Mr Steerpike was among the throng that gathered at the East India Club on Thursday night to hear about the development of the Margaret Thatcher Centre, the project to perpetuate the legacy of Britain’s greatest post-war leader. Donal Blaney, the Thatcher Centre’s CEO, and Conor Burns MP invited the Lady’s ‘most fervent supporters’ to pledge £1,000 each in a ‘true sign appreciation to Lady Thatcher’. Blaney also explained why he is ‘devoting his life’ to the project, telling the predominantly male but surprisingly young crowd: ‘Lady Thatcher delivered; now it’s our turn.’
The organisers have drawn inspiration from the USA. The centre ‘will not be a shrine, it will not be a cult and it will not, in the words of the Guardian, be a ‘madrassa.’ Instead, we were told to expect something a little more presidential.
Blaney and Co have already secured a seven figure sum in funds; but they are aiming to reach £25m so that they can open an elaborate site in Cambridge. Blaney told Mr S, ‘The central component of the facility is going to be a 20,000sq foot exhibit gallery that will bring Margaret Thatcher’s legacy to life… Stimulating exhibits [will] take you through different aspects of her life from her upbringing in Grantham, to Oxford, to her time as a lawyer and in industry, and her time as a Member of Parliament, and, of course, Prime Minister.’
The centre will not merely be a museum, but a place of ‘serious academic scholarship’, with a tie up between Churchill College, Cambridge (where Thatcher left her papers after being snubbed for an honorary degree from Oxford), the Bodleian Library (which is the home of the Conservative Party archives) and the Reagan Library in Santa Barbara.
What would ‘the Lady’ have said of these bold plans? Well, it is claimed that she was ‘adamant that this must be a forward looking project… A project whose primary focus is on the young. Lady Thatcher wanted this project to focus on the young: the young in Britain, the young in the Commonwealth and, in particular, the young in central and eastern Europe.’
Mr S was intrigued to find that this charity fund-raising operation has been registered in America, rather than in London. Mr S understands that President George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, the current GOP leadership on Capitol Hill and the giant think tank the Heritage Foundation are all on board. Rupert Murdoch has also publicly pledged his support.
Americans are used to opening their wallets for this sort of thing. Mr S has gained the impression that this one might just work in Britain, too.