UNPREDICTABILITY is a fundamental part of human nature. Following news of Margaret Thatcher's death last month, I was expecting a deluge of letter and emails – I do, after all, represent more than 100,000 constituents, many of whom are not afraid to express their views. As it happens, I received just two pieces of correspondence; both complaining about the cost of Mrs Thatcher's funeral.
One wanted to know how much each person would be paying in taxes so they could deduct it somehow. We now know that amount to be six pence. I'm not sure you can even buy a penny sweet with that these days, but I do know each and every one of us owes Mrs Thatcher a lot more!
Six pence is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider the £75 billion she got back for Britain through the EU rebate. Six pence is negligible when you consider that she inherited an economy with inflation in double digits and being held to ransom by the unions. Many of you will remember the Winter of Discontent in 1979, when almost half the hospitals in the UK were accepting only emergency patients, rubbish collections ground to a halt and fuel shortages loomed as transport workers picketed the refineries.
Under Mrs Thatcher, this country saw a massive surge in productivity. Manufacturing output during her leadership increased by 7.5 per cent, compared with a fall of 5 per cent in the previous decade. Her Right to Buy scheme has to date given more than 7,800 Croydon council tenants the security of having their own home for life and for future generations of their family.
As a young MP, I co-authored a pamphlet "Privatisation 1979-1994: Everyone's a winner". Leafing through it the other day reminded me just how quickly Mrs Thatcher's programme of privatisation gave customers better service, better value for money and more choice. The number of private investors in the UK boomed. For example, when BT – historically a big employer in Croydon – was privatised in 1984, a staggering 95 per cent of the workforce bought a stake in the company. I'm sure the dividends came to more than six pence.
Mrs Thatcher has had a lot of flak – she was a strong leader driven by deeply held convictions of a Conservative Britain that gave individuals and families the tools to succeed and to aspire to better themselves, no matter where they came from. For this she courted controversy, but it also earned her widespread respect and a place in the canon of great politicians.
Mrs Thatcher reversed the economic decline and re-established our standing in the world. She made Britain great again. And for that, she deserved a valedictory fanfare.
And so, to those two constituents who think otherwise, I will write to them and give them a detailed breakdown of the costings. And I will gladly reimburse them their six pence. In fact, I'll do better than that, I'll throw in a quid.