Politics UK: Culloden

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July 1990 - Nicholas Ridley resigns amidst anti-German comments to The Spectator

Trade and Industry Minister Nicholas Ridley, one of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s closest Cabinet collaborators, resigned Saturday after his public condemnation of the Germans and French touched off a torrent of protest throughout Europe and Britain.

Thatcher accepted Ridley’s resignation, made in a letter to the prime minister two days after he likened the European Community to Adolf Hitler and labeled French officials “poodles” who are submitting to German domination of an emerging united Europe.

Within hours, Thatcher named Peter Lilley, 46, her financial secretary, to the trade and industry portfolio.

Unlike the controversial Ridley, 61, who has been nicknamed “the original Thatcherite” and who had served as a senior minister in Thatcher’s Cabinet since 1983, Lilley is known to favor European economic unity. His appointment was called “a meteoric rise to power” by official government observers.

In accepting Ridley’s resignation, Thatcher, who is spending the weekend at the official prime ministerial retreat of Chequers, described him as “first class in every way.” She said his resignation will leave “a great gap” in her government, and she clearly accepted the aristocratic minister’s resignation only under tremendous pressure from other members of her Conservative Party.

Even after his published comments, the PM staunchly defended Ridley in Parliament on Thursday, the day that the Spectator, a British weekly, published its exclusive interview with him.

On the floor of the House of Commons, Thatcher said Ridley’s views are not those of her government. She asked the Labour Party to accept Ridley’s apology and his formal withdrawal of the fiercely anti-German comments he had made. But she stopped short of requesting his resignation.

The storm of protest surrounding him, however, continued unabated.

Several commentators said publicly that Ridley’s strong suspicion and fears of a united Germany echoed sentiments held by many Britons who lived through the Nazi bombing raids of World War II. But most agreed that the arrogance reflected in such public statements by a Cabinet Minister--the son of a Viscount--made it impossible for Thatcher to retain him.

In The Spectator interview, Ridley was quoted as saying that Germany’s monetary union was “a German racket” meant to monopolise the European Community, that French trade officials were behaving like “poodles” in kowtowing to the Germans and that the 17 members of the European Commission are “unelected reject politicians.” The commission is the executive body of the European Community.

In his letter of resignation, Ridley never claimed to have been misquoted, but he said: “In particular, I deeply resent the journal’s (Spectator’s) assertion that I associate present-day Germany with the aggression in the past. I do not hold that view.”

During the interview, the Spectator’s editor, Dominic Lawson, specifically asked Ridley whether he believes German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is as bad as Adolf Hitler, which it appeared that Ridley had been suggesting.

Ridley replied: “I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have the (bomb) shelters than simply being taken over by economics. He’ll soon be coming over here and trying to say that this is what we should do on the banking front and this is what our taxes should be. I mean, he’ll soon be trying to take over everything.”

As for the European Community as a whole, Ridley had said: “I’m not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this lot. You might as well give it to Adolf Hitler, frankly.”

And, even in his resignation letter Saturday, Ridley, whose outspokenness has landed him in an unending series of controversies since he became a junior minister after Thatcher’s first election to office in 1979, maintained his skepticism of the European monetary union that his successor, Lilley, is known to favor.

“Nothing but harm will come from trying to force (Europe) into the straitjacket of a single currency,” Ridley said. “It would result in economic domination by the country with the strongest currency in the community.”

Predictably, Thatcher’s political opposition used both Ridley’s resignation and the prime minister’s loyal defence of him as political weapons against her 11-year rule.

“Mr. Ridley has bowed to the inevitable,” the Labour Party’s trade spokesman, Gordon Brown, said. “The damage that has been done by the delays, disarray and failure of leadership on the part of Mrs. Thatcher will seriously impair the effective representation of Britain’s interests abroad.”
Change the party, change our future

An editorial by Michael Heseltine

There is no doubt that our cause had precious little to celebrate over the past few years. Historic by-election losses. The calamity that is the poll tax. A 25-point Labour lead in the polls that would see them enforce strict socialism over our people. That is not what a Conservative government should strive for – that is what we must actively prevent.

And there can be no doubt as to the cause of this waiting catastrophe. The divisive leadership of Margaret Thatcher, while essential for getting Britain back on track, has proven itself not to be fit for a prosperous nation. The societal ills that we must tackle now, from support for our communities to unemployment, demand principled, moderate leadership – a third way, if one will, between the harsh free market discipline of Thatcherism and the rigid socialist dogma of Labour.

Errol George-Grosjean offers that third way. He is not everything I seek in a leader – his social conservatism is certainly concerning. However, his principles to guide us towards a more compassionate conservatism, one that embraces our place in Europe and stands for the protection of our families and the social cohesion of our nation. It is a belief that, while there are some difficulties at the edges, will lead to us being a one-nation party again that can be embraced by the whole of the country.

