The time Margaret Thatcher was empty chaired by the broadcasters

by Stephen Tall on March 5, 2015

Lord Ashdown told the BBC the PM’s decision to offer a one-debate ultimatum was “unbelievable” and said he couldn’t imagine Margaret Thatcher refusing to take part. (The Independent, 5th March 2015)

This is, of course, rubbish. Here’s The Lady herself in 1979, rejecting a debate with the Labour prime minister, James Callaghan:

“I believe that issues and policies decide elections, not personalities. We should stick to that approach. We are not electing a President, we are choosing a government.”

thatcher 1975And indeed when she was fighting for the Tory leadership in 1975 she refused to take part in a Panorama special, in which the other four candidates to succeed Edward Heath all participated. (You can watch it on the BBC here.)

Why did she risk being empty chaired? On the advice of her PR guru, Gordon Reece, as his Telegraph obituary notes:

Reece had been advising the Conservative Party on all aspects of broadcasting since 1967, but he came into his own when Mrs Thatcher challenged Edward Heath for the party leadership in 1975. He advised her as to the television programmes on which she should – and should not – appear during the contest. He approved her participation – with shots of her washing-up in a pinafore at home – in the Granada Television programme which preceded the first ballot, and then vetoed her appearance on Panorama before the next ballot. On her election as party leader he became Mrs Thatcher’s full-time adviser.

And, as we all know, Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to appear on that Panorama in 1975 effectively ended her career.

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One comment

One recalls that the only candidate in the 2000 election of the Speaker who did not take part in the pre-election examination by MPs was the eventual winner, Michael Martin.

by Frank Little on March 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm. Reply #

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