‘I picked Thatcher to stand as the Finchley MP in 1959’

Derek Phillips

Derek Phillips - Credit: Archant

A member of the Conservative committee that selected Margaret Thatcher to stand as MP for Finchley in 1959 has revealed how his determination not to vote for her was toppled by a rousing speech from the ambitious young mother.

Derek Phillips, 80, was one of a number of Young Conservatives sitting on the final selection committee tasked with choosing a candidate to stand in the 1959 general election for the now defunct Finchley constituency.

Mr Phillips had a choice of three candidates to vote for – two men and a woman.

He admits he had ruled out Baroness Thatcher before he had even arrived at the former Finchley Conservatives headquarters in Alexandra Grove, North Finchley.

“I went along to the meeting having told my mother as I was leaving the house that there was a lady among the three candidates and that I wouldn’t vote for the lady because you didn’t in those days,” said Mr Phillips.

“But as soon as I heard Thatcher speak, I decided she was head and shoulders above the two others. If there was anything in my life I feel I’ve done correctly, it’s making that selection.

“She just came over and made a wonderful speech. At the time I felt that she was right for the constituency.”

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Mr Phillips’ decision was vindicated with the successful election of Baroness Thatcher, then 33, who retained the seat for the Conservatives with more than 50 per cent of the vote on October 8, 1959.

In the wake of the 87-year-old’s death following a stroke on Monday, Mr Phillips told the Ham&High he did not foresee the heights the parliamentary hopeful would go on to scale at the time of his selection.

“Once she got into parliament it soon became apparent that she was going a long way. The world is better off for her.”