Peter Hoskin

Cameron on Thatcher

Cameron on Thatcher
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 Last night, David Cameron presented Margaret Thatcher with a lifetime achievement award, and he follows it up with an article on the Iron Lady in today's Telegraph. The article begins boldly:

“Those who say that the modern Conservative Party is breaking with the legacy of Margaret Thatcher are wrong.”

And mixes praise for Thatcher with swipes at Brown:

“She tackled inflation through getting control of the money supply, an enormously difficult task which not only makes Gordon Brown's sole monetary decision - to hand over control over interest rates to the Bank of England - look puny in comparison; it made it possible in the first place...

...Margaret Thatcher is a fitting recipient of the Morgan Stanley Great Britons award, when we judge greatness as it should be judged: the scale of the legacy. She made the landscape in which we live today.

But today's circumstances are different. We still have major economic challenges ahead, largely conditioned by a decade of debt, and the failure by Gordon Brown to keep the roof in repair while the sun shone.

But the most fundamental long-term challenge we face is not the broken economy inherited by Margaret Thatcher in 1979, but our broken society, the consequence of years of failed state planning and the denial of social responsibility. Britain has falling school standards, the worst rate of family breakdown in Europe and an endemic crime problem in our inner cities.”

Cameron's point – that we're living in the Britain of the 1970s, but with social rather than economic problems – echoes Peter Whittle over at Centre Right yesterday.  It's a clever strategy – relating today's Tories with Thatcher and her struggles ( for the benefit of doubters like Lord Tebbit), whilst distinguishing them at the same time.  But it's also risky.  Will the effort to keep everyone happy dilute Cameron's message, leaving no-one happy in the end?