Lord Lexden reflects on the deep mutual affection between the Carlton Club and Lady Thatcher.
MARGARET THATCHER AND THE CLUB
Margaret Thatcher and the Carlton were united by deep mutual affection.
The then all-male Club was delighted to find in 1975 that there was nothing in the rules to prevent the Party's first woman leader becoming an honorary member,like her predecessors.Her very first act as leader was to signify her delight in accepting the Club's invitation.
She never forgot that in her first years as leader the Club put rooms at her disposal for party gatherings.The enjoyment she derived from her frequent visits over more than 35 years was evident to all who met her. It was,she said, "the historic home of Conservatism". Conversations with its members helped her guage feeling in the Party outside Parliament.
She was the central figure in the Club's famous Eve of Parliament receptions which were such a conspicuous feature of the Thatcher years.In 1985 she mingled with over 400 people as she moved through the Club's principal rooms.
An hour or so after the IRA's bomb attack in 1990 the Prime Minister arrived to learn at first hand about the extent of the damage and to speak to the injured with her characteristic concern and encouragement.
The bond between the great Conservative leader and her Club was brought to its strongest point in 2009 when she did it the honour of becoming its second President. She was always amused when I reminded her of the occasion in 1979 when the first President,Harold Macmillan,unveiled the magnificent bust of her by Oscar Nemon. "Supermac" muttered in a stage whisper that was heard throughout the room, " I must remember I am unveiling a bust of Margaret Thatcher, not Margaret Thatcher's bust".
It stands now on the Club's staircase as a permanent reminder of the close bond-- a bond in which members take the deepest pride.