The Iron Lady - LOSS ... of POWER and DENIS

LOSS ... of POWER and DENIS (Illustration) Biographies Famous Historical Events Famous People Government History Social Studies World History Film

Before she became Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher leased a flat at Scotney Castle, in Kent.  She and her family (husband Denis and twins, Carol and Mark) are at Scotney in this March, 1979 photo.  Image online, courtesy Margaret Thatcher Foundation.


Even worse than the poll-tax issue, the Prime Minister faced strong disagreements within her own cabinet.  What was Britain's role in Europe?  Should the UK participate in a common European currency?  Mrs. Thatcher desired to retain the British pound sterling; others favored the Euro. 

Geoffrey Howe was a Euro supporter.  When he resigned, Margaret lost an important member of her cabinet.  He had been her longest-serving colleague - Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the House of Commons, at the time, and formerly Chancellor and Foreign Secretary. 

It was Howe who'd stood by her when the Prime Minister wanted to fight inflation.  It was Howe who helped her achieve many goals, among them:

Thatcher wanted the downtrodden to be liberated; she had little time for the undeserving rich.

Although they'd had disagreements on topics, especially in recent years, Howe thought he could best serve his country by remaining in the cabinet.  However, when the Prime Minister gave a speech in the Commons - on October 30, 1990 - decrying the very idea that Britain would join the European currency, Howe decided he had to resign.  Watching his body language, on a video clip of that speech, one can sense his consternation.

Days later - on the 1st of November, 1990 - Sir Geoffrey told Margaret he was leaving.  When others said their disagreement was over style, not substance, Howe decided to clarify his departure by making a speech in the House of Commons.  It was that speech, delivered on the 13th of November, which challenged Mrs. Thatcher's ongoing premiership.

Making his points, Howe finished his comments with these words:

The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long.  (House of Commons, see Column 465.)

Those sentiments prompted Michael Heseltine - someone whom Margaret Thatcher then-held in low esteem - to challenge the Prime Minister for leadership of the Conservative Party. 

The British system, parenthetically, is unlike the American way of selecting the country’s top leader.  In the US, the national electorate votes for a specific person.  In Britain, the people vote for a specific party - and the party leaders determine who leads the party.  Whoever leads the winning party becomes Prime Minister.

When the Tory (conservative) leadership votes were cast, soon after Howe's speech, Mrs. Thatcher was ahead - but not enough to win outright.  The rules required that she needed a 15% majority. 

Considering whether to stay in the fight, for the coming second ballot, Denis advised his wife to resign.  He did not want to see her humiliated by people he no longer trusted.

Mrs. Thatcher did resign, then gave a speech in the House to succesfully defeat a no-confidence vote (of the government) which the Labour-Party leader had raised.  Thereafter, she lobbied for John Major to take over as Prime Minister.  She won that battle, responded to her last "Prime Minister's Question Time" and bid an emotional farewell to the gathered crowds at Number 10. 

The sting of defeat was difficult for her.  As she often said:

My own cabinet did what the Labour Party was never able to do - defeat me.

Denis was generally in good health until he needed heart-bypass surgery, in early 2003.  After recuperating, he traveled in Africa, with Mark. 

Although no one realized it, Denis also had pancreatic cancer.  Weeks after learning about his fatal ailment, he slipped into a coma and died on June 26, 2003.   "Distraught" with grief at his loss, Margaret was holding his hand when he died.

Of Margaret, Denis said:

For 40 years I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could give - small as it may be - was love and loyalty.

Of Dennis, Margaret said:

...there is just Denis and me, and I could not do without him.

A popular consort, for the Prime Minister, Denis was the subject of an ongoing spoof - published in Private Eye - called "Dear Bill" (first published on May 18, 1979). 

Based (ostensibly) on his longstanding friendship with Bill Deedes, the "Dear Bill" letters allowed journalist Richard Ingrams, and satirist John Wells, to speculate what Denis was really thinking and saying about all kinds of subjects.  With the passage of time, even Denis became fond of them.

Later, his friends - Deedes, Ingrams, "Crawfie" (Cynthia Crawford) and others - described Denis (and how he viewed his role as the Prime Minister's consort).  He was willing to put-up with much - even wearing a pink turban in India - but he would not put-up with media interviews. 

He refused to ever "sit down with" journalists - whom he often called "reptiles" - except for his own daughter.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2012

Updated Last Revision: Jan 10, 2016

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"LOSS ... of POWER and DENIS" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2012. Oct 19, 2019.
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