It is 20 years since Margaret Thatcher was removed from power in a leadership challenge instigated by Michael Heseltine and others. It was a time when the Conservatives lost their nerve, having seen opinion poll ratings fall. The issue which divided Conservatives, at the time, was the proposed single European currency. Her successor, John Major was unable to unite the two wings of the Conservative Party despite winning the 1992 election. The combined effect of the EMS crisis of 1992 and the splits in the Conservative Party over Europe led to a crushing defeat by New Labour in the 1997 election.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph
Peter Oborne revisits the warnings that Margaret gave during her term of office and which were recorded in her autobiography, first published in 1993.
“Today, Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, first published in 1993, reads like a prophecy. It shows how deeply and with what extraordinary wisdom she had examined Delors’ proposals for the single currency. Her overriding objection was not ill-considered or xenophobic, as subsequent critics have repeatedly claimed.”
“They were economic. Right back in 1990, Mrs Thatcher foresaw with painful clarity the devastation it was bound to cause. Her autobiography records how she warned John Major, her euro-friendly chancellor of the exchequer, that the single currency could not accommodate both industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries such as Greece. Germany, forecast Thatcher, would be phobic about inflation, while the euro would prove fatal to the poorer countries because it would “devastate their inefficient economies
“It is as if, all those years ago, the British prime minister possessed a crystal ball that enabled her to foresee the catastrophic events of the past year or so in Ireland, Greece and Portugal. Indeed, it is one of the tragedies of European history that the world chose not to believe her. President Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Kohl of Germany dismissed her words of caution. And when Mrs Thatcher was driven from
office in 1990, a crucial voice was lost, and a new consensus started to form in Britain in favour of the euro.”
Oborne also pays tribute to William Hague and Ian Duncan Smith, who maintained support for Mrs. Thatcher’s policy during a period of intense unpopularity for the Conservatives.
Margaret Thatcher was hardly a popular figure in the Republic of Ireland. In the 1980s, she was seen as an obstacle to Ireland’s interests. I wonder how many now wished that their politicians had paid more heed to her warnings.
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