It is one of the paradoxes of modern British politics that in the post-war era the power and hold of political parties have declined and our system has become more presidential. But the two most electorally successful leaders of this era have both been deposed by their respective parties.
This has created problems for both parties, as today’s Sunday Politics with Andrew Neil demonstrated. After John Reid had been on to discuss Tony Blair’s comments on Ed Miliband, Grant Shapps was up to be questioned on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy for the Tories. Shapps was reluctant to declare that the Tories are a Thatcherite party. Trying to suggest that it is but only to the extent that it is also a John Major party.
Strikingly, it was on Europe that Shapps tried to link Cameron and Thatcher. He compared the EU budget freeze to Thatcher’s EU rebate and declared Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum as an act of Thatcheresqueleadership.
It is testament to Thatcher’s influence that a Tory chairman who who was six years old when she became Tory leader, is still having to define the party in relation to her.