Whether you’ve picked up the paper today, glanced at your tweets or tuned into the radio as you make the daily commute to work, you will no doubt have come across some kind of debate, news item or opinion about Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who passed away this week at the grand old age of 87.
And whether you were among her devoted supporters or fiercest critics, everyone, and I mean everyone, has got an opinion on our longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century. Some might call her bold, ‘a true world leader’, whilst others have used her death as another chance to voice their distaste of her policies – but no matter what you call her (in your head or out loud!) there was no doubt that the ‘Iron Lady’ was an engaging communicator.
Her policies may have been loved and hated in equal measure, but everyone knew what she stood for. Her policies ruffled more than a few feathers, but they were clear and unambiguous. She knew what she wanted for Britain and she told us in a way that didn’t raise questions of clarity, but left Britain knowing exactly what she was all about. And isn’t that what a great communicator is? Someone who engages, who gets people talking and even debating? Someone who encourages people to stand up for what they believe in and feel passionate about what happens to their country, or neighbourhood or family?
Surrounding herself with good, experienced politicians and solid speech writers, Baroness Margaret Thatcher knew exactly what she was doing. She knew how to reach out, divide opinion and influence the public and the Government. A close ally of President Ronald Reagan, dubbed ‘The Great Communicator’, she certainly learned from the best.
Some say she pioneered modern political communication, drawing on her advisor Tim Bell and press officer Bernard Ingham to guide her through unforgettable media interviews, public speeches and presentations that ensured her policies and opinions were not only voiced, but voiced with passion, dynamism and clarity.
Ask a question to a familiar face in politics today and you may well be left feeling a little confused, or a tad frustrated. The response you receive may be confused, the question turned around so they can push the messages they want to push and not met with an answer like Thatcher’s would have been. Straight down the line and no nonsense; “My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day's work for an honest day's pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.” – Interview, 1981.