The Iron Lady is not for flattering

Ed Miliband has said Margaret Thatcher 'inspires' him.

It's not uncommon for party leaders, particularly Labour ones, to attack the Iron Lady and then claim she is their inspiration.

Recently I was asked by Channel 4 to collaborate with Jon Snow on a programme about her, as I have known her since I was 11. I remarked that few politicians really 'get' Lady Thatcher. She's never been impressed if they say they are inspired by her.

Ed Miliband
Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher (right) knows what all great Prime Ministers knew, and what Ed Miliband (left) certainly does not

When Tony Blair paid tribute, her reaction was caustic: 'The lady's not for being turned into an icon by Mr Blair.'

This was not because she disliked him, or because he led the wrong party, but because of her view of what constitutes a statesman.

In short, she does not mind what principles politicians hold as long as they believe they are in the best interests of the country, and that they then broadly stick to them.

She knows what all great Prime Ministers knew, and what Ed Miliband certainly does not: a leader must have the confidence that comes only from real conviction and disinterested self-belief.

Such a person is not swayed by every little breeze from the media, focus groups or party factions.

When those striking unions come out and demand your support, Ed, no one is going to help you but yourself.

I would have more faith in you had you said you deplore everything Thatcher stood for. At least that would have shown character.


I hate music festivals. They are the sores on the increasingly unprepossessing face of the Season. Last year friends persuaded me to go to Glastonbury, where devotees sleep in tents and gawp at Sienna Miller.

I first realised I had made a terrible mistake when I arrived at one of the festival entrances sporting a blue suit I once wore at Ascot.

The security guard said: 'Are you wearing that for a joke?' On learning that the nearest camp site was half a mile away, I enquired where I could get a taxi and the same official asked: 'Are you on something?'

It took an hour to tramp to the site and another two to put up a tent which then fell on my head. I couldn't find my friends and finally headed to a bar in a futile attempt to drown out the din of the music in alcohol, where I found Andrew Marr doing the same. (Cunning Mr Marr, though, was booked into a frou-frou hotel with four-poster beds.)

None of the amenities worked properly and I trudged hungrily past stalls selling odd-smelling veggie burgers. I crawled into my tent at one o'clock, only to find a strange man in my sleeping bag.

As soon as I'd persuaded him to go, the tent decided to go, too  -  sliding across a sea of liquid detritus. So I concluded it would also be wise for me to go . . . home.


The Primate of All England, Rowan Williams, has certainly been making a monkey of himself lately.

First we had his ill-judged attacks on the Coalition. Now we have his new plan to permit the appointment of openly homosexual bishops in civil partnerships, as long as they are celibate. Eh? How is it possible to be in an openly gay civil partnership and practise celibacy? This is the equivalent of the Vatican saying it would ordain married men as long as they stopped having sex with their wives.

According to MI5, Dr Williams used to be a Marxist. Which one? Groucho, Harpo or Chico? One lives in the vain hope that it might be Harpo, who stopped speaking altogether.


There is one silver lining in the cloud of bankruptcy hanging over Greece.

For sale - no Euros please: The Greeks might try to sell us the whole Parthenon

For sale - no Euros please: The Greeks might try to sell us the whole Parthenon

You can bet your bottom euro they'll stop whining about the return of the Elgin Marbles.

In fact, they might try to sell us the whole Parthenon, below.


According to the British Lung Foundation, women lose three weeks' sleep a year because of their partner's snoring. Is that all they lose?

Snoring can lead to as many break-ups as infidelity.

Indeed, on a first date I would advise women to skip the usual preliminaries, such as: 'Are you married?' and cut straight to: 'Are you a snorer?'

I have found there are three types of snorers.

The first sounds like a car being jump-started.

The second starts slowly and quietly, and then becomes increasingly loud and menacing like a Panzer division.

The third emits rasping sounds like a man in need of the last rites (which would sum up quite a few of my more elderly beaux).

Now wiser, I take precautions to ensure I sleep through the snores, but my last boyfriend was less than flattered when I arrived at his flat for our first night together with four sleeping pills, a box of earplugs and a blanket to wrap around my head.

I read the other day that Queen Victoria used cannabis as a painkiller. How did she do it? Did she smoke spliffs and if so, did a flunky make them for her, or did she roll her own? I wonder if her Prime Ministers knew?

Her favourite Premier, Disraeli, remarked that when he was with her he 'laid it on with a trowel'. Historians have always assumed he meant compliments.

Now we can't be so sure...