Miliband: ‘Thatcher was right’… but not often
In Commons tributes to Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron said she was right about Europe, privatisation and trade union reform.
Ed Miliband in a very selective list said she was right about some privatisation (like Pickfords removals), the Falklands and reaching out to Gorbachev’s reform spirit in the old Soviet Union.
Nick Clegg kept it vaguer saying “she drew lines on the political map that we are still navigating.” When he repeated the “no such thing as society” attributed quotation a Tory MP heckled “read the sentence,” and cross Tory muttering started that ran on to the end of his statement.
Ed Miliband managed for the second time in a row – the first was the Leveson Royal Charter statement – to sound Prime Ministerial.
David Cameron’s peroration -“cometh the hour … cometh the lady ” – was better than the rest of a tribute that never really took flight. Maybe that was intentional, not wanting to look like he was trying on her cloak.
Much was made of the dangers for Ed Miliband in this statement but he navigated them with ease.
The bigger risk from these two weeks of remembrance will be for David Cameron. The euphoria and selective memory about Margaret Thatcher’s premiership risks reminding his more restless backbenchers about what they feel their current leader lacks. “They’re not fit to be mentioned in the same breath,” one Tory MP said this morning.
Malcolm Rifkind and Peter Lilley, the first two former Thatcher ministers who spoke, were also two she reserved her bitterest words for in her memoirs.
Both told her flatly in her Commons office on 21 November 1990 that her time was up, and she writes of being unsurprised by Rifkind’s predictable disloyalty and shocked by what she saw as Lilley’s treachery.
David Cameron laughed at Conor Burns’ memory of a taxi driver dropping him off at the Thatcher home saying “tell her … We aint had a good ‘un since.” Even at the follow up line: Margaret Thatcher said “he’s quite right.”
Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Ed Miliband have all rushed out acceptances to the funeral invitation for Wednesday next week. Downing Street will give more names tomorrow.
The PM himself seems to be sucking on a lozenge again. He’ll presumably need his voice for St Paul’s on Wednesday.
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