a meritocracy in English life, while the costly boarding school stood for aristocracy. At the Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, guest speakers were invited to address the girls on anything from ornithology to current events.

“Margaret could be guaranteed to get up on her hind legs and ask penetrating questions,” says Madeline Hellaby, with whom Margaret vied for top place in the class. “The rest of us sort of looked at each other.” She rolls her eyes. “’Oh, she is at it again.’” Margaret Wickstead, who also shared the status of “head girl,” remembers to this day the sober teenager’s highly formal, even parliamentary, style. “She seemed to have no trepidation. They were serious questions, well put— she must have worked hard on them before coming to school.”

3 “Her Father’s Daughter,” “Education,” and “Ambition” based on research and writing by Gail Sheehy from pages 110-112 in “The Blooming of Margaret Thatcher,” by Gail Sheehy. Copyright © 1989 Gail Sheehy. Originally published in Vanity Fair, June 1989. Reprinted with permission of author. “The Dartford Contests” written by casewriter with facts compiled from both Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990) and Margaret Thatcher: A Bibliography.

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What they didn’t know was that every Thursday evening Alderman Roberts took his precocious daughter with him to university extension lectures, where he urged her to stand up and ask the lecturer questions. Here, at last, was her forte.

“If I asked, Please, could I do something, everyone else was doing it,” Mrs. Thatcher says, recreating the voice of her father, which dominated her adolescence: “’You don’t follow the crowd, you make up your own mind.’ That was instilled very early,” she says. Was it formative? Her eyes fix on me like a tutor’s, assessing how much of the lesson has sunk in. “Of course!”

She constantly discussed things with her father—the depression, the rise of Hitler. He took her to the library regularly and borrowed the latest books from more prosperous friends. Mrs. Thatcher remembers a book called Out of the Night, which described the practice of Communism in the Soviet Union and left a lifelong impression: “We could see that socialism was just a version of Communism.”

This was hardly the customary chatter of 11- and 12-year-old girls. Which explains why several of her classmates remember Margaret Roberts being ridiculed as “priggish,” “bookish,” and “ambitious.”

* * * * *

Ambition Young Margaret had no real friends as far as anyone can tell. But she cultivated relationships with the right girls—the vicar’s daughter and the daughters of two factory owners—and she got herself invited to their homes for tea. None of the three women can remember being invited back to the Robertses’ home. Catherine Barford, whose father brought a steamroller factory to town and sought out Councilor Roberts to help with housing his workers, says, “I do remember her coming to have tea with us.” Was the Barford home more prosperous than the Robertses’? “I suppose one’s got to say yes.” Much later, Catherine learned to her amazement that the Roberts home had no indoor toilet and no hot water.

The point here was not impoverishment but postponed gratification. “Alderman Roberts would become prosperous because he wouldn’t worry about things like plumbing,” attests Mrs. Bruce Lee. He stuck to the fundamentals. Indeed, by the time Margaret was launched at university, her father was able to move up to one of those fine Edwardian houses across the street from his shop.

But first he planned his daughter’s climb to success. He paid for elocution lessons to tame her Lincolnshire twang. And when Maggie was 14, Roberts consulted with the vicar of Corby Glen on how to get his daughter into Oxford. The entrance exam consisted of four essays in which one had to discourse on classical literature and philosophy. “Margaret knew nothing of these things,” says Margaret Wickstead (née Goodrich), the vicar’s daughter. “Ours was just a simple country school, and she had no imagination. She was always very rational, literal, concerned with solutions and getting things done.” So it was arranged that Canon Goodrich would coach the Roberts girl in the classics.

The next hurdle was her ill-tempered Scottish headmistress, Miss Gillies, who decreed that Margaret was much too young, at 17, to go to university. Besides, she hadn’t had the necessary Latin. Full stop. Margaret flew at Miss Gillies in defiance. “You’re thwarting my ambition!” she said, according to one biographer, Penny Junor, and off she sailed to get her father to pay for a Latin tutor. But, according to Madeline Hellaby, who kept a diary, Margaret did not pass the exam for a scholarship to Oxford. It was a bitter blow. She had to crawl back to Miss Gillies and start another school year.

Then a telegram arrived that autumn of 1943 from Somerville, indisputably the best women’s college at Oxford. Would Miss Roberts care to take up a place forfeited by someone else? In a fortnight Margaret Roberts—always one to seize the main chance—disappeared from Grantham.

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Pulling up roots must have been painful. Arriving at Oxford, an unpolished girl whose homemade clothes and clunky shoes set her apart from the usual posh town-and-country types, Margaret was a social misfit. Moreover, as a woman, she was barred from admission to the great Oxford Union debating society. So she set her sights on the next best thing, the Oxford University Conservative Association, and became its president.

“Margaret was always well organized and well groomed, but one never got really close to her,” recalls Mary Mallinson Williamson, who shared digs with her in their fourth year. She made her only splash at Oxford by inviting the hierarchy of the Tory Party, one by one, to address the O.U. Conservative Association. Her social engagements, for which she borrowed Mary Mallinson’s evening dresses, consisted of entertaining these eminences, contacts which proved enormously useful later on.

“She certainly knew what she was doing and where she was going,” says Mallinson Williamson.

* * * * *

The Dartford Contests Thatcher graduated from Oxford in 1947 (see Exhibit 1) with a degree in chemistry and an intense political interest. She accepted a research position at British Xylonite Plastics (BX) to pay the bills, and began attending local Colchester Conservative party meetings. When an invitation to represent the Oxford Graduates Conservative Association at their party’s annual conference arrived in 1948, her transformation from chemist to politician picked up its pace.

At the conference, a friend introduced Thatcher to the chairman of the Conservative party in Dartford, a heavily industrial, Labor party stronghold east of London who was in the midst of a candidate search. Since British Members of Parliament (MPs) are not bound to have ties to the constituencies that they represent (see Exhibit 2), Thatcher applied and was eventually nominated to run for the Dartford seat in Parliament. Now, she would wait for the general election to be called.

