My Great Debt to Margaret Thatcher, by Millionaire Macdonald; NEW LABOUR MINISTER REVEALS HOW TORY PREMIER TRANSFORMED HIS OUTLOOK

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Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

LABOUR'S new Scottish Industry Minister Gus Macdonald stunned political opponents yesterday by naming Baroness Thatcher as one of his political mentors.

The Scottish National Party seized on his remarks and said it was amazing he could praise the former Prime Minister who had treated Scotland so badly.

Mr Macdonald, a former Young Socialist who worked in the Clydeside shipyards, admitted ditching his Leftist views after coming into contact with the ideas of Lady Thatcher and her then ideological guru Sir Keith Joseph.

His friend from their days as hard-Left activists, Jimmy Reid, said Mr Macdonald had made a gaffe which reflected New Labour's political direction.

The millionaire former chairman of the Scottish Media Group - which owns Scottish Television, the Glasgow Herald and Evening Times - has only been in his new job a week and yesterday was his first full day meeting the Press as a Minister.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Eye to Eye programme, Mr Macdonald said he had been hard Left throughout the Seventies, condemning market theory as 'authoritarian'.

But he said: 'It became clear to me, reading in the Eighties, that there was another strand of libertarian economics if you like, some of which was adopted by Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher.

'This argued that that kind of democratic capitalism could enhance people's lives much more so than state control and centralised planning which, sadly, despite all our ideals about it, turned out often to be captured by elites and to be used just to exploit ordinary people.' Mr Macdonald said he was very pleased New Labour had placed such a strong emphasis on tackling the social exclusion of the poor.

But when asked whether many of those who were now excluded from taking an active part in society through poverty had been driven out by Thatcherism, he said: 'Yes they may have been but on balance, in the end, that kind of market-driven economy will enhance people's life chances and increase prosperity.

'There is no model I can see of that kind of centralised planning, that would do better. …