“The results of political changes are hardly ever those
which their friends hope or their foes fear.”
Media commentators covering David Cameron’s incumbency as Tory leader have remarked—often gleefully—on how unpopular Cameron’s Labour-like policies are with the “traditional right.” By this, they mean the Thatcherite rump of the party (probably still the numerical majority), whose elected representatives were beneficiaries of the Thatcher phenomenon and whose rank-and-file activists still look back fondly to the halcyon days of the 1980’s, when it looked as if the Conservatives had become “the natural party of government.” Sir Alfred Sherman’s book is a salutary reminder that, although Thatcherism drew on Tory precedents, it was never really “traditional” at all—and was, in fact, regarded as so radical when it first emerged in the 1970’s that it was very nearly stillborn.
Sherman tells a fascinating story of how a woman of no great profundity or charisma, and wholly without connections in the Tory “old boy network,” arose from provincial obscurity to lead the party, and then the country, of Canning, Disraeli, Salisbury, and Churchill. Behind this remarkable story...