At a reception thrown by some Dartford Conservatives in February 1949 to celebrate her nomination, Margaret met Denis Thatcher, a divorced accountant who would eventually become her husband. A year later, she ran for the Dartford seat in Parliament in 1950, losing to her Labor opponent, but doubling the number of Dartford Tories who voted in the election. Following her defeat, Margaret enrolled as a part-time law student at the Council for Legal education.

She ran and lost the Dartford seat again in October 1951, but narrowed the Labor majority by 2,000. She and Denis were married two months later. Their twins, Mark and Carol, were born in August 1953, the year that Thatcher passed her Bar (law) examinations, with a specialty in tax law. Five years later, she entered her third political contest when she became the Conservative candidate for a new constituency: Finchley, a haven of Tory voters.

Into Parliament (1959-1961)4

The Third Campaign When Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called the 1959 election (see Exhibit 3), no politician was more eager than Margaret Thatcher. The moment he dropped the flag, she threw herself full tilt into her third campaign—the first she had a chance to win. Arriving in the 5½-square-

4 “The Third Campaign,” “Finchley MP,” and “Working Hard” excerpted from pages 82-92 in Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990). In “Moving Up,” the first paragraph written by the casewriter and the second excerpted from page 92 in Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990).

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mile constituency each morning shortly after 8 a.m., she campaigned until after dark. Her technique was simple—talk to everyone; don’t miss anything. She visited shops, senior citizen homes, offices, schools, and even union halls, where usually only Labor party politicians showed up.

Her speed, efficiency, and knowledge bowled over most of her Finchley constituents. She also displayed a graceful charm that most people who do not know her are surprised to discover. A quarter-century later, she would use a more flirtatious variation of the same charm to captivate such opposites as Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. In the 1959 campaign she could whip in and out of a house in less than 10 minutes, swallow a cup of tea, and leave the family thinking she had dropped by for a leisurely visit that spanned the afternoon. With shopkeepers, she could rattle off food prices and discuss their problems from the informed perspective of a grocer’s daughter. They never forgot her empathy. She never forgot their names—or anything else about them. Even by politician standards, she has always been exceptional for remembering, without notes, personal details. Although it was her first race in Finchley, she had been working the constituency for a year, ever since her selection at the Tory candidate. She was not only calling constituents by name, but making references to details like a car accident in which a constituent’s cousin had broken a leg or someone’s granddaughter who had been born in Florida.

* * * * *

By election day, October 8, 1959, Thatcher had canvassed Finchley more thoroughly than anyone ever before—and all on her own. Because the seat was considered easy pickings, the party organization had not been much help. But when the votes were counted, even the locals were impressed with her showing. There was a high, 81% turnout, but even with two other candidates in the race, Thatcher won more than half the vote and a huge majority of 16,260—more than 3,500 votes over her predecessor’s margin. It was the first of many times that a divided opposition would contribute to a big Thatcher victory. Five days short of her thirty-fourth birthday she was off to Westminster and the House of Commons, where she would become the youngest member of Parliament. But first, there was one bit of business. The election had taken place, as usual, on a Thursday. By the following Monday, 700 party workers had received handwritten thank you notes— a practice she has followed ever since.

* * * * *

Finchley MP The old-school, old-style old boys never rocked the boat and never expected to find a woman—especially this woman—in a position of significance. The deck was thoroughly stacked against her. Thatcher, however, was not intimidated. New to the House, she was no neophyte politically. She knew some Conservative MPs from Oxford and had since slogged through the trenches of the selection process in a skein of constituencies. She knew, if not all, a lot of tricks, including how to get noticed. On the very first day, she notified photographers in advance when the youngest MP would be arriving for her first day at Westminster. A photo of her standing next to the policeman guarding the MPs’ gate made the papers the next day.

She had no problem setting up an office because she didn’t have one. None of the regular members did. The 25 women in the then 630-seat House were expected to leave their belongings in the Lady Members’ room. Thatcher moved in with a vengeance. Barbara Castle, a senior Labor party MP, was flabbergasted to discover almost immediately a row of pegs in the room filled with Thatcher’s clothes and eight pairs of shoes for quick changes between debates. Thatcher worked from the corner of a desk of a secretary whom she shared with another MP in a tiny room packed with three other secretaries. It was cramped pandemonium—nothing like the luxurious private offices enjoyed by U.S. representatives. There were no private telephones; parliamentarians shared a row of phone booths. Incoming calls were shouted out and the MP would scurry to answer. Virtually all business was conducted publicly. The layout was a nightmare, but everyone except the leadership shared it and there was an unexpected advantage. In no time, everyone witnessed the incredible energy of the new member from Finchley.

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* * * * *

Thatcher was more than ready for the rough and tumble, but her first concern was getting her maiden speech under her belt. The reception given to an MP’s first speech often makes the difference between a good or a dismal start—instant acceptance or an equally quick dismissal. At the beginning of each new Parliament, back-benchers are given a chance to introduce noncontroversial legislation if the government sees fit and there is an opening on the legislative calendar. The new members conduct a lottery to determine the order of their turn. Some end up waiting interminably. Thatcher, though, was lucky.

Out of scores of new names, she drew the second slot; she would definitely get to speak early in the new session. She did not have much time to pick a topic but, after consulting the leadership, decided to introduce a bill giving the press the right to attend local government council meetings. Until then, each individual council had the right to decide whether to admit reporters, despite the fact that all were funded by the public. Thatcher’s choice was not based on any great love for the press, but it did reveal an interesting combination of basic principles, research, and clever political thinking. She was promoted by a newspaper printing strike, which led to several Labor-dominated councils refusing, in a solidarity move, to allow strike-bearing reporters in to cover their meetings. This was a red flag to Thatcher, who had an antipathy to labor unions. Launching the bill in her maiden speech would give it an extra push. But she had a second motive that demonstrated just how far ahead of the game she was already: she knew that legislation and a speech promoting increased press freedom were bound to get widespread and positive press coverage.

