A year after the Great Fall, there is already a fin-de-siècle air about memoirs of the Thatcher era. It seems so long ago. The lady herself clutches on to a form of political existence more as a menace than a force. She rages, more in reported than direct speech, against developments in the European Community. She has a group of followers on the backbenches who continue to see her as a leader, and possibly as her successor's nemesis, on this issue. But she is leaving the House of Commons - and even a countess will seem like an extinct volcano in the Lords. Her allies in the press are falling away. The Sunday Telegraph has ceased its passionate flirtations with nostalgia. Besides, John Major is either dismantling some of what she did or failing to conceal his embarrassment at the consequences of what he cannot undo. In the balance between exalting the Thatcher years and distancing itself from them, the Major Government has slowly but inexorably moved towards the second option. This may prove to be an impossible task: as, indeed, it deserves to be, since only one member of the present Cabinet can show a clean pair of hands. But the choice has been made. The Conservative Party is engaged in breaking with the recent past. It is a process that has happened before.
LRB 5 December 1991 | PDF Download