THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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The Thatcher Test

Sands Media Services: Thatcher: Regionals capture the mood.

BHW6kfWCUAAlDkU.jpg-largeThough she presented her first Cabinet with a book by Hayek and told them "this is our programme", Margaret Thatcher was no libertarian. In her era neither was I. I joined the Conservative Party because she was its leader and because she - and Sir Keith Joseph - were turning it from its usual paternalism towards a classical liberal stance.

When the Party betrayed her, I left it and have been politically homeless ever since. I was never really a Tory. I never felt comfortable amid their weakness and wibble. Neither, I suspect, did Margaret. Still she used their party to do more good than since slavery was abolished.

She did not create division. Except in times of war (which may be why we are so sickeningly nostalgic for them) Britain has always been a nation divided against itself. And the divided parts know each other only as caricatures. On the night after she was first elected, I was standing in a bar in Wales when someone said "How can she have won? I have never even met a bloody Tory!"

Margaret Thatcher's political aggression forced us to look at each other. She relentlessly exposed the divisions, challenged them and - sadly - failed to bridge them. It seems we Brits like our stereotypes and our mutual hatreds far more than we like success. She remains a political litmus test. The very mention of her name exposes the fault lines that prevent Britain from realising its potential.

If you want to know who freedom's enemies are, mention her with approval. Mad eyes will light up all around you and foul sentiments will fill the air. Note their names and never leave them alone with anything you value; material, spiritual or ethical.