Coffee House

Margaret Thatcher and the Tory party’s change on Europe

23 October 2012

Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher promises to be the most important British political book in decades. Tonight, we got a preview of it when Charles delivered the Centre for Policy Studies’ second Margaret Thatcher lecture.

The subject was Thatcher and Europe. I won’t say too much about it because we’re running a version of it in the coming issue of The Spectator. But one thing that Charles demonstrated was that even when Thatcher was campaigning for British membership of the European Community, as then was, she was never in favour of the European project.

One of the other thing that Charles’s lecture brought out was the shift in the balance of power in the Tory party on Europe. Thatcher’s downfall was caused—at least, in part—by her determination to limit the amount of sovereignty that was passed to Brussels. Now, it would be any attempt to hand over power to the European Union that would doom a Tory leader.

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  • trevor21

    IS SHE STILL ALIVE…! Oh well, best hold off on the street party just yet. It can’t be long now. Satan doesn’t like to be kept waiting.

  • unidian

    Can I put my bob’s worth in … oh no! THAT’S when it all started to go wrong … back to shillings and pence, back to lbs not kilos and back to the world – damn those pesky Europeans.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Cameron and his successors are doomed not just if they attempt to handover more powers but if they continue to equivocate over or god forbid fail to recover significant powers from Brussels. The return of sovereignty from Brussels is fundamental to any future aspiration the Conservative Party might have of forming a majority government in the foreseeable future.

    In short if they do not treat the festering abscess that is Europe (and the treatment is Eurosceptic ~ think “Antisceptic of the EU disease”) it will destroy them, through slow stagnation. internal feuding and decline.and make UKIP the party of the right of centre. Its only a matter of time……

  • Augustus

    “… her determination to limit the amount of sovereignty that was passed to Brussels.”
    And, in the light of what has happened since, quite rightly too. The European integration project has tried it’s utmost to represent nation statehood as an artificial concept. But nation statehood had developed over the centuries, and it was certainly not artificial. The feeling of unified ‘cultural heritage’, including a European anthem and a European flag, have not had a great impact so far. True, the lesson that there should be no wars in Europe has sunk in,l but the price has been too high. The feeling of European solidarity and of common values has not made great progress – if any progress at all. There was not even agreement about the borders of Europe. Was the United Kingdom
    closer to the United States or to Bulgaria or Turkey? Anyway, how could it compete with national feelings which had developed over many
    centuries? People might feel solidarity with their compatriots and be willing to make
    sacrifices for their homeland, but why do so for a community of economic
    interests? Margaret Thatcher undoubtedly foresaw that all was not well as far as the European Union was concerned, accepting new members and moving toward a common currency. The European dream was quietly becoming a nightmare.

  • cremaster

    What a shame it hasn’t “doomed” CamOron!

  • HooksLaw

    I doubt that many people fully approve of the European Project – except those that see it as a trojan horse to fulfil their own ends (Unions once opposed it because they thought then it was a backdoor to capitalism).
    The fact remains that the European Project will grind its way on without us and will continue to affect us no matter what we do. The new reality is that the Euro crisis is propelling the European project towards deeper integration which we will not join in, so our relationship is scheduled to change dramatically in the relatively near future.

    • james102

      As you see above, and as I have commented on before Europe’s demographics are a ticking bomb, it will decline inevitably decade by decade. Social unrest is also inevitable as the state funded benefits its young were told were theirs as a right are no longer affordable.
      Maybe this is fuelling the new ‘scepticism’ of our political class rather than any new found patriotism or love of democracy.

  • MichtyMe

    And Maggie triumphed over Foot, Benn, etc with their 1983 manifesto commitment to take the UK out of the EU.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    “Now, it would be any attempt to hand over power to the European Union that would doom a Tory leader. ”
    Well as that is precisely what Cameron has done ever since entering No.10, you won’t be surprised when he loses in 2015, will you?

  • DavidDP

    She signed the Single European Act, the biggest transfer of sovereignty ever. She can’t have been that worried about it.

  • Daniel Maris

    What a crock of ordure!

