“Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice”

These words were Margaret Thatcher’s response when told that Port Stanley had been re-taken and that the Falklands Islands were back under British control.  They also seemed the ideal injunction as we celebrated the Twentieth anniversary of her famous Bruges speech, at a glittering Bruges Group dinner at the Grosvenor Hotel in London in October 27th.  Her speech in The College of Europe in Bruges in September 1988 set out a very moderate vision of Europe — of an association of democratic, sovereign, independent nations cooperating and freely trading together.  That is the kind of Europe which most Conservatives — most of the British people — want.  Yet it was sufficient to motivate the Europhiles in the Party to plan her political assassination — to their eternal shame.
 
And the Conservative Party was condemned for its matricide to an extended period in the wilderness, only now, pray heaven, coming to an end under David Cameron’s leadership.
 
There are still a few dyed-in-the-wool socialists who execrate the name of Margaret Thatcher.  I usually meet one or two on the street or on the doorstep during an election campaign — “I’d never vote for your lot after what Maggie did to the miners!”.  Most people, though, with the benefit of hindsight, applaud her courage in standing up for British interests, and against vested interests; in turning around our economy so that “the sick man of Europe” became a beacon and a watchword for the rest (a position now undermined by eleven years of Labour); and in winning a small but closely-fought war which we can look back on with pride.
 
That was her legacy: a pride in our country which many of us wanted to feel, but found difficult to evoke in a pre-Thatcher age when we all of us — government, civil service, people — had accepted that the orderly management of decline was the best we could aspire to.  She not only gave us hope.  She showed us how better times could be delivered.
 
So it was with huge pride and satisfaction that I attended the dinner on the 27th.  Lady Thatcher was there, obviously frail and elderly, but on her feet.  And I was delighted to be able to get a picture with her.  I had met Denis Thatcher in Malacca during the 1988 Commonwealth heads of Government conference in Kuala Lumpur.  Not surprisingly, Sir Denis had not been keen to join the other HoGs’ spouses on a sight-seeing trip, so the high commission sent him down to my textile factory in Malacca for the day.  I remember that I met Margaret herself in Seoul, Korea, perhaps in 1991, at a breakfast organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Seoul.
 
I could wish that I had known her better.  But I know very well what she achieved, and I am delighted to salute a great Lady.  We shall not see her like again.

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