(Martin Simonis writes) JACS meetings are always popular, but Steve Levinson drew a bumper audience on 26th November to his insightful presentation on Margaret Thatcher entitled ‘The politics of Conflict’.
Steve had been an eminent journalist and reporter through the Thatcher years, interviewing most of the prominent personalities of the time, and had even been in a position to chat one-to-one with Mrs. T at a Downing Street cocktail party. Steve said that of all the Prime Ministers he had dealt with from James Callaghan to David Cameron, there was no doubt that the ‘Iron Lady’ (a title bestowed on her, not unfavourably, by Gorbachev and the Russians) was, for better or worse, by far the most influential.
It was no surprise to be reminded that she was belligerent and intransigent, did not care if she was liked or not and had a way of steamrolling through adversity whatever the circumstances. But Steve’s insights into her personality – struggling with humour, seldom displaying a soft or family side, her legendary addiction to hard work, surrounding herself with ‘matinee idol’ ministers and using her self-acknowledged sex-appeal – was fascinating.
Steve was able to give examples that he had personally witnessed of her tenacity and corner-shop mentality as she overthrew the ‘Closed Shop’ ethos of banking, share dealing, trade union power, council housing, industrial subsidies and famously achieved the UK’s significant EU rebate (which, at the time of writing, is still in existence). We were reminded that, against these perceived successes, she (and the country) paid heavily with rising unemployment, manufacturing decline, riots in the street and the failure of the implementation of the poll tax to replace council tax. It was a cumulation of these and many other factors that led to her final downfall at the hands, not of the electorate, but of her own party (the ‘wets’, the ‘vegetables ‘- as Spitting Image memorably termed them).
During Q&A, Steve theorised how Tina (‘There Is No Alternative’) would have dealt with the current, protracted EU negotiations – she was not averse to the EU and its aims, just to the costs involved. Better than most, we concluded.
In Gay’s absence, Jonelle Roback ably fulfilled the introduction and thanking duties with which the audience heartily concurred.