Suffolk: Gummer family remembers their friend, Baroness Thatcher

In the 70's Margaret and Denis Thatcher visit Vernon Taylor's shop in the centre of Wickham Market t

In the 70's Margaret and Denis Thatcher visit Vernon Taylor's shop in the centre of Wickham Market to buy a loaf of bread. They were accompanied by John Gummer and Sir Harwood Harrison, MP for Eye

TWO generations of Suffolk’s best-known political family today recalled their friend, Baroness Thatcher.

Lord Deben was Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, and was a cabinet minister from 1983 until the Conservatives lost power in 1997.

He said he could not feel too sad because her death would be a release after years of ill-health and the pain caused by the loss of her husband Denis in 2003.

However he would always remember her personal kindness to him and his family: “She would always ask how the family were and be really interested.

“She had a real interest – it was not just making conversation.”

Lord Deben said the caricature of Baroness Thatcher that she did not care about the impact of her policies could not have been further from the truth.

He agreed with David Cameron that she had made a fundamental change to the country.

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He said: “The changes she made to the trades unions and the industrial shape of this country set Britain on a much better course.

“Other countries wish they had had someone like Mrs Thatcher to bring in these reforms – I know that in France they wish they had had a figure like her to transform their society.”

He was party chairman at the time of the Brighton bombing, and was caught up in the aftermath.

“Our rooms were opposite hers in the Grand Hotel. I was just finishing photocopying her speech for the final day.

“When it all happened we threw ourselves to the ground. I remember looking up through the open door of our room, across the corridor, and into her room and seeing her doing exactly the same thing!”

He was beside her when she went ahead with her Conservative Party Conference speech later that morning.

“What I knew and she didn’t was that there had been a bomb alert in the centre – but everyone was convinced it was a hoax so we went ahead. But I was looking at my watch nervously as the time ticked by,” he said.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer was six years old at the time of the Brighton bombing, but recalls meeting the prime minister at Chequers a few months later.

He said: “We were there just before Christmas, and she was very kind and happy to talk to a young child like me.

“I met her several times over the years – the last time was at the funeral of Ted Heath – and she always had time for me.”

He added: “She did more to form modern Britain than any other person. She reverse decline and gave the nation a most significant endowment, a renewed spirit of confidence, enterprise and endeavour.

“She is one of our very few great prime ministers.”

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