    So Moore is saying that, unlike Powell, she lied to the British people, advocating a policy she didn’t believe in herself – and not just any policy but a policy of fundamental importance?

    Fortunately I have never been a member of the Cult of Margaret so my judgement on these matters hasn’t been clouded by excessive devotion.

    • Archimedes

      The other way to put it might be:

      Fortunately I have never been a member of the Cult of Margaret, so I have never come to understand or appreciate it properly.

      It is perfectly possible to agree that some level of international cooperation is constructive – it is even possible to agree that the best vehicle for that cooperation is some kind of supra-national body – whilst at the same time disagreeing with certain aims of such a supra-national body: ever closure union, for example.

      For example, the IMF was once a good supra-national institution, but that does not mean that it should ever aim to supplant national parliaments.

      Thatcher can be accused of a lack of nous on Europe, and perhaps of allowing it to get the better of her pragmatism. I don’t believe her position was contradictory, though.

      • Daniel Maris

        “Some level of international cooperation” is not how you describe an undemocratic law making body like the European Commission in 1972, 1975, 1979 or 1990.

        It was always understood by EU Members , with the sole exception of the UK, that the EEC/EC/EU meant ever closer union. Not to understand that, shows wilful stupidity – a determination NOT to understand. It suited Thatcher’s purposes not to understand because in the 60s and 70s the European community seemed a pro-business bulwark against communism, socialism and trade unions.

        You may now return to your genuflections.

        • Archimedes

          Oh, look: you think that because I defended Thatcher, I am naturally not a balanced person.

          There is nothing that you said that goes against my original position: bummer.

          • Daniel Maris

            Oh, look – you just made up a quote out of thin air. All I said was, since you admitted to being a member of the Cult of Margaret that you could return to your genuflections.

  • David Lindsay

    If you believe that last sentence, then you will believe absolutely anything. Like Thatcher never really believed in the EU, for example.

    Can you name the Prime Minister who signed the Single European Act? Or the one who defeated the only major party ever to contest a General Election on a commitment to withdrawal.

    I’ll give you a clue: they were both the same woman.

  • anyfool

    Why write an article then say.
    I won’t say too much about it because we’re running a version of it in the coming issue of The Spectator, why did you bother.

    • mcclane

      He’s not actually posting a blogpost. He’s just puffing up the Spec.Articulate elsewhere, possibly, but here he’s doing an Entwistle.

      • Robert Castlereagh

        I blame Howe, lauded at the time for our current woes with Europe

        • telemachus

          Howe brought down Thatcher and deserves the OM

          • Andy

            Fortunately he wont get it ! It happens to be entirely in the gift of our Sovereign Lady, and I don’t mean Maggie.

            • telemachus

              HM did not like Maggie much

    • Boudicca_Icenii

      So people comment and they have readership evidence to justify (and increase) their advertising revenue.

  • Archimedes

    Oh James, you’re such a tease…

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘even when Thatcher was campaigning for British membership of the European Community, as then was, she was never in favour of the European project’
    Gawd Almighty ! No!.
    Thatcher, the so-called Iron Lady surrendered – her claims of colleagues’ deception are just weak. She is just an earlier version of ‘cast iron’ dave’s ‘I’m a reet Eurosceptic me – like’

    • Fergus Pickering

      I don’t know why you bother. Europe is dead as far as Britain is concerned. In fact it’s dead full stop. A sort of Fourth Reich will stagger on, bleeding Germany dry, until Southern Europe takes a hear of grace and buggers off because there is no kraut money left. Meanwhile we will be outside. Will we do well. I don’t know but it will probably be our fault if we do – too lazy, too ignorant. God our young people are ignorant, of history, of anything you find hidden inside books. But the EU. That’s over. Nice, isn’t it.. .

      • Archimedes

        Merkel’s recent attempt to pressure Cameron on the EU budget is a pretty noticeable change in German policy. Germany is on manoeuvres, and from a position of leadership, so I wouldn’t count on them being bled dry.

