Francis Maude: Energising and revitalising

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

As the year draws to a close and we immerse ourselves in Christmas festivities, it’s a moment to reflect on the events of the past year. And it’s been a really full year, packed with drama and history.

We saw the passing of two great historic figures - Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher.

There could be few contemporary statesmen with less obviously in common but their histories were more entwined than you would think.

He was the great healer; the magnanimous former prisoner. He saw it as his historic mission to lead his country to draw a line under its bitterly divisive past, and ensure that his own sense of three decades of life lost while incarcerated did not trigger continued conflict and reprisals.

She by contrast did not flinch from conflict where she saw great wrongs that needed to be put right.

The great wrong that was the invasion of British territory in the Falklands.

The wrong that was a Soviet Union threatening democratic values and peace.

The great wrong of trade union leaders able to impose strikes on their membership, with impunity. The great wrong of an economy apparently doomed to inexorable decline and deterioration; of taxes so high that the brain drain was a daily reality and public finances so devastated that the IMF bailiffs had to take charge.

It wasn’t relaxing; it was tumultuous and stormy.

But it was also energising and revitalising; and Britain ended up so much stronger with our place in the world assured.

But such a strong leader inevitably left divided opinion about her legacy, which meant my task of supervising the funeral arrangements was a demanding one.

My aim was a ceremony that did full justice to Margaret Thatcher’s place in history, that gave her family and friends closure, without any taint of partisan politics. I was proud to have served as one of her ministers and proud that we marked her passing with due solemnity and dignity.

All this while our economy moved from a threatened triple dip recession to the strongest recovery in the developed world. As it turned out, not even a double dip, but a recovery that still has a long way to go before we even get back to where we were before the deepest recession in recent history started in 2008.

A recovery where for the first time ever Britain has over 30 million people in work, including more women than ever before. Still much to do, especially in providing jobs for younger people, but it’s at least a start.

Thank you to all my readers for their comments over the year; and I wish you all a very merry Christmas.