Margaret spoke, and I was smitten

Just as our parents remember where they were when John F Kennedy was assassinated, so do those of us of a certain persuasion recall our whereabouts when Margaret became our first woman prime minister. I was in "Big Hall" at Heatherdown Preparatory School, recovering from having been rammed in the back with a lead pencil by my subsection commander (Heatherdown was big on posture), when the headmaster, Mr Edwards, or "Ed", waltzed in to the riotous assembly and announced: "Normal service has been resumed." Those of us who knew of what he spake cheered. The majority continued to look glum. I seem to recall Cameron not even looking up from the game of Top Trumps he was playing with Getty mi.

She asked for Dick Cheney at her table but I failed to get this past David

Everyone took notice, however, when Ed said that the historic occasion would be marked with an impromptu half-holiday and that, to celebrate the Tory victory, as was traditional, there would be a Staff v School cricket match. It proved to be an idyllic afternoon. I sat on the boundary's edge near the chauffeurs' lavatory (sports day was fast approaching and the jakes would be divided into Ladies, Gentlemen and Chauffeurs) surreptitiously listening to the ongoing political analysis on a secret radio. Out on the pitch, a future king of Bhutan was bowling, Ed was coasting towards another century, and David, if memory serves, was fielding third man. In my ear, I could hear Margaret declaiming, "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony . . ." I was smitten.

Thirty years on, and it falls to me to organise the set-piece dinner for the celebrations. There will be other, more public affairs but, without being falsely modest, the one I will be hosting on the evening of 4 May at the country seat ("Big Hall" as David and I amusingly call it) is the pinnacle.

Preparations are already well in hand. The plan is to invite 500 for drinks with 144 staying on for dinner. Each table will be named after a year of her premiership, and will hold 12 disciples, all of whom will receive a blue plaque inscribed with a brief summation of Margaret's achievements during their particular year. The top table (1982, obviously) will run across "Main Wall" in the Dining Room. At its centre (in the Jesus position, I suppose) will sit Margaret. To her left will be David and on her right my father. Technically, this should be my seat, but it was my father who convinced Sir Keith Joseph that not even dyed-in-the-wool Tories would vote for him in a general election and opened the door for Margaret's leadership campaign. The old goat deserves his moment.

Others inked in for 1982 include George H W Bush, the Duke of Edinburgh and the always delightful Lucy Pinochet. Pencilled in are the Reagan entourage, Norman Tebbit, Tom Stoppard and, to add a touch of glamour, Carol Vorderman. Margaret asked for Dick Cheney to be at her table but I failed to get this past David. "The last thing I need, G D, is to be photographed wearing white tie next to a drunk Dick Cheney." This struck me as reasonable and I have unearthed a lookalike and squirrelled him away on 1990 next to Jeremy Clarkson. Margaret will never know.

The problem, as ever, is Michael. Not Portillo, who will be billeted on 1989 (the year of Sir Anthony Meyer's leadership challenge) with Hague and IDS and other flawed heirs to the crown, but Ashcroft. Frankly, if money counted, as it tends to when you have been, and are, on the cusp of bankruptcy, my father would be vacating his position to make way for the Lord of Belize. Which would please Margaret - she has always enjoyed the company of the self-made and self-educated - but is otherwise problematic. An invitation, once sent, is hard to rescind and who knows where we will be in May? As compensation, I am in the process of arranging a private dinner for Mike at which Margaret might auction off some memorabilia.

Thatcher by Numbers

  • 196,000

    miners on strike in November 1984

  • 27 million

    working days lost to strike action in 1984

  • 3 million

    schoolchildren who stopped receiving free milk after the Milk Snatcher's 1971 reforms

  • 45p

    prescription charge per item, 1979

  • £2.40

    prescription charge per item, 1987

  • £53.8bn

    GDP in fourth quarter, 1979

  • £111.45bn

    GDP in fourth quarter, 1987

  • £89.60

    average weekly earnings, 1979

  • £198.90

    average weekly earnings, 1987

  • £263.10

    average weekly earnings, 1990

  • 250

    points FTSE Index fell on Black Monday (19 October 1987)

  • 1

    MP jailed for refusing to pay the poll tax

  • 12

    members of government (out of 21) who didn't back Thatcher in 1990 against Heseltine

  • 36%

    share of total disposable income received by top fifth of households, 1979

  • 41%

    share of total disposable income received by top fifth of households, 1990

  • 4.8

    GDP percentage point shrinkage between 1979 and 1980

  • £700m

    cost of Falklands War

  • 3.3 million

    number unemployed in 1986 - the highest since the Depression

  • 27

    female MPs in 1979

  • 43

    female MPs in 1990

  • 1.27 million

    council houses sold under "right to buy"

  • 18%

    inflation in 1980

  • 4.2%

    inflation in 1987

  • 9.5%

    inflation in 1990

  • 65%

    proportion of public that backed negotiations over the Falklands

  • 33

    Thatcher's age on entering Commons

  • 2

    her shopping sprees at M&S each year, according to Time magazine

  • 5

    hours of sleep a night she reportedly took

  • 700,000

    people on NHS waiting lists in 1987, longest in the EEC

  • Research by Kate Ferguson

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