‘What would Margaret Thatcher do about Brexit?’ people keep asking me. Why do they think I would know? If I have a ‘USP’ with my book, it is that I tend to know what she did do. I have no more idea than anyone else what she would have done. The speculation is idle, except to the extent that it might make people reflect on the contemporary relevance of what she thought or did. In this respect, her approach to the electoral importance of the idea of a referendum is suggestive. At the end of October 1990, when she had just returned, in a rage, from the Rome Summit which pushed forwards towards Economic and Monetary Union, I attended a reception at 10 Downing Street. Mrs T came up to me and said that she would be happy to fight the next election on Europe: ‘I would say to the voters, “Ask the candidates, ‘Do you want to go to parliament to decide things for me, or do you just want to hand over these decisions to foreign powers?’”’ When she fought the leadership election which Geoffrey Howe’s resignation then provoked, she said in newspaper interviews — one with Simon Jenkins and one with me — that she would call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the single currency. Thus did the idea of a referendum re-enter the political bloodstream. Since then, it has never left it.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes, which appears in this week’s Spectator
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