MP leads tributes to the Iron Lady
PUBLISHED: 10:52 15 April 2013 | UPDATED: 10:54 15 April 2013
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LEADING Conservatives from Exmouth and across East Devon have paid tribute to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday aged 87.
East Devon MP and foreign office minister Hugo Swire said that history would look kindly on the Iron Lady and her legacy – which included transforming the country from one which was filled with uncompetitive “smokestack” industries in the grip of the unions into a prosperous modern state.
He said: “Even her detractors are forced to concede that she was a remarkable politician who transformed this country from being ‘the sick man of Europe’ in the late 1970s and 1980s – which was marked by strikes and the Winter of Discontent – to the competitive, thriving economy it today.
“She was a remarkable figure and was responsible for giving the country the confidence to stand up for its principles.
“She restored pride to this country during the Falklands War, enabled people to get on the property ladder for the first time by selling council houses, reformed the trade unions whose power had got out of control, and transformed the City of London into the economic powerhouse it is today.”
Mr Swire said that on a personal level Mrs Thatcher had been a tremendous influence, adding: “She was the defining statesman during my teenage years.
“I came to know her, although I was not in government with her.
“No other prime minister, not even Churchill, gave rise to an ‘ism’ [Thatcherism]. I found her to be kind and considerate and not the harsh unsympathetic figure her detractors painted her to be.
“I think she will go down as one of the most successful peacetime prime ministers of the 20th century.”
Exmouth mayor John Humphreys said Baroness Thatcher, a frequent visitor to the area, would be rembered fondly by Exmouth and Budleigh residents – and not only by the affluent but by the working class and working class Conservatives like himself.
He said: “At the age of 16 or 17 she gave me the confidence to go out into the world and start my own business.
“I started JT Gardeners at the age of 18 after being made redundant from Knowle Orchard in Budleigh.
“I remember at a conference Norman Tebbit [Mrs Thatcher’s secretary of state for employment in 1981] said if there wasn’t work ‘get on your bike’ and look for it. That’s exactly what I did – I knocked on doors and started a business.
“She inspired me to not only find employment for myself but I created employment for other people.”
East Devon-based MEP Giles Chichester said: “She was an absolute giant amongst Conservative MPs and amongst politicians and I admired her enormously.
“I was fortunate to have had some minor dealings with her.
“I deeply regret the actions of some Conservatives and I always felt she should have been given the chance to contest another election – it was for the people to decide if she remained prime minister.
“I was deeply impressed with her abilities and it is a very sad time.”