04 April 2010

Election '83

Election '83... Maggie, Lord Such, Tony and Cherie Blair - and Kenny Everett and Elsie Tanner?!!

With a General Election in the offing, I thought it might be fun to slip back to 1983, to see how things were being done then.

Well, you could vote Maggie, of course, or how about Lord Sutch? Mind you, Maggie had a lot of support - apparently including comedian Kenny Everett, who waved his big hands about and said things like "Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away!" and "Let's bomb Russia!" to an audience of Young Conservatives.

Margaret Thatcher was riding high on The Falklands Factor, but there were some out there, newcomers to the world of politics, who would know future fame - or infamy if you prefer - like Tony Blair, standing as Labour candidate for Sedgefield, Durham.

Tony's wife, Cherie, was standing as Labour candidate for North Thanet.

Cherie's father, Anthony Booth of Till Death Us Do Part fame, shared his life with Pat Phoenix of Coronation Street fame. Pat was a great supporter of Old Labour.

Just as I was.

But, back at the top, Maggie - who had had her teeth straightened in 1982 - was oh-so-confident about winning a second term...

From the Sunday People, 12/6/1983:

It was two days BEFORE the actual voting, on a Gatwick-bound jet high over Lancashire, that Margaret Thatcher first celebrated her landslide election victory, and her elation is captured here in this superb picture.

Ecstatic over the findings of a secret, £20,000 Tory opinion poll that showed her to be totally unbeatable, she stepped into the Press corps' compartment for a champagne-all-round party.

Accompanied by members of her personal team she passed around the bottles as she joked with the writers and photographers.

When the pilot announced the plane was due to land she shouted: "Oh dear, can't we go round again?

"It's just like Air Canada - none of us wants to get off."

And she roared with laughter as the chief stewardess announced: "We are now landing in Miami where the local time is 5pm and the temperature is 32 deg. Centigrade."

Wednesday was like the end of term.

By the time she had reached the Isle of Wight she felt secure enough to indulge in two of the most Over The Top gestures ever made by a British Prime Minister.

She went ashore in a hovercraft, poised in the prow like an all-conquering Queen.

Then she posed, arms aloft, in front of Britain's biggest Union Jack - an entire hangar door.

It was all over by then. She knew it. And she didn't mind who else knew it either.

But although the victory may have been a foregone conclusion, nothing had been left to chance.

She had driven herself tirelessly and those around her to distraction as she sought to avoid the pitfalls of electioneering.

There were rows, sometimes bitter arguments, that went on late into the night. She was not going to fail by anything she had left undone.

The tensions even led at one stage to her shouting at Denis on the campaign bus.

Those around her had groaned and sometimes grumbled.

One or two of them got drunk as skunks but such was their loyalty they were always there next morning, ready to be driven into the ground all over again.

The blackest day came a week before polling, Thursday June 2 - the date her advisers had said would be the most crucial of the campaign.

That was the day the last batch of opinion polls was researched and her final three major speeches and four election articles published.

From then on no more damage could be done TO the Tories - all they could inflict on themselves were "own goals" in the five major TV appearances Mrs Thatcher had still to make.

As the tension crackled the tour went wrong again and in Central Office, according to one aide: "Everyone was fighting everyone else because there was no opposition to fight.

"It was awful - like a panic because there was nothing to panic about."

On the Sunday came the findings of the Tories' own £20,000 poll that indicated her invincibility. An amazing 14-point lead over Labour in the Black Country clinched it.

Despite not having seen the script before that evening she read the script of the final Election Broadcast off autocue four times in a row, each time with a different inflection in her voice, without fluffing her lines once.

"There is hardly an actress or a newscaster alive who could read for a total of 23 minutes without a hitch of any sort," said one technician.

"We all applauded, it was so good."

From then on Mrs Thatcher did not stop bubbling.

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