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