By Harry Phibbs
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David Cameron has been having some trouble with the Thatcherite label.
On Radio 4 he said:
In a sense we are all Thatcherites now.
Clearly so "in a sense" – even the Labour Party under Red Ed does not advocate renationalisation, bringing back the closed shop, exchange controls, etc,etc.
However interviewed (£) for the Sunday Times Mr Cameron, when asked is he is a Thatcherite, he says:
“No…Other people might call me that. I think the label’s now… it’s slightly become… labels now don’t quite mean what they did then.”
The interviewer Eleanor Mills had to press strongly to get that "No." Earlier Mr Cameron commented:
“I would say I was a big Thatcher supporter. I joined the party when she was in the ascendant.”
She then asked:
What’s the difference between a Thatcher supporter and a Thatcherite?
The Prime Minister responded:
“That’s a good question. There are lots of things she did which had my support and other things she did which needed to be changed; some of those things I like to think I have helped change.”
I have discussed this confusing distinction before between Thatcher and Thatcherism. At the moment I'm reading Robin Harris's Not for Turning, his excellent new biography of Margaret Thatcher. He used to work for her and there is often a sense of frustration and impatience that Margaret Thatcher wasn't "Thatcherite" enough.
Nigel Lawson claims to have been more Thatcherite than Thatcher in many respects although not regards the EU.
Later in the interview David Cameron says:
I have problems with some of the Thatcher legacy — I’ve been more socially liberal.
Yet Mrs Thatcher voted in favour of decriminalising homosexuality.
I suppose Mr Cameron could claim to be more Thatcherite than Thatcher in some respects – education reforms, welfare reforms, an in/out EU referendum. But he is probably sensible not to make such a claim as it would manage to annoy almost everybody.
So I don't blame the Prime Minister for finding these labels problematic. I don't imagine Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband would like being asked if they are "Blairite."
Other points from the interview:
- He works hard. He is “Germanic” about time efficiency. “I like meetings with a purpose, that begin and finish on time,” he says. Work starts at 5.45am in his kitchen "where he goes through his red box, making decisions and writing notes." Cameron explains that some civil servants still suffer night sweats over Gordon Brown’s chaotically messy desk with its teetering piles of unmade decisions.
- But he listens to music while working. His current “guilty pleasure” is the music-streaming service, Spotify.
- He denies being aloof from his fellow Tory MPs. "I am one of the first prime ministers in a generation who, when he’s finished doing PMQs, goes to the House of Commons dining room and has lunch and listens to everybody — I don’t feel hostility, there’s lots of banter and fun, I feel warmth and friendship. Generally speaking, it’s pretty good.”
- “Boris is one of the greatest assets that the Conservative party has….That’s why I emptied campaign teams round the country to help him win.”