The Daily Mail uses the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election to urge David Cameron to emulate the Iron Lady. Last Saturday Matthew Parris suggested that Mr Cameron should follow Mrs Thatcher's example in opposition and not be too specific about his plans for government.
Of course there are lots of things Margaret Thatcher can teach us. Some of the parallels between 1979 and now are huge but there are also big differences between her times and ours. Here are a few that should be keeping Tory strategists awake at night…
- Austerity began under Callaghan. Margaret Thatcher inherited a situation where – because of the IMF – the government had already begun some austerity measures. Alistair Darling's Budget showed that our current government is still in denial.
- The civil service is a much less effective machine. It has been politicised in numerous ways. Francis Maude will need to think radically about new forms of delivery mechanism to ensure the Cameron agenda is enacted. Making the situation potentially much more tricky David Cameron also has a frontbench team that is much, much less experienced than the Thatcher team.
- We've had a thirty year transfer of powers to the EU. Dan Hannan says four-fifths of UK laws are made in Brussels. Westminster is not nearly as powerful as it was in 1979.
- Public trust in politicians is much lower now than in 1979. Their promises are much less likely to believed. This had led many Cameroons to believe in the politics of small (and supposedly therefore more believable) promises. What does it mean for today when only big reforms can save the public finances?
- The media moves fives time as fast. Mrs Thatcher could appear on the BBC 6'o'clock News and be seen by twice as many Britons as she would reach today. She could write an article for The Daily Telegraph and it would be discussed for days. Nothing lasts as long today. Cameron has to work harder to reach as many people and the media is likely to get bored quickly. He won't have a honeymoon in power although Labour could be in desperate straits. It won't be long before journalists (and, of course, thousands of bloggers) are writing their 'David Cameron has had his worst week since coming to power' stories.