The Conservative MP Conor Burns, who is openly gay, brought laughter to the House of Commons today as he excited colleagues with tales of his former friend and mentor Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday.
Mr Burns, who voted in favour of same-sex marriage, after public deliberation, said that he visited former prime minister Lady Thatcher almost every Sunday.
He said that on one visit, a cab driver refused to take his fare when he was dropped off at Lady Thatcher’s former Chelsea home saying that he recognised it as “Maggie Thatcher’s gaff” and that he should “tell her from me, we ain’t had a good’un since”.
Mr Burns told MPs: “I imparted this message to Margaret and she intoned: ‘Well he was quite right!’”
The MP told the House: “Much has been made in the media of the controversial nature of Margaret Thatcher as a politician and of her premiership.
“We should not shy away from that today and nor should we on these benches be afraid to talk about that. That would be to betray who she was. She was a robust, principled, confrontational character.”
He also said that the protests that have coincided with her death would have been the “greatest compliment” to her record as prime minister. “She would take great pride in these protests. She wouldn’t get angry about them, she would regard them as utterly and completely absurd,” he said.
“All I would say to those in them [the protests], look at how gracious she was always in what she said when her political foes departed the scene — mostly recently in the statement she issued about Michael Foot.
“Her enduring legacy is not just in what she achieved and the fact the Labour Party has not reversed much of it. While she was divisive to some degree, controversial certainly, she was an inspiration to many people way beyond these shores.”
In 1967, Lady Thatcher voted in favour of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, in England and Wales, in the face of fierce opposition from Tory traditionalists. While she was Prime Minister, male homosexuality was made legal in Scotland in 1981 and in Northern Ireland in 1982.
However, at the Conservative Party Conference in October 1987, Baroness Thatcher attacked “positive images” of gay people during her speech, saying she worried that: “Children are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.” The next year, her government introduced Section 28, which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools but in reality prevented any discussion of homosexuality or the assistance of LGBT students. It was today named by YouGov as one of her worst achievements.
Section 28 was repealed in 2003, and in 2009, David Cameron apologised on behalf of the party, saying it was “a mistake” to introduce the legislation.