Politics UK: Culloden

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I.E. the Torygraph
(Pre Round-May 1990)

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King is Dead, Long live the Queen - Thatcher promotes 'colourful' loyalist Alan Clark

By Sir Peregrine Worsthorne

Shock today in Westminster but not total surprise, as the Defence Secretary Tom King MP resigns amidst a leaked unofficial Strategic Defence Review, which allies of Mr King said had the backing of Mrs Thatcher and was compiled in secret from the outgoing Secretary of State. 

The unofficial report was secretly commissioned by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement Alan Clark, a longtime favourite of Mrs Thatcher. It advocates a £15 billion cut across all three Armed Services, which would be the most sweeping cuts to the United Kingdom's defence in a century, and a dramatic change in Britain's defence policy since the Suez Crisis in 1956; reportedly analysts at the MoD are predicting the rapid disintegration of the Soviet Union. The leaked report makes mention of the costly ineffectiveness for Britain to maintain its present fixed capabilities in Europe, with the report calling for the rapid withdrawal of the British Army on the Rhine, and streamlining of the Armed Forces towards force projection, and mobility. 

MoD officials at the urging of Tom King scrabbled to finish their own report 'Options for Change' which has been briefed as a cautious, more tempered review of Britain's post cold war capabilities, going nowhere near as far as Alan Clark's unofficial document. 

In a tense showdown at No 10, King berated Clark for "passing notes to the PM down the chimney"; Clark ridiculed Options for Change, saying: "There shouldn't be any f**ing options. It should be: `It's like this. Now get on with it'. With Mrs Thatcher insisting that Clark's report not be dismissed out of hand as Tom King argued for - he resigned shortly afterwards.

It seems that Mrs Thatcher took the side of her loyal courtier, and rewarded him for his disloyalty to Mr King by giving him the job that he has always wanted. Clark is a serial Thatcher loyalist, whom she has saved from the chop on more than one occasion: In 1984, Clark whilst a junior Employment Minister, and as an anti-American protectionist representing a naval constituency - attacked on the BBC's Question Time the decision to buy an American missile for the Royal Navy instead of the British-developed Sea Eagle. The Defence Secretary at the time, Michael Heseltine, wanted him sacked for this, but Lobby correspondents were rapidly informed that the Lady stood by him. Again in 1985 he caused a minor scandal by referring to sub-Saharan Africa as 'Bongo Bongo Land' in a meeting with Foreign Office officials.

Despite this, he was promoted to Minister of State for Trade, and then Minister of State for Defence - where commentators largely agree that he has been a details orientated, effective dispatch box operator, albeit still prone to his old gaffes. He stands in stark contrast to Tom King, who was mocked on 'Spitting Image' as the invisible man of the Cabinet.

More broadly, the resignation of King and promotion of Clark follows a recent shift by Mrs Thatcher in the middle of her third term to quashing dissent within Cabinet, and sidelining ideological opponents. The Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd reportedly had to be convinced by the PM's advisers from resigning himself after Clark's appointment, this comes in the middle of the Poll Tax's continued unpopularity, and cracks appearing in the Tory Party over Europe. 

For now Mrs Thatcher remains the only post-war Conservative Prime Minister to win three successive terms, and this demonstration of her iron will makes one thing abundantly clear: Vivat Thatcher Regina.
EGG: It's time for a third way in British politics

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Education Secretary Errol George-Grosjean pictured at an event with Mrs Thatcher.

An editorial by Errol George-Grosjean

Where do we stand? Where are we going? These questions, natural for a party who has been in government for more than a decade, are on the lips of every Conservative across the country. Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, one of prosperity and freedom but also, lately, of division and rancour, casts a looming shadow over the future of the Conservative Party. What shall we decide to do? Where does Britain need us to lead? A cursory investigation of our current position, domestic and foreign, will reveal that the answer is a pragmatic one. Furthermore, with the Labour Party appearing ready to cast off the appearances of moderation and embrace, once again, the full-throated cries of socialist government, it is all the more necessary that the Conservative Party that ushers in this new decade be committed to the principles which have served us, and the country, so well as we grew from the sick man of Europe into a world leader.