I had hoped, just weeks ago, to be writing this editorial as a contender for the leadership myself. However, that dream has passed on. While my preferred candidate is no longer in the running, we must content ourselves with the leader that will guide Britain forward and lead our party in the direction of the country: one in which a fourth general election victory is not a distant dream, but a distinct possibility. The only man for that task is Errol George-Grosjean.
March 1992 - Leaked polling gives Croft an edge on Macmillan
  • Results differ to polls released in Daily Mirror that gave Macmillan an edge  
  • Croft has a 16% net positive rating amongst Tory members and a 5% net positive with ordinary voters 
With nominations now open for the contest to replace Aubyn Myerscough, a second set of leaked polling obtained by the Times indicates that William Croft could have the edge over Dylan Macmillan. 

The polling from a Conservative source indicates that William Croft is more popular amongst Conservative members and ordinary voters than Dylan Macmillan. Croft has a 54% approval rating to a 38% disapproval amongst Conservative members, whilst ordinary voters approve of him by a 47% to 42% margin. 

In contrast, Macmillan has a 51% approval with party members compared to 45% disapproval and amongst ordinary voters, he has an equal 45% each when it comes to approval and disapproval.

The polls, noted to be by different polling companies with different sampling methods, show that the Conservative leadership contest has no definitive frontrunner as yet. However, it is clear that the two most likely candidates at this stage are Croft and Macmillan, although nominations remain open and any number of candidates may eventually put themselves forward for the leadership.

How do you approve of the following politicians?

William Croft
Conservative members
- Approve: 54%
- Disapprove: 38%
- Don’t Know: 8%

Ordinary voters
- Approve: 47%
- Disapprove: 42%
- Don’t Know: 11%

Dylan Macmillan
Conservative members
- Approve: 51%
- Disapprove: 45%
- Don’t Know: 4%

Ordinary voters
- Approve: 45%
- Disapprove: 45%
- Don’t Know: 10%
Why I'm With Croft

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The Rt. Hon. David Blair MP was the Environment Secretary who successfully abolished the Poll Tax and spearheaded a multi-billion pound initiative to refund those who had already paid the charge. Seen as inhabiting the extreme Europhile wing of the Conservative Party, he has publicly supported Maastricht and the single currency. In this exclusive editorial, Mr Blair explains his decision to support William Croft for Prime Minister.

I am partial to a mug of Horlicks in the evening. Four spoonfuls of the delicious golden powder; two spoonfuls of sugar; three-quarters of a mug of hot water and a quarter of cold milk. The treat is immediately drinkable, and eminently delectable. It was whilst sipping on the most recent iteration of my nightly ante-somnolence cocktail - and browsing the pages of The Spectator - that I came to a crucial decision regarding the future of my party and country. I decided, in short, to support William Croft for the leadership of the Conservative Party - and the premiership of our nation.

Britain deserves a leader who can connect with and unite the public. A leader who can extol a clear vision and a clear commitment to honesty and integrity. More than anything, it requires a Conservative Party which can win the next general election in the face of an absentee Labour leader and a Liberal Democrat Party which has fully endorsed the homosexual fornication of a former Education Secretary whose penchant for same-sex affairs has helped to delude a generation of young people into eschewing family values and entering into sexual proclivity.

Dylan Macmillan is a good candidate, and a respectable man. I regard him and his abilities highly. He would, I believe, continue under any circumstances to be an excellent Foreign Secretary. But I must confess my concern that he is simply too tied-up in recent foreign policy debacles to be able to unite the party and country in the way that is obviously necessary. His Foreign Office presided over the flight of Marcus Drummond-Macbeath and his exile to South Africa; it presided over the collapse of the moderate Soviet leadership and its replacement with a hardline personality cult, even in the face of warnings at the Cabinet table from myself and others that Mikhail Gorbachev needed our support. It looked on as talks over the future of Northern Ireland stalled, and as the IRA ramped up its campaign of terror; it failed to act as the disgraced Security Minister Peregrine Messervy-Davis sought to play mafioso games with Moscow. And it negotiated a Maastricht deal which split the government down the middle, and has played no small part in the downfall of Aubyn Mysercough.

In conclusion, whilst an able and effective minister, Macmillan is burdened by a legacy of departmental missteps and party management debacles which have tarnished his ability to prove a uniting figure in the new Britain. I fear that his ascension to the leadership would result in a long period of continued division over Europe and Britain’s approach to the wider world - and would be open to accusations that his tenure had diminished, rather than enhanced, the United Kingdom’s standing in the world.

Harold Saxon, by contrast, is a sheer opportunist. I cannot express in words the absolute lack of regard with which he is held by the vast majority of Conservative Members of Parliament. He is seen almost universally as a man promoted beyond his competence, with no significant achievements to his name and no true values of any substance beyond the pursuit of his own elevation to higher office. Saxon supported and then opposed the Maastricht Treaty; his meaningful contributions to Cabinet discussions apparently number in the single figures; and his decision to resign from the government to pursue his leadership ambitions at a time of national crisis belie the underlying instincts of a man whose priority is not the welfare of the people of the United Kingdom.

