They say that’s what Margaret Thatcher said, the day she fell. I was in the small crowd that watched as the car brought her back from the Commons to Downing Street, a self-conscious little crowd, split about fifty-fifty between sympathisers and opponents, the sort of crowd from which occasional shouts pop out like kittens nervously venturing forth from a cardboard box. I did not shout either to jeer or console; I was only there because at the time I worked in the Treasury building in the next street and wanted to see a little history being made.
It might cheer up any American readers saddened by the result of the recent US election to recall that the first shot in the fusillade that brought the Prime Minister down was this:
On 1 November 1990 Geoffrey Howe, the last remaining member of Thatcher’s original 1979 cabinet, resigned from his position as Deputy Prime Minister over her refusal to agree to a timetable for Britain to join the European single currency.
Howe thought he was making straight the path down which the forces of modernity would march, but he didn’t know the future any more than Thatcher did, or you, or I. I’ll tell you something, though, his political delusion on 1 November 1990 regarding the desirability of currency union looks a lot more foolish now than her personal delusion that she would still have the key to No.10 Downing Street a few weeks later.
That’s the trouble with the future. It won’t stay put.
Today we are hearing much (in tones of glee or despair) about how “a permanent Democratic majority” is emerging, an oligarchy dispensing patronage to fiefdoms of class and race that will only fall when the money runs out, and then with vast misery and perhaps bloodshed. Similar predictions are made for the UK and other developed countries. I do fear that, but a tempering memory, again from my Treasury days in the early nineties, is of seeing earnest policy papers written by Conservative MPs who worried that in order to preserve democracy it might be needful for the Conservative party to split into two, because it was obvious that Labour was never getting back in.
I cannot say quite what I am aiming to do in this post, other than possibly bore some harried souls into tranquility with my recollections des élections perdues and similar political ups and downs. Just saying, it’s a funny old world.