Maggie's Men: her first cabinet in 1979

LEFT TO RIGHT, STANDING:

Michael Jopling, parliamentary secretary to the Treasury (chief whip), 1979-83, later agriculture secretary

Made a life peer in 1997, and father of BritArt super-dealer Jay Jopling. A grandee: Alan Clark claimed he dismissed Heseltine as a man who "bought all his own furniture".

Norman Fowler, transport secretary 1979-81, later social services secretary and then employment secretary

First minister to resign from the cabinet "to spend more time with my family" in 1990; later returned to spend more time with his colleagues as party chairman. Life peer, 2001; currently chairman of Lords communications committee.

John Biffen, chief secretary to the Treasury 1979-81. Later trade secretary, Lord President of the Council, leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal

Sacked after 1987 election, Biffen was a much-liked economic dry with a maverick streak. Bernard Ingham once described him as a "semi-detached member of the cabinet". Life peer, died in 2007.

David Howell, energy secretary 1979-81, later transport secretary

Now deputy Tory leader in the Lords, Howell is father-in-law to the shadow chancellor, George Osborne. Credited with having introduced the idea of privatisation in the late 1960s.

Norman St John-Stevas, Leader of the Commons, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1979-81

Responsible for creating select committees, but better known for coming up with "the Great She-Elephant" and "the Leaderene". Sacked in 1981. Ran Royal Fine Art Commission and was Master of Emmanuel, Cambridge.

Humphrey Atkins, Northern Ireland secretary 1979-81; later Lord Privy Seal

Affable man who was NI secretary during the IRA hunger strikes, he resigned with Lord Carrington over the 1982 Falklands invasion. Stood down 1987. Life peer; died 1996.

George Younger, Scottish secretary 1979-86, later defence secretary

One of Thatcher's longest-serving cabinet members, he also ran her leadership campaigns in 1989 and 1990. He resigned from parliament in 1992 to become chairman of RBS, becoming a life peer the same year. He died of cancer in 2003.

Michael Heseltine, environment secretary 1979-83; later defence secretary and Major's deputy PM

Millionaire publisher who brandished the Mace at Labour MPs in opposition. "Tarzan" resigned in 1986; his leadership challenge in 1990 led to Thatcher's downfall.

Nicholas Edwards, Welsh secretary 1979-87

In cabinet until he resigned in 1987, when he became a life peer. Has the distinction of being the only Tory Welsh secretary to have sat for a constituency in Wales.

Patrick Jenkin, health and social security secretary 1979-81; later industry secretary, then environment secretary

At Environment, Jenkin had many battles with local councils, whose power was reduced under Thatcher. Made a life peer in 1987; his son Bernard Jenkin is a Tory MP. Both are descended from Fleeming Jenkin, inventor of the cable car.

John Nott, trade secretary 1979-81, then defence secretary

Stormed off Question Time when labelled a "here today, gone tomorrow" politician by the host, Robin Day. Nott stepped down from politics in 1983 and was knighted the same year. He now lives in Cornwall, where he farms.

Mark Carlisle, education and science secretary 1979-81

Sacked from the cabinet in 1981 as one of the "wets", later life peer and judge in the Channel Islands. Clare Short decided to become an MP after working for him as a civil servant and thinking she could do better. Died in 2005.

Angus Maude, paymaster general 1979-81

Outspoken, sacked from shadow cabinet in the 1960s, was an early Thatcher supporter. Father of Francis Maude, junior minister under John Major. Resigned 1983. Life peer; died 1993.

Sir John Hunt, Baron Hunt: cabinet secretary 1973-79

A senior civil servant, Hunt stepped down as cabinet secretary the year Thatcher became PM, and was made a life peer in 1980. Later chairman of the Disasters Emergency Committee. He died in 2008.

LEFT TO RIGHT, SEATED:

Sir Ian Gilmour, Lord Privy Seal 1979-81

Urbane One Nation Tory. A baronet who once owned the Spectator, he had an acrimonious relationship with Thatcher. Was sacked in 1981. Remained on back benches until 1992, opposing policies such as the poll tax. Life peer; died in 2007.

Christopher Soames, Baron Soames: Lord President of the Council 1979-81

Winston Churchill's son-in-law, a vice-president of the European Commission and the last governor of Southern Rhodesia. He died from pancreatitis in 1987.

Sir Keith Joseph, industry secretary 1979-1981, later education secretary

Considered by many to be the driving intellectual force behind Thatcherism, he stepped down from the cabinet in 1986 and retired from parliament at the 1987 election. Died in December 1994.

Peter Carrington, Lord Carrington: foreign and overseas development secretary 1979-82

Last hereditary peer to hold one of the great offices of state. In cabinet under Heath and Douglas-Home. Resigned at the outbreak of the Falklands War, holding himself responsible for the failure to deter the Argentinian invasion. Nato secretary general, 1984-88.

