1. ITV Report

'She did the double very smartly!' Lord Tebbit remembers Baroness Thatcher

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit waving to well-wishers after her election win in 1983 Photo: PA wire

Lord Tebbit was one of Margaret Thatcher's staunchest supporters during her time as Prime Minister.

After the Conservative Party won the general election in 1979, Margaret Thatcher appointed him Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Trade. Later the Essex MP served in the cabinet as Employment Secretary and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Visiting him today at his home in Bury St Edmunds, surrounded by memorabilia from that era, he says even he was surprised when she became the first woman party leader. He says this went completely against the grain of the male dominated politics of the 1970s.

She was the first British woman Prime Minister and the conventional wisdom of those days was that it would be the Labour Party which would have the first woman leader, let alone the first woman PM. She did the double very smartly!

It was an enormous surprise, I might say to me as well, when [in 1974] I concluded hands down the best potential leader of the Conservative Party was Margaret Thatcher.

– Lord Tebbit
Margaret Thatcher's cabinet in 1981. Lord Tebbit keeps a copy in his Suffolk home. Credit: PA
Lord Tebbit commissioned these before the 1987 election, so sure he was that Margaret Thatcher would win. Credit: ITV Anglia

Lord Tebbit says that working with Margaret Thatcher was, "quite exciting and at times hard work."

I recollect sitting with her one night at 3 in the morning, still writing away, with Cecil Parkinson and I working there together, and she turned to us and said, 'What's wrong with you two tonight?'

And I looked at her and said, 'Margaret it isn't tonight, it's 3 O'clock in the morning that's what's wrong with us!'

– Lord Tebbit
In October 1984 the IRA exploded a bomb at the Hotel in Brighton, where the cabinet were staying Credit: PA

One of the most momentous events of Margaret Thatcher's premiership was the IRA's bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Tory Party conference of 1984. Lord Tebbit was seriously injured in the attack and his wife, Margaret, left permanently disabled.

He says that Margaret Thatcher's loyalty to him during that time is one of his most profound memories of her.

I have strong memories of her kindness towards my wife and I after we were injured.

Her thoughtfulness sticks in my mind as does her loyalty to me. I was in hospital for ten weeks or so and she didn't replace me as a minister.

I was working as Secretary of State from my hospital bed, which I think is unprecedented.

– Lord Tebbit
Norman Tebbit and Margaret Thatcher in 1983 Credit: PA wire

Lord Tebbit retired from the government in 1987 in order to care for his wife. Although a devoted admirer of the former Prime Minister (even now he won't accept the Poll Tax was completely flawed) Norman Tebbit still concedes that there were problems with her later years of government.

We have to recognise that once a Prime Ministers goes indoors to Number 10 on the day he or she is elected, the windows are really quite large.

But gradually over the years they tend to narrow and that Prime Minister becomes perhaps less responsive to what's going on outside.

– Lord Tebbit

The longest serving British Prime Minister of the twentieth century, Margaret Thatcher spent over a decade behind those narrowing windows. Norman Tebbit believes her legacy could last centuries, not decades.

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