She delivered the speech on a Friday afternoon, a time when many private bills are scheduled because most MPs have already scattered for the weekend. This Friday, because of Thatcher’s advance notices, a sizable audience of about 100 eyed her as she rose. Typically, there was no introductory buildup. She got straight to it. “I knew the constituency of Finchley which I have the honor to represent would not wish me to do other than come straight to the point,” she began. Then, without glancing at the notes in her hand, she delivered a thoroughly researched and methodical explanation of her bill. Over the next 27 minutes, without a hint of nervousness—although speeches are the one thing that terrify her—she built her argument with a compelling array of data, a method that would become her trademark. Her bill would allow the press entry to meetings as a right, not a favor, and would allow reporters the necessary background information to conduct public scrutiny professionally. “I hope that MPs will consider that a paramount function of this house is to safeguard civil liberties, rather than to think that administrative convenience should take first place in law.”

The speech won Thatcher high praise. “Very impressive,” the Daily Telegraph’s Bill Deedes recalled 30 years later. At the time, he called her remarks “front-bench quality” and said that they suggested “an uncanny instinct for the mood of the House which some members take years to acquire—and many never acquire at all.” Not everyone was as pleased with the legislation itself, including the chairman of Finchley’s Tory-dominated local council. His committee meetings, he said, would most assuredly not be open to reporters. The council declined to pass a motion congratulating Thatcher on her efforts to spearhead the bill, which did eventually pass, in amended form.

* * * * *

Working Hard Thatcher worked tremendously hard throughout her early years in Parliament, doing all her own research and huddling over books in the House of Commons library for hours at a time. Once in a rare display of frailty, she collapsed and was sent home to rest. She was back the next morning. Quick, thorough briefing became her trademark. She was neither a genius nor an intellectual, but she was bright. Whatever Thatcher missed in pure brainpower—and with degrees in chemistry and law, she didn’t miss much—she made up in hard work. Others might be smarter, might have greater knowledge in depth, might have more experience, but no one could out-study or out-prepare her. Her years of exploring tax law were good training for skipping through thick volumes assimilating essential nuggets.

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Once she had her material together, Thatcher wrote her speeches in longhand, revised them, then wrote them again on small notecards she could hold in her hand. The notes were a safeguard. By the time she had her remarks on cards, she had them committed to memory and only rarely, when she had to recite a string of figures, referred to the notes. Details tripped off her tongue, suggesting an arsenal of facts in reserve. Critics who were less well prepared were reluctant to counterattack. In these early years, Thatcher was capable of putting MPs to sleep with her statistics, but she knew how to wake them up again, sometimes unintentionally. Once in mid-barrage in a speech on pensions, an aide handed her some fresh statistics. “Gentlemen, I have the latest red hot figure,” she began. As the House dissolved in hoots and catcalls, the blush rose from her neck until she stood crimson.

As she established herself, Thatcher showed her strong Tory colors, but she was not a sycophant to the leadership. “She never cowered,” notes Sir Clive Bossom, an early private secretary. From the outset, she was more radically right than the government and never shied from pointing out where her views differed. Yet she never went so far that questions were raised about her loyalty. She voiced her opinions carefully: to have done otherwise would have meant isolation and impeded her future prospects. The parliamentary parties do not indulge rebels. The House of Commons has never, for example, accommodated the kind of freewheeling independent grandstanding allowed in the U.S. Congress. Mavericks in the Commons gain neither power nor influence.

One area where she took exception was the Macmillan government’s approach to public spending. She was convinced that the Treasury kept too slack a hand on the nation’s purse strings. “Having been a member of Parliament for 18 months now, the thing which still troubles me most of all—and something which is fundamental to everything—is control of government expenditure. We are chasing after the hundreds and thousands, but tending to let the millions go by.” She called for stricter accountability. “The nation must present its accounts to Parliament as a company does to its shareholders.” Failure to do so would mean more waste and delays in chopping the income tax rate, an early and persistent objective. Until that was done, “it will be extremely difficult to bring down and control government expenditure and, therefore, the level of taxation is not going to be considerably reduced.”

Homing in on tax affairs was a natural pursuit for a tax barrister. But in addition to her tax experience, Thatcher has a compulsion about waste, another legacy of the tight-fisted Alf. (Years later, she would show the same obsession in bringing home leftovers from formal dinners, freezing and reheating them later for herself and Denis if he was around.)

As she got involved in studying the budget, another core belief surfaced: a bias for business investors over speculators. She would support tax hikes on speculative profit rather than profit created by firms actually producing something. “It is the speculators in shares we want to get at,” she said, “the person who is making a business of buying and selling shares, not to hold them for their income-producing properties, but to live on the profit he makes from the transactions.”

* * * * *

Moving Up Due to the extraordinary caliber of Thatcher’s work in Parliament, her senior colleagues in the Conservative party began to take notice. This recognition was important for Thatcher’s political career, since powerful ministry positions were distributed solely at the whim of party leaders. In 1961, Thatcher’s hard work began to pay off, when Prime Minister Macmillan offered her a post in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.

The post was junior, but she had been in Parliament only two years. Suddenly she was “in government” with an appointed post. She rushed back to tell her sister. She wished the first offer had not come so soon. The twins were only eight, and now, caught up in the whirlwind of a ministry, her time with them would be more limited still. But she didn’t hesitate. She had little choice, she told Muriel. “When you are offered a job, you either accept it or you are out.” She was in.

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Gathering Experience (1961-1969)5

First Appointed Post Thatcher, not surprisingly, aroused mixed feelings when she arrived in 1961 at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. But John Boyd-Carpenter, the minister in charge, was untroubled. A politician himself, he knew precisely what Macmillan was up to. “She was very junior, so it was quite exceptional, a bit of a gimmick,” he said. “Here was a prime minister in power a few years trying to brighten up his image by appointing a good-looking woman.”

Sir Eric Bowyer, the ministry’s chief civil servant, was incensed. Macmillan himself sat in Parliament for 14 years before he got a government job. Thatcher had been an MP for less than two years. Not only that, she was a mother of two, lived out of town, and her husband was rarely around. She’d never be able to fill the job. “We shan’t get much work out of her,” Bowyer grumbled. Quickly both men discovered otherwise. As Boyd-Carpenter put it, “We could not have been more wrong.” They had not anticipated her routine: sleeping four hours a night and working most of the other 20.

