Tuesday, 9 April 2013
RIP Margaret Thatcher
Everyone in Britain today has been influenced by Margaret Thatcher. We'll remember her for different reasons; some for the national pride stirred up by the Falklands War, others for dark periods such as the Miner's Strike and Poll Tax Riots. Yet from 1979 onwards, she defined the culture of Britain and laid a foundation that successive governments, both Conservative and Labour, have built upon.
Whilst you may or may not agree with Thatcher's political position, what we can all learn from is her gift for public speaking. So many good people and good politicians have excellent ideas and want desperately to make the world a better place, but without the ability to stand up and have the courage of their convictions, their voices go unheard. Whatever you say about Thatcher, her voice never went unheard.
From the day in 1979 when she won the general election, she honed her public speaking skills. Maybe it was a combination of education and experience that made the pitch of her voice deeper and her intonation more commanding, or maybe it was the growing confidence that she felt in office.
She is possibly best remembered for her line, “The lady's not for turning”, which in itself reveals one of the reasons that she was so compelling as a Prime Minister – she wasn't afraid to speak her mind and stick to it. Rather than change with the tide of public opinion, she stuck to her principles, even in the face of severe pressure to do otherwise. Whilst Poll Tax was hugely unpopular at the time, she perhaps recognised that people will always resist change and continued, with some adjustments, to press ahead with social reforms that have given us local government today that has to justify how it spends our money and which we can hold accountable. Her ability to hold her ground during every debate and press interview shows courage but also something that we can all learn to do; once she made a decision about a course of action, she stuck to it. I've seen so many presenters 'change tack' when they think the audience isn't 'with them', and all they achieve is to lose credibility. Whether you liked Thatcher's policies or not, at least you knew what they were, which is something that is hard to say about many of today's politicians.
Another area where Thatcher excelled was in branding. She made the conservative party stand out and gave it an identity. She knew that being the first female Prime Minister gave her a distinct advantage over her predecessors, and she took full advantage of that, linking the branding of the party to her own personal image. Her trademark hairstyle was echoed in the flame of the party's new torch logo, which was used long after she stepped down as party leader, showing that she continued to influence the party for many years after Labour came to power.
Whatever your personal recollections of Thatcher, the world has lost a leader who had a unique ability to reach out and speak to the nation, communicating her steadfastness during some very challenging times. No matter how unpopular her message, she always showed the courage of her convictions and that gave the people of Britain a sense of direction which, arguably, we have not seen since.