Today marks the first anniversary of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death. Here, two MP’s share their very different memories of the ‘Iron Lady’, and reveal how she shaped their politics – and their lives.
Margaret Thatcher outside Number 10
Labour MP Gloria De Piero says: “The contrast between the miners’ marches to save their jobs and Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’ character summed up Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. The gap between the few at the top and everyone else grew wide.
Growing up in Bradford, money was tight and I was very conscious of this. I can now see that not everything she did was wrong, but the world is very black and white when you’re a teenager, and I never felt like Thatcher spoke for me or my family.
I vehemently opposed her policies but the significance of having a woman Prime Minister barely crossed my mind at the time. For as long as I could remember, she’d been on our TV screens, so it just felt like the natural order. It sounds amazing to say that now.
Thatcher with former US President Ronald Reagan
It’s often said that Margaret Thatcher didn’t bring other women with her – in her 11 years as PM, she only promoted one other woman to her Cabinet. It’s now great to sit round that Labour top table and see that 14 out of 32 of us are women. As our first female PM, and a woman who dominated the political landscape, Thatcher will be remembered as a key figure for women’s equality. But mainly because of what she represented, rather than what she achieved for other women.
Her attitude towards helping other women was similar to her political ethos. She pulled the ladder up after her.”
Conservative MP Priti Patel says: “I was proud to grow up during the Thatcher years and see first-hand the inspirational way she introduced powerful changes to improve Britain.
As a child in the late 1970s, I was always struck by TV images that showed the perilous state this country was in: rubbish bags piling up and endless news about industrial action. But Margaret Thatcher struck a different chord.
She ushered in a new era of hope, optimism and strength. Like Margaret’s parents, my mother and father were shopkeepers and in her we saw a Prime Minister who understood what it meant to be aspirational – she championed opportunity for all. I remember sitting in the flat above my parents’ shop, watching the 1979 general election result and seeing her walk into Downing Street for the first time.
At Downing Street
Hearing her words of hope gave us all a sense of anticipation that she was on a mission to make Britain great again. As a girl, it was amazing to see such a strong woman reach the highest political office. I would not be involved in politics today if it had not been for Margaret Thatcher.
I first got to meet Mrs Thatcher in the late 1990s, when I worked for William Hague. It was a moment of joy for me. She always made herself available to those she knew shared her values and from 2005 onwards she was a source of great advice as I embarked on my own political career. She was an inspirational leader who transformed Britain and mobilised millions to take charge of their economic destiny.”