Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Meeting Lord Geoffrey Howe going strong at 85!


After watching the Iron Lady yesterday, I was not sure what I had seen on screen was a true reflection of Lord Geoffrey Howe, Deputy Prime Minister to Baroness Margaret Thatcher and went to meet him in person this evening at the Vauxhall Conservative Association meeting.

He shared with me that he had been a barrister for 40 years and when I mentioned I was a GP, he said he had 3 main clients, Iron and Steel, Medical Protection Society and the Peace Corp. What a surprise to hear he had represented the medical profession! As promised, I thanked him for his 1981 budget which saved Britain's economy. He explained how high income tax had been back then, and how he had decided to reduce direct taxation and increase indirect taxation. He reminded me of how 364 economists had written to the Times insisting it would not work yet it did. His role as Chancellor of the Exchequer ended in 1983, and I could see the 1981 budget was indeed his finest achievement for Britain's economy and a memory he has and will always treasure.

He then gave a speech to the audience in the room, commenting that he was expecting to find himself in a cozy home and instead found himself in a gymnasium (actually it was the modern apartment of the Chair of the VCA). He asked us to focus on the 15 years of his marriage to Margaret Thatcher and not the divorce. He spoke fondly of Margaret Thatcher and reminisced on the tabloid headline 'sex was her weapon'. No one had expected a lady to win. He shared how Margaret Thatcher when meeting Gorbachev said, 'You are a man I can do business with,' which flattered him and helped relations between Reagan and Gorbachev to end the Cold War. And of how Mitterand said he was enamoured when she said yes rather than no. He shared how Thatcher thought the UK was making too much contribution to the EU. He explained how and why he had resigned as Deputy Minister. At this point, I recalled the scene in the Iron Lady. In reality he remarked that Thatcher had said no, no and no to 3 issues that he did not think was the right thing to have done and so had been torn.

When asked from the audience what his thoughts were on Ed Milliband, he replied, 'He makes no impact on me at all.' At age 85, he is still going strong!

What a great politican to have worked in partnership with Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher at a time when Britain was at its lowest, with the highest levels of unemployment, and yet with great leadership and cabinet support, the Conservatives pulled this nation back to its feet and gave the people wealth and industry until Labour sadly unwound decades of prosperity and growth.