The two sides to Mrs Thatcher

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“THIS is the day I was not meant to see,” admitted a tearful Margaret Thatcher in the aftermath of the Brighton Bomb 30 years ago.

These poignant words are even more powerful because they reveal Mrs Thatcher’s torment in the aftermath of an attempt on her life which killed five people and left two of her closest friends, Norman and Margaret Tebbit, fighting for their lives in the Grand Hotel’s rubble.

Newly-released papers about this traumatic period also reveal a softer side to Baroness Thatcher that was rarely seen – like her decision to cancel a hair appointment in the aftermath of the bomb and to send a handwritten letter of apology to the salon concerned. Her thoughtfulness, a trait not always seen at times of controversy, could be touching.

Adversity is the greatest test of leadership – and Mrs Thatcher demonstrated this in the immediate aftermath of the Brighton Bomb when she was asked by John Cole, the BBC’s then political editor, whether she would deliver her planned speech to the Tory conference.

“The conference will go on,” she said resolutely. Unsure whether the camera was running, she then looked directly into the lens and added: “The conference will go on, as usual.”

She then tore up her planned speech, a full frontal attack on the Labour Party and its support of the Miners’ Strike, and delivered a memorable address in which she warned that “all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism 
will fail”.

It was a moment of history – the precursor to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which, in turn, paved the way for the Northern Ireland peace process.

It is why many still yearn for Mrs Thatcher’s robust style of leadership – she rarely showed any weakness in public, even when grieving for lost friends and piecing her original speech back together with Sellotape so it could be saved for posterity.

She remains a one-off whose private persona differed markedly from the indomitable “Iron Lady” who was so admired and so respected on the world stage.

Paying the price

A betrayal of the public interest

COMPETITION is supposed to be advantageous to the public. It is why the Thatcher government privatised the energy industry three decades ago. And it is why David Cameron defended the “Big Six” suppliers when Ed Miliband proposed his price freeze 12 months ago; he believes consumers will be worse off if Labour pursues a programme of state intervention.

However, Mr Cameron’s “cost of living” argument will not be helped by today’s Public Accounts Committee report which reveals how the Department of Energy and Climate Change awarded contracts worth £16.6bn to eight renewable energy generation projects without the need for value for money being considered.

It is an inexcusable failure which is, frankly, indicative of the inability of successive governments to defend the public interest when major contracts go out to tender – whether it be energy tenders or those schools and hospitals built under Labour’s PFI programme.

Energy policy does need to evolve – this is accepted. The decline of this country’s coal mining industry, and the political instability in Russia and the Middle East, means Britain needs to develop new sources of power, including the renewables sector.

However, this does not excuse the failures of procurement that have been revealed today – failures that will inevitably have knock-on effects for energy prices and make it more difficult for the Government to convince people about the long-term importance of wind power and so on.

Rewarding loyalty

Morrisons makes its move at last

MORRISONS now hopes to be more than a match for the discount food retailers with the launch of its innovative new points card for shoppers.

It had to act – the Bradford-based supermarket has been haemorrhaging customers for a variety of reasons and its price match scheme is the next phase of the price war now taking place.

Some will argue that Morrisons has been too slow to reward the loyalty of its shoppers, hence the decline in its financial fortunes, while others will contend that this scheme will, in fact, help the firm to steal a march on the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

Either way, the high street will not be the same again. Supermarkets will have to work harder than ever to earn the loyalty of their customers – and that can only bode well for those customers who are seeking value for money and a level of service which goes beyond the call of duty. If Morrisons can achieve both, there is no reason why it cannot hold its own.