Saturday, 10 May 2014

Memories of Maggie

Forty footsore activists made their way to Tonbridge Castle after canvassing last night, to hear Sir John Stanley recall his personal "Memories of Maggie". Sir John was Mrs Thatcher's PPS from 1976 to 1979 and then served in her three governments as Minister for Housing & Construction, Minister for the Armed Forces and finally as Minister for Northern Ireland. 
Iain Dale kindly donated copies of his book "Memories of Margaret Thatcher"
the sale of which raised £300 for Tracey Crouch's Campaign Fund
Sir John spoke movingly about some of the less known and little publicised acts of kindness from Mrs Thatcher, which seldom made the headlines; personal notes and cards to staff and their families at times of sadness or celebration, and a fierce private loyalty to her team.

Sir John was asked about any "amusing incidents" from his time as her PPS. He told of her visit to China in 1979, which coincided with the downfall of the "Gang of Four" and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Though only Leader of the Opposition at that time. Mrs Thatcher's visit was the most high profile for many years and she was awarded all the pomp of a Head of State, with armed police escorts, flashing motorcades and private trains. The Chinese authorities were keen to use the visit to draw a line in the sand under the Cultural Revolution and used every opportunity to blame the Gang of Four for the countries woes. At a steelworks, the low production was down to "than Gang of Four's inability to mine sufficient iron ore". At the Beijing shipyards, slow progress was blamed on "the Gang of Four's poor naval architectural skills" and so on. On the final day, they visited a factory which made hand-spun Chinese silk. The work was so fine and precise that the spinners produced, on average, about 4 square inches per day. "I wonder how the Gang of Four will be blamed for this", said Sir John.  Right in cue, the official government guide introduced himself, and said, "regrettably, due to the Gang of Four's policies, silk worms are not producing silk as fast as they did before the Cultural Revolution hence the slow progress of this factory...

Sir John also let slip (though I suspect not accidentally) "when I leave politics and start writing down my thoughts..."  Is there an autobiography or memoirs in the offing? I do hope so.

The event also raised £300 for Tracey Crouch's election campaign thanks to the generosity of Iain Dale, who donated copies of his book Memories of Margaret Thatcher, which includes a contribution from Sir John entitled "The Best Boss I Ever Had".

Owen and Chris Baldock with their "Maggie's a Winner" thumb
from the 1983 Rally at Wembley Arena.

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