This Day In London’s History
1990: Pandemonium in Westminster as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fails to win outright victory over Michael Heseltine in the Conservative Party leadership contest.
Following a lengthy period of discontent from her own party, including the resignation of Sir Geoffrey Howe from his position as Deputy Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher’s leadership was formally challenged for the second time in as many years, this time by Michael Heseltine. It was widely considered that the leadership contest’s first ballot would be an indicative test of confidence in Thatcher’s leadership, and Thatcher herself was sufficiently confident in the outcome that she did not vote (instead attending a European summit).
However on 20th November 1990, Heseltine gained enough support in the first ballot to prevent an outright victory by Thatcher and cause the contest to progress to a second ballot in a week’s time. Described by Alan Clark as “one of the most dramatic episodes in British political history”, the blow that Thatcher received on the 20th November apparently caused chaos in the House of Commons, with her supporters angrily criticising the system which had allowed her to be challenged in the first place.
Visibly shaken, the Iron Lady vowed “I fight on; I fight to win”, but it was clear that this was the beginning of the end of her dominion. Two days later, after a meeting with her Cabinet, she resigned her position as Prime Minister.
Margaret Thatcher was not the only London-based leading lady to suffer on this date in the early nineties. The Queen will also have unpleasant memories of 20th November, as it marks the occasion some of the most historic parts of Windsor Castle were destroyed by fire in 1992. The fire-fighting effort used over one million gallons of water, and the extent of the damage was severe – it cost an estimated £40m to restore the castle to something approaching its former glory. Dies horribilis.
(Honourary) Londoner Of The Week
As promised, last week London was spoilt by a visit from ‘king of pop’ Michael Jackson. And boy did he push the boat out – when he wasn’t annoying his hysterical fans by not shaking their hands or performing the right song or whatever it is that gets them all pissy these days, he was promoting Topshop as the boutique of choice for playdough-visaged ex-superstars. Way to go!
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
If you watched Jordan and Peter Andre turn on the Oxford street lights as we suggested a couple of weeks ago, or checked out our new Lord Mayor turning on the City of London’s lights as we mentioned last week, why not go even more up-market and visit Bond Street at 6pm this Thursday for their attempt at festive frivolity? We’re trying to work out whether the presence of Thandie Newton will prove to be a bigger attraction than the curious promise of snow falling “along the entire length of Bond Street”, which will apparently occur “for one night only”. So has Bond Street now commissioned its own localised weather system? Impressive.
Scary Thatcher-like cloud photo taken from The Cloud Appreciation Society’s website.