!-- consent -->
Three of this week's maiden speeches delivered by new Conservative MPs featured particular praise for Baroness Thatcher.
Mike Freer gained Finchley and Golders Green for the Conservatives – a seat taking in much of the constituency represented by the former Prime Minister:
"Those hon. Members in the Chamber a couple of days ago will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) claiming that his constituency gave the country the first king of England. I cannot claim that for Finchley and Golders Green, but perhaps I can claim that we gave the country the latter-day Boadicea — in one Margaret Hilda Thatcher. In my view, my noble Friend is the best peacetime Prime Minister that we have had. In this current economic climate, we could learn much from her resolve in addressing the economic crisis that she inherited. Then, unemployment and inflation were rising, and our public sector spending was out of control.
"Perhaps the task ahead for our Government today is slightly greater, as Baroness Thatcher never managed to cut public spending. She was able only to slow its growth, yet we have laid out plans to cut public expenditure—something of a daunting task. Like her, however, I believe that we must return to sound money and good housekeeping, and to protecting our cherished freedoms. Throughout her premiership, she remained an active and effective constituency MP, and I shall be fortunate if I achieve a fraction of what she achieved through my campaigns to improve breast cancer screening for local women, to promote infrastructure investments on the north circular road, and for the free schools programme, which are so wanted and deserved by my local population."
Corby's new MP, Louise Bagshawe, also cited Margaret Thatcher as an inspiration:
"My noble Friend Baroness Thatcher inspired me to enter politics. She taught me the importance of ideology—crucially, in the context of this debate, that politics is in its essence counter-intuitive, and that Conservative means deliver liberal ends. On arriving at the House just after the general election, it was something of a relief to discover that, on occasion, Liberal means may deliver Conservative ones."
She also outlined her desire to see the interests of veterans looked after properly:
"If I myself have a political ambition, it is—perhaps I may ask the House’s traditional indulgence for a maiden speech—to suggest a cross-departmental project to my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions and for Defence. For several years, I lived in the United States—indeed, my family are American—and I was struck by the exceptional way in which people treat their troops and their troops’ families. Over there, the Veterans Administration, which has a seat at the cabinet table, oversees all military welfare, from hospitals to low-cost housing loans. There was much in the Conservative manifesto for our troops to celebrate, from extra money for mental health provision to the application of the pupil premium to the children of military families. Too often in Government, however, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.
"I am glad to see my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) in his place beside me, for he spoke most movingly in his maiden speech of the need for this House to put Help for Heroes out of business by providing better medical care for our troops. I suggest to him, and to the whole House, that a fully fledged veterans administration might go even further, overseeing all military welfare, from widows’ pensions to mental health provision, and that it need not cost too much; rather, it would merely tie all military welfare together."
Finally on the Thatcher front, Nick Boles, the new MP for Grantham and Stamford, had this to say about his seat's most famous daughter:
"Grantham achieved global celebrity because of Margaret Thatcher. Thirty years ago, she smashed through the glass ceiling in this House, and gave us all a master class in true grit. I pay tribute to her today."
He also had the task of paying tribute to his predecessor as MP, Quentin Davies, the Conservative who defected to Labour in 2007, and did so with good humour:
"I should like to thank my predecessor, Quentin Davies, for his long record of service. He worked hard for the people of south-west Lincolnshire, and played a crucial role in securing the future of Grantham hospital when it was under threat. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I report to the House the shocking truth about Mr. Davies’s recent ordeal. Three years ago he was kidnapped by a brutal and unscrupulous gang. As a political prisoner, he was spared no indignity. He was even forced to sign a statement hailing the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) as
“a leader, who is entirely straightforward, who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country”.
"Last week, Mr. Davies suffered the final humiliation—exile to the House of Lords. We can only imagine his anguish as he protested his belief in a fully elected second Chamber and his scorn for titles and other baubles. I hope that the House will join me in sending our condolences to the newly ennobled Lord as he starts his life sentence on the red leather Benches."