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How Far Did ‘Luck’ Play a Part in Margaret Thatcher’s Leadership Election Victory of 1975?

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How far did ‘luck’ play a part in Margaret Thatcher’s leadership election victory of 1975?

As is typical of history, Margaret Thatcher’s leadership election victory of 1975 has produced many differing views from historians on the extent of Margaret Thatcher’s good fortune in her ascent to power within the Conservative Party. The central focus of the debate is whether her election had mainly been due to luck- events that she had no real control over and had ‘fallen her way’, or whether, although some luck may have been involved, it had mainly been Thatcher’s own personal attributes and doing that allowed her to gain an unexpected majority over Ted Heath.

Andrew Marr focuses predominately on ideological transitions within the Conservative Party. The general feeling conveyed in his chapter is that it was good fortune that had played the main part in her rise to power. Edward du Cann, and Keith Joseph, in his view, would have been worthier opponents more desirable to the Tory party, and it was their personal failings to stand for election that meant that Thatcher obtained votes ‘by default’; she had been the only reasonable candidate left standing, and thus obtained the votes necessary to win. Marr puts forward the idea that Thatcher essentially ‘adopted’ the Josephite figure and had good fortune as she inherited a policy that he had laboriously created and promoted, and had only received a large amount votes purely due to her association with the increasingly attractive Josephism.

Marr over-focuses on Joseph’s political ‘journey’. Although true that Joseph first brought to attention the idea of free market economics prior to Thatcher and publicised it before her, this does not mean Thatcher necessarily directly adopted Joseph’s theory, “took his place”, and won, as simply as Marr appears to imply. The time period of the book encapsulates postwar Britain to the...

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