Britain needed Thatcher's "bravery and determination" says Stourbridge MP Margot James
I previously highlighted one of the most powerful speeches attacking Margaret Thatcher's legacy during the special Commons debate. But here's one from a West Midland MP who praised her.
Margot James (Con Stourbridge) talked about the condition Britain was in before Lady Thatcher came to power, and argued that "the policies that she pursued with such bravery and determination" made it possible for industry to succeed and create jobs.
Here is her Commons speech:
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): Shortly before he died, my father said to me, "If you get to meet Margaret Thatcher, tell her from me there were only two politicians in my lifetime who made a difference and she was one of them." The other was Churchill.
My father spoke from personal experience. Born in Coventry, he left his council school at the age of 14. He got going in business with a single lorry and delivered coal from the black country around the Birmingham area. By 1963, he had built his business up into a publicly quoted company. By then, one of his interests was a car delivery business. Ten years later, the whole enterprise was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy thanks to the Transport and General Workers Union. "All out" was the familiar refrain and it meant that any money that anybody had any hope of making would disappear in ever more fantastic wage settlements, sustained by wildcat strikes, violent picket lines and the ruthless closed shop system.
There is much talk of Margaret Thatcher being a divisive figure. She certainly became a hate figure for those whose power she challenged and eventually overcame. I sympathise very much with people who lost their jobs in the manufacturing industries that declined in the 1980s. However, a myth has grown up--propounded, I am afraid, in this Chamber this afternoon--that the policies pursued by Margaret Thatcher's Governments were responsible for the decline in manufacturing and the closure of industrial plant and coal pits. That is to deliberately ignore the fact that the decline began soon after the war and accelerated dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s.
The strikes, restrictive working practices and outrageous pay settlements led to a very negative climate for investment. Technological change was either resisted wholesale or was allowed on sufferance and, crucially, on condition that the same manning levels were maintained. Britain therefore lost and lost again in world markets.
By the late 1960s--a full decade before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister--it was cheaper to import coils of steel than to buy them from the overmanned British steel works. By the mid-1970s, our old industries were kept going only by ever-increasing Government subsidy and by nationalisation. That was ultimately unaffordable and diverted money from investment in new industries and services that would provide employment in the future. To lay the blame at Margaret Thatcher's door for all that is to shoot the messenger.
I did have the chance to pass on my father's message. I did so in the presence of my late mother who, at the age of almost 90, finally got to meet Margaret Thatcher. All Mrs Thatcher could say to my mother was, "How kind of you to come." She exuded such kindness and humility that I have never forgotten it. It is a shame that the public did not see more of that trait.
To conclude, the convictions, passions and principles that guided Margaret Thatcher came to be known as Thatcherism. Her determination to stand up for Britain in Europe, for the freedoms of those who were oppressed by the Soviet Union, for the working people who wanted a stake in their future and to get on, and, above all, for the pride of Britain, is unequalled in my lifetime. It was a privilege to witness it all and I am deeply grateful to have benefited personally, both politically and in business, from the policies that she pursued with such bravery and determination. May she rest in peace.