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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 19, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta y, April 19, THE LETHBRIDGE HERAID 33 Manages to retain jol manages to reiam jou Education groups seek dismissal of Britain's only woman cabinet minister .............______ .'round and had made a profit, ers that a thrifty housewife haps her-most .Implacable By PETEIl WII.BY London Observer Service LONDON The last week lias been a Rood one for 46-year- old Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Secretary o! Stale (or Educa- tion and Science, and the only woman in Britain's Conserva- tive Cabinet, In Prime Minister Edward Heath's first major reshuffle since the Government came to power, she retained the job she has now held for nearly two years despite the loud de- mands for her dismissal wliicl! have come from all quarters of education. More unexpectedly, she ad dressed both the main teachers unions at one meeting, and managed to please them both (hough one meeting a min ority of left-wingers walked ou on her. She announced an increase ii the school building budget, a inquiry into methods of tcacl ing reading and a veto on th building of any more "monster schools for over pupils For this a Sunday newspape awarded her "three another she was described "the lady with tha open mind Yet Mrs. Thatcher has been robably the inost consistently onlroversial Minister in Mi', eatti's Cabinet she has ccr- ainly been the most controver- ial education minister ever. A popular daily newspaper, 'lie Sun, once described her as the most unpopular woman In and her predecessor n the Labor Government, Ecl- vard Short, said she was the archetypal Tory reactionary. The immediate cause ol her unpopularity was her slowing lown of tne nationwide movo owards a comprehensive edu, cation system, in which all chil dren in an area, regardless ol ibility, go to trie same school The Labor Government hac issued a circular calling on lo cal education authorities lo sub mil comprehensive schemes Within days of coming into of fice in 1970 Mrs. Thatcher with drew it without consulting th leachers' unions or any othc education bodies. Since the many local authorities th; have submitted schemes to Mr Thatcher for approval have ha them turned down. In several cases she has i sisted on the preservation grammar schools0 which sc- ect very bright children after n examination at the age of 1. For tills the Minister was reused of "elitism" and lack fetling for under privileged hildren. Mrs. Thatcher then made her- elf even more unpopular by mplementing a cabinet decision o withdraw free milk prc- 'iously issued to all school chil- dren between the ages of seven and 11. The milk had been distribut- ed by local authorities; now hey were expressly forbidden o spend any money on free milk and councillors who tried o rlo so were threatened with prosecution. The minister earn- ed Ihe title "Mrs. Thatcher, milk snatcher" even Ihe chil- dren, it seemed, were chanting it in the playgrounds. ATTRACTED UNPOPULARITY Even when introducing a pol- icy wliich most educationalists would normally applaud. Mrs. Thatcher succeeded in attract- ing unpopularity. She account ed record sums o! money for primary school building and luirdreds of teachers were ready lo acclaim the prospec ot an end to squalid, sub-slan- dard Victorian buildings. But they nalurally paused when they learned that there was to be no money at all for second- ary school building, even though hundreds of secondary schools also had hopelessly outd a t e d premises. Nor was this all. Mrs. Thatcher next announced extra state subsidies, worth mil- lion, for parents who pay fees (o Government aided private schools, known as direct grant schools. Mrs, Thatcher has long seem- ed to have the unhappy politi- cal knack of allienating the greatest number of people for :he longest possible time. Sh reflects, in a peculiarly femin ine way, the aggressive, abra sivo style of Edward Heath aiu the modern Tories. She is a lawyer, and explains her policies more readily in le- gal than in educational terms. Stie is the daughter of a Lin- colnshire grocer, went to a grammar school and then to Ox- ford University. She constantly reminds people that she does not come from a privil e g e ri background and that she got where she is through merit and ifforl. But her father was Ma- of Grantham and a local magistrate. Her precise, stri- dent accents recall not only icr combative political style, >ut also Ihe private elocution essons for which her father paid. She is married io an execu- tive director of an oil company and has 18 year old twins both of whom went lo fee-pay- ing schools. She wears colorful hats, has bright blue, steely eyes and a flawless, cold water complexion which reminded one writer of the Queen, and has just sold a mock Tudor man- sion in Kent, with its own swim- ming pool and three acres of lawn. She favors capital punish- ment, and once voted for birch- ing o[ criminals, but is "lib- eral" on abortion and homosex- uality. She is a fierce admirer ot private initiative. Asked what alternative arrangements loca authorities ought to make for mid morning relresliment ii schools, following the with drawal of free milk, she quo'ed approvingly a group of mothers l-xmdon who had combined to sell hot chocolate in nlav- ground and had made a profit. The relish with which Mrs. Thatcher intones the word "pro- fit" indicates how much at homo she is in the present ROV- eminent. Determined, aggres- sive, inclined lo exacerbate ra- ther than heal political divi- sions, she has applied the Heath philosophy of salvation through individual merit lo education. Like several other ministers, she began by taking a series of decisions which seemed to be >ased almost entirely on Tory political dogma and on a total gnorance of expert views and [acts. But like other members of the Cabinet she has gradual- ly retreated from the barbed w i re politics of confrontation and revealed a more human face and a more flexible mind. She has not had an easy pas- sage. She is only Ihe second wo- man in history to sit in a Con servafive cnbinct. The other was Dame Florence Horsbrugh who was also entrusted with education and, after three year, in o'f'oe under sir Churchill, was prcremptoril) dismissed. She is best remcm bered as the woman who tol piTfiicrce of Scotlisli moth GTS that a thrifty housewife ould make n hambone last a vcck a titling commentary her educational achieve- ments. There were fears ot one time hat Mrs. Thatcher's political demise might be equally swift and her epitaph equally dismal. "3ut last week, with politicians, civil servants, leachers and even Fleet Street educational correspondents (hitherto per- haps her most Implacable ene- mies) all singing her praises, there were signs lhat the edu- cational world is learning, If not to love Mrs. Thatcher, at least to entertain a sort of mild, Ironic affection for her. She will never be "the warm-heart- ed mother of the nation" some- one recently asked her lo be, but Madame Milk Snatcher may yet become Madams Vote Catcher. Rose trial adjourned MONTREAL