Four months after arriving, she was called on in Parliament to defend the Tories for not raising pensions. It was her first address to the MPs as a member of the government. Having buried herself in homework, she argued the case with such zeal that the Commons was stunned into silence. In a 44-minute speech, she had gone back 16 years to 1946 for statistics. She knew how the situation of British pensioners contrasted with those in Scandinavia in 1953. She knew how British pensions compared to West Germans’ in 1959. She knew the cost of living in a nonsmoking versus a smoking home in 1951. It was just like old times trying to stump Alf around the Grantham dinner table. The Kesteven girls would have recognized the pattern as she started to hit her stride.

Poised against her and the government was the shadow minister on pensions, Richard Crossman, the ablest intellect among Labor’s front-benchers. Thatcher battered him into submission. “Seeing Crossman knocked about was highly amusing,” Boyd-Carpenter recalled. “It was obvious she had done her homework and he had not done his.” On fact and detail, she constantly corrected him. It was the continuation of the pattern: she would never be bested on detail or outworked.

* * * * *

Pensions lacked the pressure of a major ministry, so Thatcher had time to explore the inner workings of government. One of the first things she learned was that civil servants tailored their advice to ministers, giving them what it was thought they wanted to hear rather than a range of options. The discovery helped ingrain Thatcher’s mistrust of most bureaucrats, who she felt made more red tape than they cut.

* * * * *

Riding Out the Storm: Conservative Reshuffling When Prime Minister Macmillan resigned as leader of the Conservatives in 1963, Sir Alec Frederick Douglas-Home took over. Macmillan’s departure signaled a radical restructuring of internal party alliances, since the members of each Ministry are appointed by the current Prime Minister (see Exhibit 3). Thatcher remained in her post at Pensions until 1964 when the Conservatives lost their majority in Parliament. She then switched to become Opposition spokeswoman on Pensions, as her party struggled to reorganize its leadership.

5 “First Appointed Post” excerpted from pages 93-94 in Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990). In “Riding out the Storm: Conservative Reshuffling,” the first paragraph written by the casewriter and the second paragraph excerpted from page 101 in Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990). “Into the Treasury” and the first paragraph of “Increasing Responsibilities” excerpted from pages 101-103 in Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990). The final paragraph of this section written by the casewriter.

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Finally, in July 1965, Douglas-Home resigned as the leader of the Conservatives and Edward Heath took over. 6

* * * * *

Heath was almost completely indifferent to Thatcher, at first ignoring her at meetings. She, on the other hand, knew that despite Heath’s difficult personality, the party boss held her future in his hands. So she got on with her work, trying to maintain a good professional relationship and avoiding any potentially awkward situation. Luckily, there was plenty of work for her. Few politicians ever have the chance to get so much experience so quickly. He let her remain chief opposition spokeswoman on pensions, but in 1965 also assigned her to the same post in the Department of Housing and Land. Because the Conservatives were in opposition, she had no actual power, but she was acquiring knowledge and experience. Her job, the job of all ministers in opposition, was to attack and discredit the government, constantly chipping away at their credibility. To this end, she wielded every tool: scalpel, axe, and sledgehammer.

* * * * *

Into the Treasury After the 1966 defeat, Heath switched her to the number two spot on the shadow Treasury team. The move was particularly welcome; it rescued her from the kind of “social policy” ministry where women were often confined and placed her at the center of a varsity, all-comers sector. Thatcher had no doubt that she could make something of the new position. She knew budgets lay at the very core of governance; one could not have too much experience in Treasury matters. She also liked the challenges involved in mastering budget intricacies. She felt good about her progress. In a Royal Albert Hall speech to 5,000 members of the National Union of Townswomen’s Guilds, she cast down her marker. “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.” The women roared their approval.

* * * * *

Her spirit, obvious fearlessness, and intelligence won her attention. “This one is different,” said Iain Macleod, the shadow chancellor and thus her boss. “Quite exceptionally able, a first-class brain.” He told Heath and his colleagues that she was definitely cabinet material, then took her under his own wing. Macleod was dying, but the education he gave her before he did was invaluable.

“Iain always got the politics of any problem right,” Thatcher said. “He had an instinct for how the ordinary person would react to situations and proposals. He would look at a budget in political terms first and establish what the consequences would be of a certain course of action. He believed you had to bring human nature into your calculations. If you did not get it right politically, the economics would turn out to be wrong.” Macleod also taught her the value of having the right specialists around. “Let them expound their arguments fully, then go away and make the decision,” he told her. Thatcher adopted the routine, absorbing it as effortlessly as Macleod’s other tactical lessons in the arts of the House of Commons. These included the proper timing of difficult votes—a priceless skill. “There is an art in timing clause by clause debates,” Thatcher explained. “Many’s the time I worked up a 20-minute speech involving great financial complexities only to be told by Iain

6 Ogden writes: “Thatcher voted for Heath. He was not a close friend, but they did have a certain amount in common. Neither was a member of the establishment. Douglas-Home, Macmillan, and Churchill were all aristocrats, but Heath was the son of a lower-middle-class builder, which should have given him a closer affinity to the grocer’s daughter. Both Thatcher and Heath came from backgrounds where personal advancement was believed to be the result of hard work; both were also puritanical. Both had gone to public grammar school and had graduated from Oxford. The musical Heath attended Balliol College on an organ fellowship. Nine years older than Thatcher, he had also been president of the Oxford University Conservative Association.” Page 99, Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power.

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just before I got to my feet—‘you’ve got three minutes, not a second more.’ My God, it taught me to sort out what was the chief point and get straight to it.”

Day by day she loved her work at the Treasury more and more. Her ultimate goal, she decided, was to run the department as chancellor, but at the time she doubted it would be possible in her lifetime. “The Tory party will never allow a woman chancellor of the exchequer,” she later told a colleague.

Increasing Responsibilities After only 20 months at Treasury, Heath moved her again, to the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Again, the timing was propitious. The Labor government was launching a full-scale program to nationalize major industries. The steel industry was the first to be removed from the control of the private sector, and the electricity and gas industries were scheduled to follow. In addition, Thatcher’s new position gave her exposure to another crucial issue. Seismic exploration of the North Sea had revealed major oil and gas deposits, deposits that would have a huge impact on Britain’s economy over the next two decades. She dug into those issues, but in October 1967 Heath moved her once more. Mervyn Pike7 had retired, and Peter Walker, Heath’s campaign manager, recommended Thatcher take her place in the shadow cabinet, the front bench. Heath concurred and brought her in as shadow minister for power. A year later she took over as shadow minister for transport, and in [October] 1969, she was assigned to the Ministry of Education. Heath was unaware of it, but he was sowing the seeds of his own destruction. Thatcher was collecting enough experience to be dangerous.

