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The Rise of Mrs. Thatcher

In response to:

Some Views of Mrs. Thatcher's Victory from the June 28, 1979 issue

To the Editors:

In your recent symposium on the British election [NYR, June 28], Kingsley Amis says that the New Statesman tried to suggest that Mrs. Thatcher was “born to the purple.” We did no such thing.

As a corrective to the usual rubbish in which Mrs. Thatcher is presented as a glittering meritocrat who fought her own way up to wealth from poverty, we showed that (a) she was, like Mr. Amis himself, born into a relatively well-off section of society, and (b) that she displayed little professional merit either as a scientist or a lawyer, and (c) that she acquired her wealth by the fine old means of marrying it.

Bruce Page

Editor, New Statesman

London

Kingsley Amis replies:

Mr. Bruce Page is back at the old New Statesman game of misrepresentation.

Only an idiot would present the Prime Minister as “a glittering meritocrat who fought her own way up to wealth from poverty.” What she did do was rise to the highest office by her own efforts, not through her family’s wealth or position.

She was, like Mr. Amis himself, born into a relatively well-off section of society.” Fine word, relatively. Mrs. Thatcher’s father owned a small grocery shop in the provinces. My father was a clerical worker in a mustard firm (though what he has to do with it I can’t imagine). Both were of course well off relatively to someone, like the errand-boy at the shop and the chap who swept the floors and made the tea at the office.

She displayed little professional merit either as a scientist or a lawyer.” She hadn’t much time as either, entering active politics in her middle twenties. And what of it anyway? At her chosen career she has already displayed quite as much professional merit as Mr. Page cares for.

She acquired her wealth by the fine old means of marrying it.” Who ever supposed any different? Who are all these people who think that the interesting and important thing about Margaret Thatcher is not that she’s Prime Minister but that she has “acquired” a bit of “wealth”? Can Mr. Page really be one of them?

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