How true blue Thatcherism turned society pink

Chris Creegan
8 min readMay 3, 2019

There are occasions when social media becomes consumed with one event. The passing of Margaret Thatcher was inevitably just such an occasion. In no time she was trending on Twitter. An avalanche of blogs and comment appeared from every part of the political spectrum.

For many who lived through her premiership, and were active in politics during it, the opportunity to express a point of view was irresistible. This isn’t remotely surprising. Whichever side of the titanic struggles she waged you were on, and whatever you thought of her, they were extraordinary, and for many of us formative, days. The sheer quantity of coverage this week has been almost overwhelming. Despite many powerful memories, I didn’t initially think I had anything to add.

Two moments changed my mind. The first was when I read Alex Massie’s Spectator article, Margaret Thatcher: An Accidental Libertarian Heroine. In a typically well argued and original piece, Massie argues that ‘one part of (Thatcher’s) legacy that is perhaps under-appreciated is the extent to which her triumph on the economic front contributed to her defeat in the social arena.’

Advancing the argument, he suggests this was because, ultimately, economic liberalism and social conservatism became incompatible; that the triumph of economic liberalism begat the victory of social liberalism as exemplified by the shift to support for gay marriage. Massie’s argument is a persuasive one, at least in so far as the shift in the Conservative position on lesbian and gay equality goes.

For me, this was borne out in the second moment, during the debate in the House of Commons when Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Thatcher’s former constituency, spoke. For Freer, Thatcher was an inspiration. We’re the same age, we both grew up near Manchester and we’re both gay. There, however, the similarities start to peter out.

I joined the Labour Party at university the year after Thatcher was elected and spent the 1980s campaigning against her policies. Freer is a true Blue Conservative. He is emblematic of the shift that Massie refers to, an economic liberal who is openly gay, living with his partner in the constituency where he was previously a councillor. And fair play to him. But even he might concede that in the 1980s the…

Chris Creegan

Trustee @WaverleyCare, Non Exec @socsecscot & runner @EdinburghAC, Views my own