The principles of which I write, namely freedom, justice, and prosperity, are now, as ever, the winning formula for the country as for the Conservative Party. We must recall that when we came to government in 1979, the country was a mess. Trash lay rotting on the street as unions held the everyday, ordinary citizens over a barrel; the economy was in a constant state of collapse; the Empire had crumbled and Britain was seen not as a world leader, but as a pariah. In the intervening years, the Conservative Party has championed Britain; we have put a stop to the ceaseless striking of socialist unions, created a leading first-world economy, and shown the world that modern Britain is still a world leader. But there is more to be done.

Today, the economy is perilously close to collapse. While inflation continues to rise, growth has all but stalled. In our streets, we see a worrying increase in violent crime, antisocial behaviour, and rioting. Terrorists, who seek to divide and destroy our beloved union, are becoming ever more brazen once again even to the point of killing government ministers. Although our reforms have produced an overwhelmingly positive new vision for Britain, there are still those who, for reasons ideological, would rather drag us back to the doldrums I described above.

But for all of our success, we must be honest with ourselves and accept that not all of our reforms have been positive. The Community Charge comes to mind as a severe miscalculation and wrong-headed approach to a legitimate problem. We cannot be so proud as to bullishly continue to move forward, when doing so is to move in the wrong direction. Likewise, unintended consequences of the great opening of our markets and the vast deregulations have led to many falling between the cracks. We can, and must, do better if we aim to stay in the people’s good graces. 

In the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, our party is now at a crossroads. Many of the pundits and talking heads of the day will tell you that the choices are between carrying on as Margaret would have carried on, or reversing course. I believe there is another way. John Henry Newman, one of England’s greatest minds of the nineteenth century, wrote of a Via media-- a middle way. What I propose today is a Via tertia--a third way. If our party, and our country, is ever to be united around a common cause, then it must be done by transcending the politics of left and right, wet and dry, and achieving a politics of truth and goodness.

Where do we stand? Where are we going? I propose to you that we stand at a crossroads, and that the answer to the second question is of paramount importance. It will define the future of our party and our country. Will we continue to lead, brazenly, unflinchingly, fearlessly, into the new millennium; or will we enter another wilderness or infighting, backbiting, and, ultimately, failing? I am taking on the challenge, head on, and running to be leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party because I believe that our party’s best chance is to leave behind the petty squabbles of wet and dry and to do what is best for the country, for the people, and for the party. I hope that you will join me over the course of this campaign as I make the case for a strong, compassionate Conservative Party. 

Errol George-Grosjean is the Secretary of State for Education and Member of Parliament for New Forest. He is currently running for the leadership of the Conservative Party. He is affiliated with the Bow Group and Conservative Way Forward and is ordained a priest in the Church of England.
Maggie’s with MacBeath

Downing Street sources revealed that Margaret Thatcher has begun making calls to her supporters in Parliament, urging them to support Mr Drummond-MacBeath, a young backbencher, for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Initially believed to hope for John Major to enter the leadership contest, the Prime Minister is confident in her decision to support Mr Drummond-MacBeath following a conversation between the two.

“He just gets it,” said one of her allies. “The past eleven years were about rescuing Britain from the abyss and then fundamentally changing Britain – rolling back the frontiers of the state to build a low-tax enterprise economy. Marcus [Drummond-MacBeath] understands and supports what we must do to continue that change.”

Sources close to the Prime Minister said she was particularly, given the context of the leadership election, concerned about Europe and was elated by Mr Drummond-MacBeath’s thoughts. “The notion that the Single European Act should be a finish line, not a jumping off point practically made her swoon,” said someone familiar with the meeting. She is said to be a little concerned that Drummond-MacBeath would put any treaty up to a referendum, but ultimately settled on the idea that “no treaty [she] wouldn’t sign would make it to a referendum” and that, if one did, “he knows who he’ll answer to.”

Speaking at a brief cocktail party at Downing Street, the Prime Minister was even quoted as saying that, “The next Bruges speech will be happening in December, this time in Rome” with Mr Drummond-MacBeath at the helm.

Alan Clark, the Defence Secretary, spoke after leaving the party at Downing Street, saying, “We need leadership that will stand up for everything we’ve fought so hard to build. I speak for a number of people when I say that Mr Drummond-MacBeath is the man for that. His belief in the core tenants of what we’ve built will keep us on course for a fourth general election victory.” When asked if the Prime Minister was giving her full-throated support to Mr Drummond-MacBeath, Mr Clark said, "Those are your words, not mine," with a cheeky wink.