* * * * *

Thatcher continued working on Education until the general elections in June 1970, which the Conservatives won with a majority of thirty-one. Suddenly, Thatcher went from opposition spokeswoman on education to secretary of state for education. She was not merely in government, but in the cabinet.

Thatcher, Milk Snatcher (1970-1974)8

Cabinet Post Heath had taken office with a pledge to cut government spending and planned to chop more than $700 million from his first budget. At Education, Thatcher had no choice but to pick up her own axe. She had turned down several budget-cutting proposals, including one to put entrance charges on libraries. Her father had considered the public library his university. She would not prevent anyone else from using it the same way, but something had to go. She decided to end the $19 million free milk program for primary schoolchildren aged seven to eleven. Since poor children would be exempt, Thatcher had a rationale. “I took the view that most parents are able to pay for milk for their children and that the job of government was to provide such things in education which they could not pay for, like new primary schools.” Wilson’s Labor government, she pointed out, had halted free milk to secondary schools and had met little opposition. “The important thing was to protect education and that’s what we did,” she said.

The explanation did her little good. The public was outraged. Opponents charged that Thatcher’s cuts would lead to a tripling of the numbers of children with calcium deficiency and began to consider ways to avoid implementing the policy. When some administrators said they would use property taxes to pay for milk, the government rushed through legislation to make such moves

7 Former member of the Shadow Cabinet. 8 “Thatcher, Milk-Snatcher” excerpted from pages 109-113 in Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990).

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illegal. Methyr Tydfil, a Welsh mining town, continued the free distribution for all students, saying the town was already too familiar with malnutrition and rickets. The revolt collapsed when the government, playing hardball, announced that the local councilors would be personally responsible for the $5,000 milk bill each term.

Demonstrators took to the streets throughout Britain, bellowing, “Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.” She was cast in Parliament and in the press as a mother taking milk from the mouths of babes. The fact that a woman was doing this made the policy seem more unsympathetic. She was shouted down at public meetings. At one school, students refused to accept awards from her. In Liverpool, debris thrown from the audience forced her off the podium. She took refuge in the home of a local MP, whose wife asked how the appearance had gone. “Very rowdy,” Thatcher replied, pulling back her blouse to reveal a huge, spreading bruise on her upper chest where she had been hit with a rock. The wife’s jaw dropped.

“Did it hurt?”

“It hurt like mad,” Thatcher conceded.

“What did you do?” the horrified hostess asked.

“I went on speaking. What else could I do?”

When the woman asked if she could call a doctor, Thatcher declined. “I’ve got two more engagements,” she said. “Give me a nice, hot cup of tea.”

Unpopular Decisions Milk wasn’t the only issue on the Thatcher agenda. She also raised the price of school meals, unchanged for several years, and rejected a suggestion to renovate slum area schools, claiming the money could be better spent on new schools. A $5 million subsidy to allow private schools to cut tuitions further enraged her critics, who were fast multiplying. Whenever she rose to speak in Parliament, Labor back-benchers began a cadence: “Ditch the bitch.”

The Left made her their number one target, portraying her as a hard, middle-class suburbanite, ambitious, ruthless, and unfeeling, fit only for garden parties in her Tory hats and string pearls. They called her a child hater and accused her on the floor of the House of having her children at the same time—the way most convenient for her career. The twins were taunted at school, and the criticism did not come solely from the Left. The staunchly pro-Tory Sunday Express called her “the Lady Nobody Loves.” Britain’s biggest daily paper, The Sun, bannered the headline “The Most Unpopular Woman in Britain” over an article that remarked: “At a time when Mr. Heath’s government is desperately seeking an image of compassion and concern, Mrs. Thatcher is fast emerging as a liability.”

Within the cabinet, she was unpopular. Because she headed a minor ministry, she was not part of the inner circle anyway, but the feeling against her went beyond her fringe status. Home Secretary Reginald Maudling could not stand Thatcher and repeatedly called her “that bloody woman.” He, like so many others, recognized that not only was she not one of the boys, she was causing the boys trouble. They were appalled at her single-mindedness and worried about the political price that the party would pay. At cabinet meetings, where some of her critics sat, she said little. When she did speak up, it was often not what her male colleagues wanted to hear. Once, as Heath was conducting a small meeting in Number 10 (Downing Street, residence of the British Prime Minister) to discuss the appointment of a new director of the BBC, Geoffrey Howe suggested one name. “He’s got much too high an opinion of himself,” Heath rebutted. Thatcher jumped in with “But, Prime Minister, most men do.” The men exchanged glances and chuckled awkwardly.

* * * * *

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Despite her impersonal relationship with Heath, the prime minister, to his credit, resisted repeated suggestions to dump her. The more insistent the calls, the more determined Heath, well aware of her talent, became to keep Thatcher.

* * * * *

She was in the midst of the worst six months of her life. Alf had died earlier in the year, just before she had gone into government, and she missed him terribly. Denis was consoling. “Why don’t you chuck it all in?” he asked. “You don’t have to put up with this. Why go on?” Thatcher looked up. Tears ran down her cheeks. “I’ll see them in hell first,” she retorted. “I will never be driven anywhere against my will.”

The milk episode toughened her tremendously. She developed a calloused, protective skin that would stand her in good stead. Years later, she conceded that she had mishandled the situation. She had forgotten Iain Macleod’s rule of working out the politics of an action first. At the time, chopping the milk allowance made sense, but she probably should have done it in stages, she thought. But, the experience had been a watershed. “The great milk furor gave her a tremendous object lesson in the proportions of political judgment,” said a cabinet minister who served beside and under her for years. “She learned very sharply that if you’re going to do political battle, make sure first it’s a big one or look to ways of finessing it. The milk battle was not worth the frontal charge, but it did teach her the importance of flanking maneuvers.

