A good summary

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, February 02, 2010 , ,

One of this blog's most faithful readers called my attention to this article in the Guardian about Mrs Thatcher that takes a few snipes at the lady on the basis of what there is on the newly posted private papers. The truth is that even the Grauniad finds it hard not to be overawed by her.

Once we get past all that stuff about her diet (actually, it does not sound all that unabalanced though the lack of carbohydrate makes one wonder) we come to the Guardian's main complaint.

The papers also show that her 1987 "no such thing as society" remark, which for many critics defined the immoral truth of Thatcherism, was not off the cuff but was her view as early as 1979.
It takes a Gardianista to call an assertion of personal morality immoral but the way that phrase has been quoted out of context has confused many people.

Here we have the real comment, though it was not used in the 1979 conference speech, more is th pity:
Morality is personal. There is no such thing as collective conscience, collective kindness, collective gentleness, collective freedom. To talk of social justice, social responsibility, a new world order, may be easy and make us feel good, but it does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility.
It remains true that people glibly talk of new world order and social responsibility without ever wanting to shoulder personal responsibility. That remains too difficult.


  1. A very useful reminder, and reading that 1979 extract fits very well with the actual context of Mrs. Thatcher's original comment, which of course went on to cite that "there are individual men and women, and there are families." The whole thrust of her comment was indeed to emphasise the doctrine of individual responsibility, a belief clearly illustrated by your less well known 1979 quote. I think these quotes probably emphasise her classical liberalism; her economic liberalism is well established, but these show her leaning heavily towards a neo-liberal concept of government per se, that its role should be limited, and be seen as limited. One wonders whether she wasn't hoping that she might eventually be able to say that "there is no such thing as the state" - but that was probably too far!

    An interesting blog - thank-you.

  2. Unknown Says:
  3. The Left have learnt all too well the technique of the Big Lie, and part at least of the role of the Conservative History Journal is to keep the record straight. It would be interesting to see author of the said Guardian article defend the notion that there can be morality without choice.

  4. George Says:
  5. I've sometimes wondered whether "There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families" might be a reflection of Darwin's statement somewhere (sorry, can't give a reference) that there are no such things as species, only individuals.

  6. Dixon Webb Says:
  7. From one of your-off shore readers. May I say first that your blog is excellent. Secondly, I am something of a Margaret Thatcher friendly fan. I have been especially over-impressed with her writing. All of her books are fascinating. Her conservatism blends well and offers quite a number of solutions to the problems of the day. In my book she dealt with a dimminished Britain in Lion's clothing in a most excellent administration of government. If I had one wish it would be for your to write more on her achievememts.


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