Back in 2009 I wrote this piece for the New Statesman, which was a collection of recollections about where people were the moment they heard Margaret Thatcher had resigned as Prime Minister.
The night before Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, I remember having had rows with two Tory MPs who owed their seats to Margaret Thatcher, yet intended to switch their votes away from her in the second ballot. I went home to my dingy flat in Walthamstow feeling angry and let down – almost tearful. Watching the news, my left wing flatmate came home and started crowing about what trouble Mrs T was in. I’m not prone to physical violence, but I was tempted to hit him. By the time Newsnight finished I had realized she was finished.
The next morning, I was at my desk in Grosvenor Gardens (I had just set up a lobbying company) when I heard the news on the radio. The world stood still for a moment. I wasn’t surprised that she had stepped down, but it was still a shock. Only a few days before my three year old niece, Emma, had asked: “Uncle Iain, is it possible for a man to be Prime Minister?” We were about to find out.
I don’t mind admit I could barely talk and that my eyes were moist. It really was the end of an era. A candle went out that day. The woman who had inspired my interest in politics, saved the country from trade union control and done so much to win the cold war, had gone. Forever. Politics for me would never be quite the same.
Yesterday, I was walking through Charing Cross Station when I got a call from my LBC producer, Matt, telling me the news of her death. Time stood still for a second.
- The photo above was taken at a dinner I organised in April 2002 at The Savoy to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Politico’s Bookstore. It was quite an evening, and took place three weeks after she suffered a series of minor strokes. She wasn’t allowed to make a speech, and I was told on no account was I to let her get to a microphone. The photo to the left shows I failed. A second after this was taken, I had my arm around her waist, pulling her away. Her speech consisted of these few words.
Thank you for that tremendous reception. It’s the kind of reception only an ex Prime Minister can get!
Even many lefties were on their feet cheering her. Liam Fox described it as “one of those great political evenings you remember for years.” I certainly did. I sat next to her for ninety minutes. Sadly, I didn’t keep a contemporaneous note of what we talked about. I do remember during a speech by Bernard Ingham, when he was telling a particularly colourful anecdote, she leaned over and whispered in my ear…
That man has a very good imagination!