The milk controversy contributed to a great misunderstanding about Thatcher—that she was only a budget cutter. Quite the contrary. She was one of the biggest spenders ever to preside over the education ministry, an irony that her more perceptive critics would point to later as evidence of cold- blooded expediency. She was under orders to cut, but like all ambitious politicians, Thatcher learned early that shrinking a department is no way to be noticed. Growth gets attention. When she took office, education spending was at an all-time high. Milk notwithstanding, she pushed it higher.

* * * * *

Throughout her three and a half years at Education, the only cabinet post she ever held, her style and pace remained the same: all out, no quarter. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who was then serving as Heath’s foreign secretary, came home one day and told his wife, “You know, she’s got the brains of all of us put together, so we’d better look out.”

She took pains to juggle career and family. Once, hosting a ministry meeting on a $50 million budget cut proposal to be tabled at a cabinet meeting the next day, she noticed it was getting dark outside. “What time is it?” she asked. Ten to five was the reply. “Oh, I must go and get some bacon.” Asked what in the world she was talking about, Thatcher explained that she needed to shop for Denis’s breakfast. “One of the secretaries can get it for you,” said an aide solicitously, while nervously juggling the budget papers. “Oh, no, they won’t know what kind he likes,” she said, pushing back her chair, pulling on her coat, and leaving the room. Fifteen minutes later she was back, bacon in hand. “Now where were we?” she asked the astonished civil servants before plunging back into the columns of figures for hours.

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The Coup (1974-1975)9

Heath’s Collapse In October 1974, Thatcher and the rest of the Conservative Cabinet members returned to the opposition. The Labor party had regained its majority in Parliament. Ted Heath’s time as leader of the Conservatives seemed to be over. The Tories were back in opposition having lost another election under Heath, and he was rapidly losing support from within his own party.

A month after the election, he informed the 1922 Committee, the organization of back- benchers, that he would not step down but would stand again. He was convinced that he had fought the past two elections on the proper grounds with the right policies. Once the postselection hysteria died down, he believed the rest of the party would realize that, too. In fact, his analysis was not far off base. Most of the moderate, nonrisk-taking Conservatives in the early 1970s had not only agreed with his U-turn and the move toward consensus it implied, but thought his wage and price policy fair.

Margaret Thatcher was not among them. But unlike such radical Tories as Enoch Powell, Nicholas Ridley, and John Biffen, she had not spoken up. No fellow cabinet member could recall her registering concern privately, though she maintains that she was deeply troubled. Her silence was probably expedient politics—another example of pragmatism and painstaking care to protect her flanks. As the head of a minor ministry, removed from the cabinet inner circle, she would have little impact if she had tried to battle her leader in 1972. She could only hurt herself and wreck her future chances. Thatcher had voted for Heath as leader. She admired his toughness and, for the most part, his policies, but she was deeply disappointed in his performance. When he refused to do what she felt was the right thing—step down—Thatcher felt offended.

But now there was no clear candidate to challenge Heath. Whitelaw had no intention of challenging the leader; too loyal, he also figured that Heath would manage another win when the party gathered. But the right wing was not in the mood to tolerate Heath another moment. They were frantic to find almost any warm body and finally decided that their best candidate would be Keith Joseph, the former minister of social services.

* * * * *

Joseph never got out of the starting blocks. . . . [After making a speech which destroyed his credibility, he took himself out of the running. His] exit left the dissidents casting about. Thatcher, who had been approached by several back-benchers but who had supported Joseph until his exit, began to move out of the shadows. Somebody had to stand up for a new approach, and no one was stepping forward. “We just cannot allow it,” she told a friend. “As a party, we must do something.” For Heath to stay on, a tarred loser with discredited policies, would mean further deterioration of the Tories’ future chances. “To deny that we failed the people is futile as well as arrogant,” she declared. “Successful governments win elections. So do parties with broadly acceptable policies. We lost.”

An Unexpected Candidate Thatcher was no one’s first choice. “I don’t think anyone at that time really thought that Margaret was a serious contender,” said James Prior, who sat in Heath’s cabinet as leader of the House of Commons. She was, however, leading the opposition’s fight against the Labor government’s finance bill and doing it brilliantly. She dominated the parliamentary debate with her grasp of the nuances of the bill as well as the numbers. That was not enough to make her a candidate. What tipped the scale was that she was the only Conservative willing to challenge Heath.

9 Except for the first paragraph of “Heath’s Collapse” which was written by the casewriter, “Heath’s Collapse,” “An Unexpected Candidate,” “The Campaign,” and “Nearing the Finish Line” excerpted from pages 115-128 Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power by Chris Ogden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990). “Party Leader” was written by the casewriter with factual information adapted from Margaret Thatcher: A Bibliography by Faysal Mikdadi (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993).

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* * * * *

Thatcher was less than enthusiastic about a seemingly hopeless challenge. She still wanted to be chancellor of the exchequer, believing she’d be lucky to get that. Six months earlier, she had told a Liverpool newspaper that she thought it was impossible for a woman to reach the top. “It will be years before a woman either leads the party or becomes prime minister. I don’t see it happening in my time.”

* * * * *

Within the party, there was spirited criticism of Thatcher. She was not liked, never had been. And as to loyalty? If she were now so opposed to Heath and what he stood for, why hadn’t she spoken up before—or done the proper thing and resigned on principle? Those who had watched her spend heavily at Education wondered about all this budget-cutting passion. She also retained a sour odor from the “Milk Snatcher” days. Her colleagues considered her a hard worker to be sure, but hardly a champion riding forward on a white charger to rescue Britain.

Thatcher scarcely registered on the national consciousness meter. She knew nothing about foreign policy and defense. Ian Gow, a right-wing Tory who would later become a close adviser, said there were profound doubts about Thatcher. “The patricians in the party didn’t like her robustly populist approach challenging the old orthodoxies. They and others wondered whether it would be possible, with the Cold War getting colder, for a woman to represent the country internationally, dealing with defense and foreign policy matters thought to be the province of men.”

