Thatcherism unveiled in Hampstead Garden Suburb speech

Margaret Thatcher meets foreign students at Hendon Town Hall in 1967. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Margaret Thatcher meets foreign students at Hendon Town Hall in 1967. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

“We believe there is nothing the State can do for the individual that is equal to what the individual can do for himself if he is able-bodied and willing.”

The Ham&High's front page on February 27, 1959, following Margaret Thatcher's speech at Hampstead Ga

The Ham&High's front page on February 27, 1959, following Margaret Thatcher's speech at Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute. - Credit: Archant

These were the words spoken by Margaret Thatcher at her first public meeting in Hampstead Garden Suburb after being selected as the Conservative candidate for the Finchley constituency in the 1959 general election.

They give a clear insight into the political philosophy of a woman who would go onto become the nation’s longest serving 20th century prime minister and a doctrine that has been immortalised as “Thatcherism”.

The Ham&High reported the speech from the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute, in Central Square, on the front of an edition published on February 27, 1959.

Some seven months later, a 33-year-old Baroness Thatcher would be elected as Finchley MP and by 1979 she had risen to the highest office in government as prime minister.

On Monday, the 87-year-old passed away at The Ritz hotel, in Piccadilly.

Since her death, tributes to Britain’s first and only female prime minister have flooded in and appeared across newspaper front pages the world over.

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Mike Freer, incumbent Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said Baroness Thatcher was the reason he got “involved in politics”.

“At university, I got involved in student politics and I heard her speak and became completely bowled over by her,” said Mr Freer.

“When she came into a room, you knew she was there before you were told she had arrived. I was totally in awe of her.”

Hampstead Garden Suburb councillor John Marshall became friends with Baroness Thatcher in 1979 after his election as a Conservative MEP for London North.

He said: “She was a loyal friend to her supporters. She was also a very, very considerate person.”

As MP for the Finchley constituency, which was abolished in 1997, Baroness Thatcher represented a portion of Hampstead Garden Suburb up until 1974 when boundary changes meant the entire Suburb became part of the Hendon South constituency.

Cllr Marshall, who served as Hendon South MP between 1987 and 1997, said: “She always teased me and said Hendon South had taken the best bit of her constituency!”

Baroness Thatcher’s policies in government gained her supporters and opponents in equal measure.

Her approach to expanding the free market by privatising public services and reducing the power of trade unions caused outrage among those on the left of the political spectrum.

Hampstead’s Labour MP Glenda Jackson gave an insight into the divisiveness in feeling towards the Iron Lady and her years in government.

Speaking to the Ham&High before her now notorious speech at Wednesday’s Commons tribute debate on Baroness Thatcher, Ms Jackson said: “She destroyed the moral compass of this country. Everything I was told to regard as a vice she told me was a virtue – individualism, greed, there was no such thing as a society.

“I personally don’t think it is proper or respectful to rejoice over anybody’s death. But we are sweeping up the remains of what I regard as a very destructive process. She led us in the wrong direction.

“She didn’t make me proud to be British.”

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