William Whitelaw, home secretary 1979-83; later leader of the House of Lords, Lord President of the Council and deputy prime minister

Initially challenged Thatcher for the Conservative party leadership in 1979, but became famous for his loyalty to her, which she rewarded with the words: "Every prime minister needs a Willie." After the 1983 general election became a viscount, the last commoner to be created a hereditary peer.

Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham: Lord Chancellor 1979-87

Author of The Case for Conservatism in 1947. Theatrical barrister who had hoped to succeed Harold Macmillan as Tory leader in the 1960s. Author of the phrase "elective dictatorship", later much used about Margaret Thatcher, in 1976. He died in 2001.

Sir Geoffrey Howe, chancellor of the Exchequer 1979-83. Later foreign secretary, leader of the Commons, deputy prime minister

So somnolent in appearance and delivery that Denis Healey said being attacked by him was like "being savaged by a dead sheep", Howe was responsible for bold fiscal policies as chancellor. His resignation was followed swiftly by Thatcher's.

Francis Pym, defence secretary 1979-81, then foreign secretary

Leading Tory "wet" who lost his job after warning against over-large Commons majorities. Descended from the Roundhead John Pym, he stood down in 1987. Life peer; died 2008.

James Prior, employment secretary 1979-81; later Northern Ireland secretary

Avuncular figure who angered Thatcher by not being hard enough on the trade unions when employment secretary. Was demoted to NI instead. Stood down in 1987; made a life peer.

Peter Walker, agriculture minister, 1979-83; later energy secretary and Welsh secretary

A close ally of Edward Heath and founder of the Tory Reform Group. As energy secretary, was criticised by Thatcher for a supposed lack of zeal during the 1984-85 miners' strike, but was the only wet to serve in all her cabinets.

Research by Kate Ferguson and David Patrikarakos

This article first appeared in the 02 March 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Thatcher: 30 years on, the final verdict

Ralph Steadman for the New Statesman.
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Tim Farron: Theresa May is "the prisoner of the Ukip wing of her party"

The Liberal Democrat leader on his faith, Blairism and his plan to replace Labour as the opposition. 

This is Tim Farron’s seventh general election. His first was in 1992, when his Tory opponent was a 36-year-old called Ther­esa May. He was just 21 and they were both unsuccessful candidates in the Labour fortress of North-West Durham. He recalls talking “to a bunch of ex-miners who weren’t best pleased to see either of us, some kid Liberal and some Tory”. Now he sees his former and current opponent as “the prisoner of the Ukip wing of her party . . . I think it has rendered Ukip almost pointless – she is Ukip now.”

May was elected to parliament in 1997, but it took Farron until 2005 to join her. She leads the dominant Conservatives while he heads a party of only nine Liberal Democrat MPs. Still, their reversal of fortunes gives him hope. “After the 1992 election, every­one said there’s no way for a non-Tory government, and it turned out there was. So let’s not assume it’s a given there’s a Tory government [for ever].”

In April, I accompanied Farron to Manchester Gorton, in the lead-up to a by-election that was cancelled by May’s decision to call a snap election on 8 June. Still, the 46-year-old’s party has been in campaign mode for months; Lib Dems spoke of using last December’s Richmond Park by-election to test their messaging. It clearly had an effect: the incumbent Conservative, Zac Goldsmith, lost to their candidate, Sarah Olney.

Brexit, to which the Liberal Democrats are vehemently opposed, will be a dominant theme of the election. Their party membership has just exceeded 100,000, close to an all-time high, and they have enjoyed much success in council by-elections, with more to come in the local elections of 4 May.

However, any feel-good factor swiftly evaporated when Farron appeared on Channel 4 News on 18 April. He was asked by the co-presenter Cathy Newman whether or not he believes that homosexuality is a sin, a question that he answered obliquely in 2015 by saying that Christianity started with acknowledging that “we’re all sinners”.

This time, he told Newman, he was “not in the position to make theological announcements over the next six weeks . . . as a Liberal, I’m passionate about equality”.

The Channel 4 interview divided opinion. One Liberal politician told me that Farron’s stance was “completely intolerable”. Stephen Pollard, the influential editor of the Jewish Chronicle, described it as
“a very liberal position: he holds certain personal views but does not wish to legislate around them”. Jennie Rigg, the acting chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, said it was “as plain as the nose on my face that Tim Farron is no homophobe”.

Farron declined the chance to clarify his views with us in a follow-up phone call, but told the BBC on 25 April: “I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,” adding, “On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.”

For his critics, Farron’s faith and politics are intertwined. He sees it differently, as he told Christian Today in 2015: “. . . the danger is sometimes that as a Christian in politics you think your job is to impose your morality on other people. It absolutely isn’t.”