Thatcher made up her mind to challenge Heath on her own. She discussed it with Denis, but not the children, who were then 22. She weighed the costs. A loss would affect her career for years to come; as Ralph Waldo Emerson told Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” She was still inclined to risk it and strike. Once she decided, she went straight to Heath to tell him, meeting him in the leader of the opposition’s office in the House of Commons. What the confrontation lacked in cordiality, it made up in brevity. Lasting barely 90 seconds, the encounter was unfriendly even by Heath standards. Thatcher was not invited to sit down. Nor did Heath thank her for the courtesy of informing him. Instead, he peremptorily dismissed her, taking her challenge no more seriously than the old boys took Joseph’s. Nor did anyone else. “I was chairman of the party and I didn’t believe the challenge was going to happen,” said Whitelaw. “None of us did.”

Explaining why she had decided to challenge, Thatcher wasted no time on false humility. “I saw the Tory party going much too much to the left, and there did not seem to be anyone who had the thoughts and ideas I had,” she said. “It seemed to be absolutely vital for the country that I stood.” Absolutely vital. Life and death. She believed in her ideas passionately and there was conviction in her delivery; this was not just a political challenge. It was the beginning of a crusade. Still, the chances of her unseating the veteran leader were slim. Britain’s bookies quoted 50-to-1 odds. Then a surprising development changed Thatcher’s career and the course of British history. Airey Neave adopted her.

Neave was an obscure but respected back-bencher.

* * * * *

Neave had no problems with Thatcher, with whom he had worked as a barrister-in-training in Lincoln’s Inn in London. After persuading 15 of the 25 dissident back-benchers to support her, Neave signed up as her campaign manager. He had a vision about her, he said later. Calling her a “philosopher as well as a politician,” Neave said she was “the first real idealist politician in a long time.”

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The Campaign Neave’s vision wasn’t going to get Thatcher elected, but his superb organizational ability might. He hustled her around the Commons day and night and introduced her to knots of MPs at the Members Bar and Tea Room. As Heath struggled awkwardly through lavish cocktail parties and dinners, Thatcher waged a guerrilla battle, plugging away from a borrowed office where she stationed herself to answer questions over a modest glass of claret.

Neave advised her to avoid strong policy stands, to listen well and stress the general issue of leadership. Thatcher learned fast and followed instructions. She struck an ambivalent stance on the controversial issue of Britain’s entry into the Common Market, which a number of Conservatives opposed. Her views on social issues, such as abortion and capital punishment, were known to be radically right, so she took pains not to dwell on them. Generally playing down any hard ideological sentiments, she emphasized instead her willingness to listen to back-benchers if elected—a Heath failing.

As Thatcher’s stock rose, so did attacks on her. She stirred up a row by suggesting that elderly people getting ready to retire should fight inflation and stretch their pensions by stocking up in advance on preservable groceries. She was doing it herself, she admitted; her own nest egg included 9 pounds of sugar, 6 jars each of jam, marmalade, and honey, 4 tins of ham, 2 cans of tongue, 1 of mackerel, 4 of sardines, 20 tins of various fruits and vegetables, plus sheets, towels, and other items “which I know will be needed in 10 to 15 years’ time.” Critics accused her of hoarding. She dismissed the uproar. “They broke Keith,” she said referring to Joseph’s withdrawal after the social class speech. “But they won’t break me.”

If anything was going to break her, it was the work pace. In addition to campaigning for the leadership, Thatcher was number two in the shadow Treasury, specializing in financial legislation. With the Wilson government about to present its finance bill, she had a target that could keep her in the spotlight. By assigning her to the Treasury, Heath had inadvertently given Thatcher the launch pad from which she could destroy him. Now, the countdown was underway.

The job of passing the government’s financial legislation belonged to Denis Healey, chancellor of the exchequer, and one of Labor’s most impressive postwar politicians.

* * * * *

In mid-January, just after Parliament’s Christmas recess and only two weeks before the Tories’ first leadership ballot, Thatcher and Healey went head to head in a debate that is still recalled in Westminster. Following some withering repartee, she went for his throat, belittling him for a capital transfer tax which would be imposed on gifts, including charitable donations, and on proposed higher tax rates on inherited wealth. “You apparently do not understand the effect your tax will have on the lives of individuals, the economy, or indeed on a free society in general,” she said.

Healey, who loves a fight, took off his gloves. “Mrs. Thatcher has emerged from the debate as La Pasionaria of privilege,” he told the House, making a reference to Dolores Ibárruri, the Spanish Civil War’s fiery Communist orator. “She has shown that she had decided to see her party tagged as the party of the rich few, and I believe she and her party will regret it.”

Some might have retreated before his attack. That was Healey’s intent. But Thatcher rose calmly and strode purposefully back to the dispatch box. Healey, huge bushy eyebrows bristling, glared as she took aim. She had wanted to say that Healey’s remarks had not done him justice, she said, but unfortunately they had. Her opening, with the sarcastic hint of insult to come, was intended to get the listening MPs salivating, and it did. “Some chancellors are microeconomic. Some chancellors are fiscal. This one is just plain cheap,” she jibed. “We on this side [of the aisle] were amazed how one could possibly get to be chancellor knowing so little about existing taxes and so little about proposals coming before Parliament. If this chancellor can be chancellor, anyone in the House of Commons could be chancellor. I had hoped the right honorable gentleman had learned a lot from

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this debate. Clearly he learned nothing. He might at least address himself to the practical effects because it will affect everyone, including people born as I was, with no privilege at all.” The House erupted with cheers, jeers, and “Hear, hears.” Thatcher had scored. She had taken on the town bully, and, though “only a woman,” had sent him packing. Never before had anyone dismissed Denis Healey.

The press loved the battle. The Daily Telegraph weighed in again: “Reluctant though I am to risk the lady’s wrath by questioning her undoubted femininity,” columnist Frank Johnson wrote, “let it be said that the Tories need more men like her.” Suddenly the party had a contender.

Gordon Reece, a television producer, began helping her with media contacts. He and Neave quickly set up a series of lunches with Fleet Street editors. Feminine charm, which Thatcher can turn on with impressive effect when she wants to, helped soften her straight, no-frills explanations of her populist vision and meritocratic policies. Converts soon began turning up. In a signed op-ed piece in the Daily Telegraph, she explained that “my kind of Tory party would make no secret of its belief in individual freedom and individual prosperity, in the maintenance of law and order, in the wide distribution of private property, in the rewards for energy, skill and thrift, in diversity of choice, in the preservation of local rights in local communities.”

