The National GOP Should Follow Thatcher’s Advice: Ditch the Focus Groups and ‘Be More Unpopular’

I unexpectedly ran across this article over the weekend that was written after Lady Thatcher’s death in 2013.

I believe it serves as a tremendous history lesson as well as a true plan as we move forward.

Two and a half years before Britain’s following national election (which will occur next year), David Cameron got some valuable advice from Former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher when she demanded they drop the focus groups and suggested they needed to “be more unpopular.”

Baroness Thatcher had criticised David Cameron only a few months ago for not being ‘far enough behind’ Labour in the polls.


Several senior figures contrasted her refusal to bow to the whims of ‘focus groups’ or the next day’s headlines unfavourably with the behaviour of today’s political leaders.


Conor Burns, a Tory MP who visited Lady Thatcher weekly, said: ‘I remember last November showing her a poll in one of the Sunday papers and it showed that we were nine points behind, and she asked when the next election was, and I said it wasn’t for another two and a half years.

‘She said, “That’s not far enough behind at this stage.” She sort of took a view that to do things that were right did entail unpopularity until people saw that what you were doing was working.

‘She always had confidence that what she was doing would work and coincide with the electoral cycle, which is, despite the fact that she’s been written up as this incredibly controversial, divisive figure, why she won three general elections and was in power for 11 and a half years.’

In February 1981, Michael Foot led Lady Thatcher by 16 points, but he went down to a crushing defeat in 1983.

Burns also went on to say:

‘Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative all her career and died a Conservative,’ he said. ‘She wanted the Conservative party to thrive.

Sir Gerald Howarth also said:

‘She believed in freedom, she believed in free enterprise. She believed that the British people should be liberated from decades of socialism.

‘That’s what drove her. Not a headline in tomorrow’s newspapers. She wasn’t a follower of focus groups.

Howarth was correct of course.  Unfortunately, the national GOP here in the United States lost their way.  That doesn’t mean that we in the grassroots have to conform.

Thatcher knew that to win on principle, you had to provide the boldest contrast possible to your big government opponents.  Before heading into her contests, she was always unpopular.  Earlier in her career when she was in charge of education, she earned the name “Thatcher the Snatcher” for eliminating free milk in Britain’s schools remarking that if her parents, through their own hard times, could provide her and her siblings with a little milk everyday, that others could do the same.

It truly is no different today.  Providing a stark contrast to the mess Obama has made of our foreign policy, of our economy, and our middle class should be simple if we just follow that blueprint that Governor Palin often talks about.

This history lesson supports the obvious fact that any conservative icon that truly makes a difference never walks into a national battle with the promise of ease or convenience.  The confidence in the policies and reforms we as conservatives believe is within us and knowing that they’re honest and right is what sees one through such an uphill climb.

  • If you enter the country and break the law in doing so, sorry you go to the back of the line.
  • When our national debt continues to plummet toward $18 Trillion, you make cuts wherever necessary to reverse it.
  • When our labor workforce participation rate hits an all-new low of 92 million (nearly one third of the country), you push to “Drill Baby, Drill” and promote true job growth through the resource exploration and development our nation is starving for.
  • And when ISIS begins threatening world security along with our own homeland, you take action as a leader instead of tip-toeing around savages foolishly thinking you’re going to make friends.

Reagan was behind Jimmy Carter by more 20 points a year before 1980 just as Thatcher was viewed as “too extreme” by her own party heading into her first national election.

Fluffy opinion polls and beltway politicians never support a true conservative icon beforehand, but Election Day sure does.

As we sit more than two years away from our next national election, this gives one a little hope.

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