One Lady – Many Toasts

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Once
in a while, history will present to us the occasional man who will
be remembered for leaving their mark in a way that is pleasant and
agreeable to rationally thinking people. We may note that such tend
to be rarer in the field of politics and they are even rarer when
they are a woman.

So,
with that thought in my mind, I recently headed towards a gathering
at the New Club, Edinburgh to consider one such woman – Margaret
Thatcher. The title under which her admirers gathered was the “Inaugural
Sermon on the Mound Dinner” in order to celebrate “Prime Minster
Margaret Thatcher’s address to the General Assembly of the Church
of Scotland delivered on 21st May 1988."

This
landmark defence of free market capitalism from a Christian perspective
was remarkable not only in that it came from the leader of the United
Kingdom. It was further astounding to see a woman sermonising to
the gathered patriarchy of left-wing ecclesiocracy in Scotland.
A memorable sight to all concerned.

So,
having found my way and partaken of an aperitif, the meeting began.
Our host, Donald Simpson, welcomed us all and, as befitted the occasion,
grace was said for the food we were about to receive. This honour
fell to Frank Sensenbrenner, son of U.S. congressman James Sensenbrenner.

As
we fared sumptuously, I noted the cross section of people represented
at that gathering. We had students from Edinburgh and beyond, including
I must note Alex Singleton. He is the President of the University
of St Andrews Liberty Club
and the Adam Smith tie he proudly wore agreeably betrayed their
noble raison d’être.

It
was also my good fortune to be seated beside David Farrer, who is
finance director of the British libertarian think tank, the Libertarian
Alliance
. He has wisely moved back to Scotland and runs one
of those new creatures the Internet has begat called a “blog” or
website log. Feel free to examine his “blog” here.

Add
to this demography a lawyer, a software engineer, an ironmonger
and three Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and you get the
idea that liberty-minded people come from all walks of life.

And
so to the toast to Margaret Thatcher. This duty fell upon Murdo
Fraser, one of the Tory MSPs for Mid Scotland and Fife. Being a
God-fearing man as well as a politician, he was well qualified to
speak on that dichotomy of the Thatcherite address. It was assumed,
he said, that to be a Christian one had to be left of centre in
their politics. Margaret Thatcher blew that notion out of the water
and sent a seismic shock through the State-addicted Christians of
the day. The Presbyterians present may not have agreed with her,
but they would certainly not forget her.

Having
charged our glasses, the toast was duly observed with unanimity.

At
this point, we were each invited by our host to take up copies of
Mrs. Thatcher’s speech and read a paragraph or two in clockwise
succession. This symbolic and corporate act progressed as various
Biblical injunctions spoke from across the centuries such as two
wise statements from St. Paul. The first, being a broadside against
Social Security limpets, said, “if a man will not work he shall
not eat." The second against those who assume they have a right
to abandon their families to the same Welfare State – “he who does
not provide for his own house is worse than an infidel."

Strong
words, sound speech.

Having
finished, the response fell to Mr. Brian Monteith, also a Tory MSP
for Mid Scotland and Fife, who ably and entertainingly took us through
the reaction of the media to that speech 14 years ago. Even the
left-leaning press of the day could not ignore it and had to admit
it stood as a landmark speech.

After
this, the floor opened to anyone who wished to add their own tributes
to Margaret Thatcher and there was not much time to pause between
willing volunteers. Some had met the lady herself and so added that
extra sense of the personal to the anecdotes and even yours truly
pitched in with his own word of thanks to Mrs. T. for her Christian
approach to the free market and her undoubted effect on privatising
a generally bloated and uncompetitive swathe of nationalised industries.

Now,
it was at this point that I began to lose count of the number of
toasts being proposed. I wondered if the Liberty Club members had
something to do with this as their 18th century hero once moved
in a society notorious for such toasting marathons (Henry Cockburn
of old noted that “when there were ten people, there were ninety
healths drunk”). Indeed, Scotland around the time of Hume and Smith
was described as “the most drunken nation upon the face of the earth."

As
it transpired, I managed to keep my head above water being suitably
restrained by conscience and the prospect of the traffic police.
Nevertheless, any remark became a feeble excuse for a toast and
when it was learnt that an absent colleague’s dog had died, the
proposal quickly went up “To Spike!” and we imbibed once more.

And
so, after the final eulogy to Thatcher was offered up, the proceedings
drew to a close but the conversation continued. I left the club
feeling more satisfied with my lot in life and the assurance that
even in socialist Scotland, there were like-minded people who were
intent on and confident in the success of personal liberty and responsibility.

Indeed,
as the Iron lady herself was quoted that night: “I cannot understand
why the Scots do not like free market capitalism; after all they
invented it!”

May
25,
2002

Roland
Watson [send him
mail
] writes from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Roland
Watson Archives

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