Lobbying of the MPs picked up. Neave and Reece improvised as they went along, borrowing American campaign strategy and television tricks. She needed 51% of the MPs, but instead of aiming for the minimum, the three of them decided to go for all the membership. The strategy was revolutionary; with the exception of Whips rounding up votes for legislation, no one had ever lobbied the entire membership systematically.

A partial Neave headcount 10 days before the vote showed Thatcher with 64 votes, Heath with 35, and Hugh Fraser, a senior back-bencher representing those who wanted neither Thatcher nor Heath, with none. Two days later, more complete numbers showed Thatcher with 95, Heath with 64, and Fraser with 6. There were 43 doubtfuls, 20 of whom Neave believed would go for Thatcher. Whatever happened, she was not going to be embarrassed.

* * * * *

Nearing the Finish Line She had made stunning progress. The day before the vote, Neave told her that, by his count, she had 120 supporters to Heath’s 84. But newspaper polls showed up to 63% of the party preferred keeping Heath to bringing in Thatcher. With the exception of Keith Joseph, who supported her, the entire cabinet backed Heath.

So, when Tory MPs began trickling into Room 14 of the House of Commons on decision day, Heath had every reason to believe that his grip on the party would be extended. Peter Walker, his campaign manager, told Heath he could count on 138 to 144 of the 276 votes, a majority that would obviate the need for a second round.

Thatcher voted at noon, left for a working lunch, returned, and waited nervously in Airey Neave’s room until the voting ended at 3:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., Edward du Cann emerged from the committee room and announced the shock result. Thatcher had 130 votes; Heath 119, Fraser 16, with 11 abstentions. Neave raced to his room. “It’s good news,” he blurted out. “You’re ahead. There’ll be a second ballot.” She was astonished. In fact, it was difficult to tell who was more stunned, Heath or Thatcher. “We got it all wrong,” the numbed Heath told his campaign aides. Quickly he announced he was resigning. Thatcher had fallen only nine votes short of an absolute majority, and he would not be further humiliated.

Thatcher had no sympathy for the man who had trained her. “I’ll always be fond of dear Ted, but there’s no sympathy in politics,” she said sweetly but lethally after his exit.

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Once Heath bowed out, candidates who had not stood in the first round out of loyalty rushed to take on Thatcher in the second round a week later. Her strongest opponent was Whitelaw.

* * * * *

Long before their contest, Thatcher and Whitelaw had agreed to speak to a Young Conservatives rally at Eastbourne on the south coast. Cleverly, Thatcher worked out a deal. They would not use the forum for campaigning but would instead stick to the original schedule. For Whitelaw, that meant conducting a question-and-answer session on regional development, a topic guaranteed to put his listeners to sleep, while Thatcher had clear sailing. She was scheduled to give a speech. Her torrid defense of basic Conservative ideals had the crowd on its feet cheering and gave her the next day’s headlines. When the BBC’s top current affairs program asked her to participate in a panel with other candidates, she refused. She had broken out of the pack.

Throughout the day of the second balloting, the 276 Conservative MPs filed again in and out of Room 14. Thatcher was fidgety. Dressed in a trim, two-piece suit accented by a pink and white tulip, she sat alone in Airey Neave’s tiny, windowless office. Finally, just before 4 p.m., Neave came in. “It’s all right,” he told her simply. “You’re leader of the opposition.” She had 146 votes, 7 more than she needed, to Whitelaw’s 79 and 19 each for Howe and Prior.

Tears welled in her eyes. Then, quickly regaining her self-control, she returned to business. “Thank God it is decisive,” she said briskly. “We’ve got a lot to do. We must get down to work instantly.”

* * * * *

Party Leader With her election to Conservative leadership in 1975, Margaret Thatcher ascended to the position which would enable her to become Prime Minister four years later when the Tories regained their Parliamentary majority. She was on her way to one of the most powerful positions in Britain. She would be the only Prime Minister elected to three consecutive terms in office during this century.

A strict monetarist, she would cut income taxes, curb union powers and begin to privatize public industries. She would preside over both a national civil servant strike and the miners’ strike, cut university funding, replace student grants with loans, and pass the 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA). Finally, in foreign affairs, she would become famous for her involvement in the Falkland Islands, her anti-Communist voice, her refusal to sanction South Africa, the Anglo-Irish agreement, the Hong Kong agreement, and her friendships with both Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

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Exhibit 1 Personal Chronologya

Date Event

1925 October Margaret Thatcher (nee Roberts) born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England

1943 October Goes to Somerville College (Oxford University) to study chemistry and joins the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA)

1946 Becomes president of the OUCA; graduates with a second-class degree in chemistry; gets a job as a research chemist at British Xylonite Plastics in Manningtree;

1950 February Stands and loses as Conservative candidate for Dartford

1951 October Loses the Dartford seat again

December Marries Denis Thatcher

1953 August Gives birth to twins, Mark and Carol

December Passes her Bar (law) examinations, eventually joins the Society of Conservative Lawyers; called to the Bar in the next year

1959 October Elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament for Finchley

1960 February Maiden speech introducing a private member’s bill (the Public Bodies [Admission to Meetings] Bill), which becomes the 1960 Act of the same name

1961 October Becomes parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance

1965 October Becomes junior minister of Housing and Land

1966 April Becomes junior minister of the Treasury under Iain Macleod

1967 October Joins shadow cabinet with portfolio for Fuel and Power, followed by becoming shadow minister for Transport

1968 November Becomes shadow minister for Education

1970 June Appointed Secretary of State for Education

1974 February Given shadow Environment post; moved to shadow responsibility for Treasury affairs

1974 November Enters contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party

1975 February Elected leader of the Conservative party in opposition

1979 May Becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain

1983 June Remains Prime Minister following Conservative victory in general election

1987 June Remains Prime Minister when Conservatives win third successive general election

1990 November John Major becomes Prime Minister following Thatcher’s resignation

aExhibit 1 adapted from pages 49-65 in Margaret Thatcher: A Bibliography by Faysal Mikdadi (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993).

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Margaret Thatcher 497-018