UK

Geoffrey Howe On Margaret Thatcher, Why The Former Prime Minister Was Like 'Napoleon'

18/04/2013 20:00 BST | Updated 18/04/2013 20:09 BST

Geoffrey Howe, the former Tory minister whose resignation speech is credited for hastening the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, has compared the recently deceased ex-Prime Minister to Napoleon, saying she would be glad to "still have enemies".

In an obituary written for The House Magazine, Lord Howe said: "Napoleon is alleged to have remarked that the greatest happiness that can befall any politician is, one hundred years after his (or her) death, still to have enemies.

"Margaret would hope for and expect no less. She is and will remain controversial precisely because she was so important.”

geoffrey howe

Thatcher talking to Howe during the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton in 1980

And he is unrepentant about the claims he made in his resignation speech, which drove a knife into the deep split that had formed in the party. He said he still believes the then Prime Minister's policy on the European Monetary System was a risk to the economy.

He said: "It is still a source of deep sorrow to me that the triumph of the Thatcher years should have been marred by the tragedy of her later, sometimes less considered, stances on key issues.

"The withdrawal of support that Margaret suffered in November 1990 was a consequence of an increasing perception among her colleagues that the very single-mindedness, which had for so long achieved so much, was now running risks for her party and country."

In his resignation speech as Deputy Prime Minister in 1990, Howe said: "I believe that both the Chancellor and the governor are cricketing enthusiasts, so I hope that there is no monopoly of cricketing metaphors. It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain."

Two week later, the Iron Lady had resigned.

Howe said in his interview with the magazine: "Margaret Thatcher’s success in addressing and reversing Britain’s economic decline, and in restoring our self-confidence as a nation, gave us hope in the future and renewed our standing and influence in the world.

"There was a virtuous circle of growing prosperity and rising global power that lay at the heart of the “Thatcher revolution” for much of her time as Prime Minister.

"It was my privilege, successively as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary, to work as one of her closest colleagues, in building what I called at the time the ‘Conservative revival of Britain’."

He paid tribute to Thatcher's "clear thinking and political courage in advocating and supporting the difficult, often deeply unpopular, measures necessary to regain control over the public finances, control inflation, liberalise the economy, incentivise work, reduce state ownership and, critically, confront trade-union power."

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