Tim Farron joined the then Liberal Party at the age of 16 but didn’t become a Christian until he was 18. Between completing his A-levels in Lancashire and going to Newcastle University to read politics, he read the apologetics, a body of Christian writing that provides reasoned arguments for the gospel story. “I came to the conclusion that it was true,” he told me. “It wasn’t just a feel-good story.”

In speeches, Farron now takes on the mannerisms of a preacher, but he had a largely non-religious upbringing in Preston, Lancashire. “I don’t think I’d been to church once other than Christmas or the odd wedding,” he says. “I went once with my dad when I was 11, for all the good that did me.”

When we meet, it is Theresa May’s religion that is in the spotlight. She has condemned the National Trust for scrubbing the word “Easter” from its Easter egg hunt, a row it later emerged had been largely invented by the right-wing press in response to a press release from a religious-themed chocolate company.

“It’s worth observing there’s no mention of chocolate or bunny rabbits in the Bible,” Farron reminds me. “When people get cross about, in inverted commas, ‘us losing our Christian heritage’ they mean things which are safe and comfortable and nostalgic.” He pauses. “But the Christian message at Easter is shocking, actually, and very radical.”

British politics is tolerant of atheists (such as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg) alongside those who, like David Cameron, are culturally Christian but whose faith is “a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes”. But the reaction to Farron’s equivocation on homosexuality prompted many to wonder if a politician who talks openly about his faith is now seen as alarming. Nebulous wishes of peace and love at Christmas, yes; sincere discussions of the literal truth of the Resurrection? Hmm.

Tim Farron’s beliefs matter because he has a mission: to replace not only Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition but Theresa May in Downing Street. Over lassis at the MyLahore curry house in Manchester, he tells me that Britain is facing two calamities. “One is Brexit, indeed hard Brexit . . . and the other is a Tory government for 25 years. We have to present a genuine, progressive alternative that can not only replace Labour as an opposition, it can replace the Tories as a government.” This is ambitious talk for a party with nine MPs. “I understand the ridicule that will be thrown at me for saying those things: but if you don’t want to run the country, why are you in politics?” He pauses. “That’s a question I would ask most people leading the Labour Party at present.”

What does he think of May, his one-time opponent in North-West Durham? “She strikes me as being very professional, very straightforward, somebody who is very conservative in every sense of the word, in her thought processes, her politics, in her style.” He recalls her 2002 conference speech in which she warned Tory activists: “Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us: the nasty party.”

“In many ways, she was the trailblazer for Cameron in being a softer-focused Tory,” he says. “It now looks like she’s been trapped by the very people she was berating as the nasty party all those years ago. I like to think that isn’t really her. But that means she isn’t really in control of the Conservative Party.”

Voters, however, seem to disagree. In recent polls, support for the Conservatives has hovered between 40 and 50 per cent. Isn’t a progressive alliance the only way to stop her: Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru all working together to beat the Tories?

“Let’s be really blunt,” he says. “Had Jeremy Corbyn stood down for us in Richmond Park [where Labour stood Christian Wolmar], we would not have won. I could have written Zac Goldsmith’s leaflets for you: Corbyn-backed Liberal Democrats.

“I’m a pluralist,” he adds. “But any progressive alliance has got to be at least equal to the sum of its parts. At the moment, it would be less than the sum of its parts. The only way the Tories are losing their majority is us gaining seats in Hazel Grove –” he ticks them off with his fingers, “– in Cheadle, in the West Country and west London. There’s no chance of us gaining those seats if we have a kind of arrangement with the current Labour Party in its current form.”

What about the SNP? “Most sensible people would look at that SNP manifesto and agree with 99 per cent of it,” Farron says. “But it’s that one thing: they want to wreck the country! How can you do a deal with people who want to wreck the country?”

There’s no other alternative, he says. Someone needs to step up and offer “something that can appeal to progressive younger voters, pro-Europeans and, you know, moderate-thinking Middle England”. He wants to champion a market economy, strong public services, action on climate change, internationalism and free trade.

That sounds like Blairism. “I’m a liberal, and I don’t think Blair was a liberal,” he replies. “But I admire Blair because he was somebody who was able to win elections . . . Iraq aside, my criticisms of Blair are what he didn’t do, rather than what he did do.”

Turning around the Tory tide – let alone with just nine MPs, and from third place – is one hell of a job. But Farron takes heart from the Liberal Party in Canada, where Justin Trudeau did just that. “I’m not Trudeau,” he concedes, “He was better-looking, and his dad was prime minister.”

There is a reason for his optimism. “I use the analogy of being in a maze,” he says, “You can’t see a way out of it, for a progressive party to form a majority against the Tories. But in every maze, there is a way out. We just haven’t found it yet.” 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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