At the Conservative Party Conference in 1980, Margaret Thatcher boldly stated “You turn if you want to. The Lady’s not for turning.” It was a response to pressure for her to abandon her plans to liberalise the nation’s economy after it was heavily criticised by some of her own Conservative colleagues.
But when it comes to Theresa May and Phillip Hammond, it may be the case that he turns when he is told.
Just weeks ago, in the Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced plans to hike National Insurance rates. The policy was a direct contradiction of the Conservative manifesto in 2015 which promised there would be no rises.
Just days later, he was forced to abandon his plans after it was rumoured that backbench Conservative MPs where planning a rebellion. According to senior sources, May told Hammond ‘I don’t care how bad it is for you’ when discussing the embarrassing climbdown he would have to face.
One might certainly regard this as a victory for both Conservative MPs and also the electorate who voted for the Conservative majority government at the last election. The Tories should always, and continue to, aim for a low-tax state.
However, whilst backbenchers and the public can celebrate the u-turn, it revealed a great deal about the type of government May intends to lead.
With several strong figures in the cabinet, such as Boris Johnson, David Davis and Hammond, she intends to fully authorise the role of Prime Minister. Her predecessor, David Cameron, favoured a ‘one-government’ approach, working with cabinet colleagues, with the exception of some brutal re-shuffles.
Although, he was not alone in this approach. When she became Prime Minister, May wasted no time slashing several key figures from the Cabinet, including Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan and George Osborne.
At the time one might have suggested that such a move would endanger her position as Prime Minister, with a deceptively small majority and no electoral legitimacy. In reality, the opposite has occurred.
She has grown into the role of PM, with a strengthening degree of confidence in herself, but also confidence in her leadership from her parliamentary colleagues. She has been bold in her vision for Brexit and defiant against Nicola Sturgeon’s calls for the end of the Union.
I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. As we approach the Brexit negotiations, Britain will need a strong leader capable of representing our interests. The negotiations will be challenging, with the sentimental backlash of Brexit holding firm among key figures including Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker.
Whilst the comparisons have at times been unfair, May must summon her inner Thatcher and draw inspiration from the rebate deal she attained. If Ken Clarke is right, that she is a “bloody difficult woman”, we can certainly be optimistic.
She may not have been everyone’s first choice for Prime Minister; she certainly never set the world alight as Home Secretary, but she might be exactly what this country needs right now.
After All, with Labour and Jeremy Corbyn fading into irrelevance and UKIP collapsing by the day, British politics is swiftly becoming a one-woman show.