Isabel Hardman

Tory Thatcher tributes will mark the next stage in battle for party’s soul

Tory Thatcher tributes will mark the next stage in battle for party's soul
Text settings
Comments

MPs will pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher in the Commons tomorrow. One set of speeches worth listening to with some care will be those from the 2010 intake of Conservative MPs, raised during the Thatcher years, and often considered the group most enthusiastic about keeping her flame alive in the party. It is also likely that from this group will emerge the next Conservative leader.

They are a confident bunch, bursting with ideas, books and essays about how to reinvigorate Conservatism. Paying tribute to the former Prime Minister will also be an opportunity for some of them to pay tribute to her policies, and perhaps her conviction in driving through policies that she knew were right, even when colleagues protested vehemently. Her flame burns brightly among members of the Free Enterprise Group, set up by Liz Truss and Sajid Javid, both of whom are now ministers. Many wish this government were bolder, and stuck to its convictions more. As politicians mull over Thatcher's legacy in the coming weeks, there will be many opportunities for her acolytes to call for a more faithful rendering of her in today's party.

But not everyone agrees. A minister complained to me a few months ago that the major problem with the party was that so many of its MPs wanted to return to the Thatcher era, conveniently forgetting that we were in the second decade of the 21st century, not the penultimate decade of the 20th. He was less irritated by those in the 2010 bunch than those elected in earlier years. 'Times have changed,' he said. 'Thatcher wouldn't have worked now, but they keep banging on as though that would solve all our problems.' Whatever the solution, national mourning for Thatcher comes as the Conservative party continues to battle, while in government, for its soul. Tomorrow's tributes will mark the next stage of that battle.