William Croft is, of course, not an untarnished man. The revelation of his adultery much offended the many people in our country, including myself, with Christian sensibilities. Amongst the public and the more theologically-minded of MPs - who number, by the way, far fewer than they might lead you to believe - the action of betrayal in marriage was almost unforgivable. But I am a close family friend of the Crofts; I have seen first hand the sorrow in William’s heart at his indiscretion, and the penance he has given for his sin. Mrs Croft has forgiven his mistake, about which he has always been open and honest, and for which he has apologised to her and to the country. William puts family above everything. He regrets profoundly his actions and has taken the strides of a great man to repent for them. I believe that Britain, though still at its heart a conservative society, can and will forgive him, and understand that sometimes a man must fall in order to truly rise.

William is a seasoned campaigner who resonates with the voters and knows how to galvanise the party base. He knows what it takes to win: he has set out clearly and concisely a bold, exciting and aggressive agenda for the first 100 days of a Croft premiership, taking full advantage of every moment that the government in its third term has left in office. He’s tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime as well, with a solid commitment to social justice and equality of opportunity which belies his innate sense of fair play. He has led a crackdown on the drugs trade, and provided greater statutory protections than ever to women who have been the victims of rape - making him a true champion of women in a way that no other candidate can claim so to be. He has taken the fight to the IRA and is even now imposing tougher measures to eliminate terrorism from the shores of the United Kingdom. His competence and his calm, collected approach to information-gathering and action has revolutionised the security and intelligence services, and paved the way for a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. William is a true advocate of the free market, understanding that unlocking Britain’s full potential means creating a meritocratic society where one’s work is the only determinant of their success. And, above all, he’s a man of principle: he risked his political future over the rights of backbenchers, and stuck to his guns even when removed forcibly from the Conservative Party.

In short, William Croft is a charismatic, driven and effective political leader who has the foresight, the authority and the vision required to lead the Conservatives to a record fourth election victory - and to lead Britain into the sunlit uplands of a new and better future. As we move from recession to recovery and embrace the ever-changing modern world, the United Kingdom can and must adapt to survive and to thrive. William is, as far as I’m concerned, the only candidate with a clear and rational plan to ensure that Britain remains a world-leader and a world-beater. On Europe, only he can find compromise and unite the country. On a range of other issues, only he has the capacity for the open-minded, frank assessment of our problems that is required. And only he can ensure forever that the legacy of socialism is confined to the rubbish bin of history.

I’ll be voting for William Croft, and I encourage all other MPs to do the same too.
Nature makes no differentiation - we are all the inheritors of England.
An editorial by Environment Secretary Bibi Lauria.

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These beavers were released into the River Otter by Bibi on Thursday

In the question of city versus rural living, there is little contest. The sprawling metropolises may seem to have it all – a mass of well paying jobs, invigorated dance halls, performances from the world’s great artists, and so on, all catered by lightning fast transport – but it lacks the pure and unfiltered beauty that only nature can muster. I may be a Londoner born and bred, but there is nothing in the hustle and bustle that can emerge to equal the fresh air of the country.

Contrary to any assumptions, this is not a hit piece on the cities that I have had the pleasure of working and living in for the greater part of my life. Quite the opposite. It is a call to arms to reinvigorate green spaces all over the country, particularly in our towns, to unlock the outdoors for a generation of people that have never had the opportunity to breathe in the extraordinary eclecticism of Britain’s rich flora and fauna.

And it is truly rich – and has been richer still in years gone by. This country is home to nationally cherished animals like badgers, deer and hedgehogs, whilst providing a safe haven to over six hundred species of birds. And whilst these are bright notes, they paper over the stark reality that British fauna has been facing a slow but constant decline for hundreds of years. As an island, this country has delivered unique sub-species by the bucket load, but in a world of interconnectedness we have become a geographical island in name only – and our environment has suffered. There are now two thousand invasive species that inhabit our shores, often outbreeding and outcompeting our natural variants. We must reverse this course.

It’s not difficult to get things done. Put your mind to something, throw in a little elbow grease, and it can be achieved. We can, indeed, return nature to a state of glory. These aren’t idle words – they are a promise that I will endeavor to deliver on.

Quite why achieving this vision has been at the bottom of every government’s to-do list since the 1930s alludes me, particularly as it will no doubt result in a higher quality of life for Britons, and reduce the pressure on the NHS caused by a lack of exercise and ailments caused by city living.

To get there, we need to reframe the discussion. Perhaps we should start by recalling verses of Wordsworth, of Coleridge, of Keats and Blake, penned amongst the heather and foliage of English lanes. And think of the expeditions of Shackleton, Cook and Livingstone. Let’s think of the discoveries made by Fleming and Darwin. What do all these great Britons have in common beyond their nationality? That they all produced their greatest works as a result of the natural world around them. I am a believer in what we shall call landed patriotism – pride in what we, men and women of this collective soil, have achieved over the ages and against the odds. This is, after all, the land of the many.

We should all feel an enormous sense of pride for the works of those that wandered this land. Because we are not only the collective inheritors of their memory, but of England itself.