Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

On Tuesday night, at a Spectator readers' evening, Andrew Neil interviewed me about my biography of Margaret Thatcher. He asked me if, after leaving office, Lady Thatcher had come to the view that Britain should leave the European Union. I said yes (I think it happened after the Maastricht Treaty in 1992), although advisers had persuaded her that she should not say this in public since it would have allowed her opponents to drive her to the fringes of public life. I had believed this was widely known, but according to Andrew, it is a story. My revelation, if such it was, came on the same day as Nigel Lawson's piece in the Times saying that he would now vote for Britain to leave the EU. How things have changed. Even the BBC treats Lawson's view as respectable. In this year, the 25th anniversary of the Bruges speech, people can see much more clearly that, far from living in 'a ghetto of sentimentality about the past' (copyright Geoffrey Howe), she was thinking harder than her contemporaries about the future of Europe.

Counter-factual questions tend to reflect current preoccupations.

The one I keep being asked just now is, 'If Mrs Thatcher were in politics today, would she be a supporter of Ukip?' This is always asked as a question expecting the answer 'Yes'. After giving the necessary preliminary that one really cannot tell, because if Mrs Thatcher were around today she would not be the same woman, I tentatively answer 'No'. For her, loyalty was a higher value within a political party than any particular idea at any particular time. Thus, although she always preferred Enoch Powell and his views to Ted Heath and his, she could never accept Enoch's reasons for leaving the Tory party. She also understood very well that parties should be vehicles for attaining power rather than mere expressions of belief.

She would never have joined a party which could not win a general election.

Now that virtually any well-known male entertainer of a certain age is arrested for alleged sexual offences, it is becoming clear that this is more a culture war than a set of proper criminal investigations. This does not necessarily mean that all the allegations are false - look at Stuart Hall - but it does suggest that a new way has been found of ruining people's reputations before anyone has established their guilt. The undeniable fact that so many of the men accused wore deplorable clothes in public all through the 1970s is not, in itself, proof of iniquity.

Enraged by Leveson, the press argue that naming people being investigated for sex crimes is a brilliant way of smoking them out. Possibly it is, but it is also an unfair process because the anonymous accusers can do damage with impunity. The new doctrine that one must believe victims assumes that anyone who says he or she is a victim is. It gives legal force to the old feminist claim that 'All men are rapists'.

Even the less irrational cry that 'All elderly presenters from popular BBC kiddies' programmes are rapists' cannot be true. …

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