        • Vulture

          @Archimedes. Oh I would. They are bleeding dry in another sense too: demographically. The Germans are dying out. They are simply not breeding babies. Within this century they will have been overtaken in size of population by us, and their goods are already too expensive compared to those made in Asia. Like the rest of Europe, Germany’s glory days are behind it.

          • james102

            Yes and well before that it will have the oldest population ever recorded in human history, rapidly followed by Spain and Italy.
            A country does not just lose 20 million people due to demographic changes; it ages as medical care improves. Its non funded pensions when added to its debt are estimated to bring it to 250% of GDP.
            The European social model is an experiment that future historians will find interesting.

        • Andy

          Oh I don’t know. I would look at the Target T2 balances if I were you. They are pretty eye watering.

  • toco10

    What on earth would she have made of 27 such culturally diverse nations thinking about a federal state and indeed the creation and demise of the Euro?It is difficult enough to reach any sort of consensus within a single country never mind 27 with very different agendas and cultures.Going forward the best we can hope for is a free and open market for trading purposes rather than take a leap into the abyss which is the so called ‘Federal European Project’.

    • Daniel Maris

      Europe isn’t so sceptical. These confusing heaps of states are part of their history:

      The Holy Roman Empire was one such collection.

      Then there were the 20 or 30 states of Italy often combining and recombining.

      Similarly, there were the states of the Napoleonic system.

      Spain is a hotch-potch of many distinct regions.

      There is no reason why the EU can’t work as 27 states: it remains the biggest economic bloc on the planet. BUT – it still isn’t a democracy and there is no reason to suppose we gain much by joining it especially as we are an offshore island always at an economic disadvantage compared to those countries close to the EU’s main population centres.

      • Curnonsky

        Holy Roman Empire – ruled by emperor. Napoleon – emperor. Spain – kings, then dictators. Common thread?

      • mcclane

        The Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, the Western Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire. Napoleon. Hitler. They all failed. There is simply no way that 27 states will work together. The UK and Bulgaria? Portugal and Estonia? Denmark & Cyprus? Simply no way.

        • mcclane

          Plus you add in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Yugoslavia. 27 states won’t work. Nationalism wins every time.

        • Daniel Maris

          Ha-ha – you can hardly call the Roman state a failure! LOL It lasted for over 2000 years!! A difficult record to beat.

          • Andy

            Rome failed in the end did it not ? And it does not alter what Curnonsky pointed out.

            You can only create the EU without democracy and the consent of the people. You can only sustain it in a similar manner. Why do you think the EU doesn’t like the people being consulted and why do you think, when we are consulted and give the wrong answer, we are either ignored or made to vote again until we get it right.

            The EU is a rapidly developing tyranny.

            • Daniel Maris

              No one here – and that includes me – is arguing that the EU is democratic. But Switzerland with its three languages and maybe 15ish separate states is a functioning democracy. My point is that there is no inherent reason why the EU with 27 nations couldn’t function as a democracy. It’s no more inherently improbably than NATO functioning or the USA functioning.

              But the argument over democracy is only one argument as to why we shouldn’t be in the EU. There is also the argument of our national interest. I am not convinced it is in our interest as a peripheral isalnd state to belong to this continental bloc.

        • Tobias

          And why did they fail? Because those Empires were created by force. This however is not the case for the EU. The EU was created by 27 countries willfully pouring their sovereignty into one system to work together. It is a great idea and God willing it will work.

      • Russell

        It also remains one of the biggest financially crippled economic blocs on the planet. We do not have any economic disadvantage by keeping our own currency and London is one of, if not the largest main EU population centres.

      • HooksLaw

        To prove my Eurosceptic credentials – there is no reason why 27 states cannot co-operate very satisfactoraly by a series of treaties. It does not need a president a council of ministers and a parliament and bureaucracy.

        Once it goes down the route of a common currency then it goes down the route of a common government and the diverse nature of those 27 countries will inevitably lead to a loss of democratic control.
        We are not in the common currency and will thus have to renegotiate our relationship either within or semi detached from the EU – and it follows from this there will be a referendum.
        Cameron has already outlined this and still the loony tunes pursue a policy which if successful would put a labour govt in charge us such decisions.

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