X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

‘If only people could see the real Margaret Thatcher’: Lords pay tribute

10 April 2013

6:52 PM

10 April 2013

6:52 PM

Today’s debates in Parliament about Baroness Thatcher were supposed to be a tribute to the first female Prime Minister. If you were looking for the most faithful rendition of this, you should have been sitting in the House of Lords, not the Commons this afternoon. In the Other Place, the debate is always rather more civilised and measured, though it has grown rather rowdier in recent years. But today the speeches painted a fascinating picture of Margaret Thatcher, not least because many of them came from those who worked with or in opposition to her when she was in power. Some were notable by their silence: Lord Howe arrived with notes, but left without speaking. Lord Heseltine was nowhere to be seen. The Chamber was packed to begin with: the Tory benches crammed to bursting, the Labour benches nearly full.

The most powerful speech came from Lord Tebbit, who appeared to struggle rather sincerely with emotion, sighing heavily as he told peers that his great regret was, because of the commitments he had made to his wife (who was left permanently disabled by the Brighton bombing), he left her government and did not return as a minister when she asked. ‘I left her, I fear, at the mercy of her friends. That I do regret.’ He, like many others, had a story to tell of the personal kindness his party leader had shown to him, allowing him to continue working as a Cabinet minister while being absent for three months.

Lord Waddington gave a glimpse of her human frailty. After the Brighton bomb, he said he saw her ‘slumped’ behind the scenes in the conference hall, saying she couldn’t go out and give her speech. He watched Gordon Reece egg her on, and off she went.

[Alt-Text]


The criticism in the Upper Chamber was more gentle, but it was answered forcefully and politely by Lord Lamont, who said he felt compelled to answer some of the comments made about the negative impact on certain communities. He argued that it was costing the state so much to prop up jobs in ‘loss-making industries’ that other job creation was being stifled.

Those who had found themselves working against her remained respectful. The strongest criticism came from Baroness Royall, who led the Labour tributes. She remained polite, and praised Thatcher’s ability to smash the glass ceiling, ‘and proved that it could be done but she did not hold out a helping hand for others to follow’. And she criticised Thatcher’s refusal to espouse ‘the consensual notion of One Nation’.

Paddy Ashdown gave a speech of far greater generosity than Clegg’s offering in the Commons. He said she was ‘the greatest Prime Minister of our age’, but also said she did little for the gay community, the people of Scotland and the standing of women in British society. He also joked that he was ‘ritually handbagged twice a week’ by her.

There was even some praise for her looks. Baroness Trumpington complained that the many men who had spoken had failed to compliment Thatcher on her looks. ‘It took a French president to appreciate it,’ she said, referring to Mitterand. Later, Lord Gummer went just a little bit further, telling peers that the former Prime Minister had ‘beautiful hands and lovely ankles and she knew how to use them’. He added: ‘It was a pleasure to see her, the way she turned herself out.’

David Cameron watched some of the proceedings from the Bar of the House. He was smiling throughout, nodding and chuckling every so often at an anecdote that he recognised. He particularly enjoyed a comment from Lord Forsyth that Thatcher had been one of the biggest purchasers of stationery from Smythson, and another story from the same peer about her winning at the races and joining in a rendition of ‘Roll out the barrel’. ‘I thought, if only people could see the real Margaret Thatcher,’ he said. Some of the tales of her personal kindness and steely humour might have given listeners a further glimpse of that woman today.

The debate continues. If you have a chance, do listen in. Or read the whole Lords Hansard tomorrow when it is published. It was a magnificent and fascinating debate: not just because its participants praised the Iron Lady, but because some of them criticised her, too, in a gracious and polite manner.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close