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'The conviction politician who can inspire local government'

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The LGA’s chairman Sir Merrick Cockell pays tribute to a woman who defined her times

To speak of someone defining their times is usually a cliché, but in the case of Baroness Thatcher it is absolutely true.

My own political activism started when she stood for and won the leadership of the Conservative party and her time in politics had an immediate impact that echoes to this day. I was fortunate to meet her a few times. She was a local resident and latterly was often at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which was where she worshipped and where her husband’s funeral took place. It was a place she held close to her heart.

Margaret Thatcher had a profound impact on local government and that impact will be viewed in different ways by different people. Her private member’s bill of 1960 opened up council meetings to the public for the very first time. She introduced the enterprise zones of the 1980s to drive inner city regeneration. The Audit Commission was born during her tenure, designed to improve the performance and accountability of councils. She also introduced arguably one of the most publicly popular government policies of all time, the “Right To Buy”, and changed the London political landscape forever with the abolition of the GLC.

The life of Margaret Thatcher can give us inspiration in local government. She was a conviction politician. She did what she felt was right and truly believed in, even when faced with huge unpopularity. She was a leader and all of us, making the tough choices we face in our own councils, can draw strength from that. In this era where local government has to be resilient, ambitious and innovative we can see that as local leaders of our communities, if we fight for what we each believe in, with courage and conviction, we will succeed, as she did, in changing people’s lives and inspiring our communities.

Sir Merrick Cockell is the LGA chairman

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Ted Knight was a conviction politician who stood up for what he believed was right for his community in Lambeth but he got surcharged and banned from office. Ken Livingstone was another conviction politician changing people's lives so in true and characteristic Lewis Carroll fashion Mrs Thatcher said 'off with his head' and abolished the GLC - a proper democratic body that could not be tolerated by a politician professing freedom and democracy.
    Mrs Thatcher's passing will be the destructive adrenalin for the Tory Right in the Coalition.

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  • I thought all politicians were conviction politicians otherwise why would they be there? She was very strident and forceful in her manner which denotes her as different. She certainly didn't like to be challenged but her Francis of Assisi speak was contrary to every thing she stood for and the ripples continue in the way Central Govt. treats Local Govt today. It continues regardless of which party is in office as they all object to another significant democratic organisation in the land. Conviction politician she was eventually convicted by her own party.

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