Speaking during the special Parliamentary debate, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown pays tribute to the achievements of Baroness Thatcher.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): It is an honour to be called to speak on behalf of my constituents on this very sad day. In paying tribute to Margaret Thatcher, I would also like to pay tribute to someone who has hardly been mentioned in the debate: her late husband, Denis. There is no doubt that, without Denis, Margaret Thatcher would not have achieved all that she did. She was not only a great wife, but a great mother to her two children, and I send them my condolences today.
Margaret Thatcher was probably this country’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister. That is why I and a number of colleagues are here in the House today. We were inspired by Margaret Thatcher. There has been a certain amount of revisionism by one or two Opposition Members today about the malaise of the 1970s, but if they look at what really happened and at the mess this country was in when she took over in 1979, they will see the huge achievement she brought to this country.
She brought a huge achievement not only to this country, but to the world. She overcame what Winston Churchill foresaw when he made his famous speech at Westminster college, Missouri, and talked about the descent of the iron curtain across the continent of Europe. She saw that and went ahead with her great friend and ally, Ronald Reagan, to form a united front against what he called the “evil empire.” We saw the breakdown of the iron curtain, and the people of Warsaw, Budapest, Bucharest, Tallinn and many other European capitals have a lasting reason to be incredibly grateful to her. I do an awful lot of work for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which works to build democracy around the world, an initiative that Margaret Thatcher started, for which I am extremely grateful.
The second time I encountered her was at the Conservative party conference in 1984. We were woken by an enormous bang just before 3 o’clock in the morning. It was, of course, the Brighton bomb. She came to the conference with fortitude and said that this nation’s will would never be broken by terrorism, and that led to the solution in Northern Ireland.
It was the grocer’s daughter from Grantham who broke the glass ceiling, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and proved that in this country someone can rise right from the bottom to the top, and that if they work hard and do the right thing, they can rise to the maximum of their ability. She found people who had been in unfortunate circumstances but who, through hard work, had formed businesses and got to the top in this country. We saw a property-owning democracy in this country. Many of the formerly nationalised industries were sold off under her watch and put into the private sector, where they are now flourishing as worldwide businesses. That social movement in this country is one of her huge legacies.
She made this country believe in itself after the Falklands war. Many people had said it could not be done, but she took the risk and we recaptured the Falklands, and I am delighted that a few days ago 98% of the Falkland Islanders voted to remain with this country—[Interruption.] It was 99%. I think that only three people voted against.
Politicians of Margaret Thatcher’s stature come about only once in a generation. She was the greatest peacetime Prime Minister.
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