Thatcher thought Tories were 'sacrificing Jews' in Finchley

By Jennifer Lipman, April 25, 2013

Margaret Thatcher believed that the Conservative Party was "sacrificing [Jewish supporters] unnecessarily" when she fought her first election in Finchley, according to a new biography of the late prime minister.

In Charles Moore's authorised biography, he notes that when she won the seat for the first time in 1959, "there was some antisemitic feeling" in the local Conservative association.

He quotes a letter Baroness Thatcher wrote to Central office shortly after her selection, in which she noted that "the Jewish faith have allied themselves to Liberalism and at the last local election won five seats from the Conservative son our council. We are now finding great difficulty in making headway in these areas, particularly in Hampstead Garden Suburb".

Although Mr Moore acknowledges that as time went on Baroness Thatcher "conceived a strong admiration for Jewish values", he said that in the early days "she looked on Jewish matters in a more matter-of-fact way: she needed Jewish votes".

"What is clear, however, is that she approached them without the prejudices which existed in some sections of her party".

Mr Moore's book, which is published this week, also records the prime minister's early interactions with Jews, including an episode on her honeymoon recounted in a letter to her sister Muriel.

"Some of the people with us are very nice but some are rather "tatty" tourists: Jews and novo [sic] riche. Talking of Jews – one of the directors of J.Lyons, a Gluckstein, is with us. He and his wife our very nice."

Her relationship with the Jews was not always harmonious, as Mr Moore recalls in a passage about her refusal to block a rally by Oswald Mosley and the fascists.

In a letter to her father, she complained: "The constituency correspondence continues unabated with every Jew in the area demanding more curbs on freedom of speech."

He also details her first trip to Israel, in June 1965, noting how she "admired the purposeful activity everywhere".

The future prime minister apparently commented that "they don't pay people for being idle in Israel," rather implying, said Mr Moore, "that, nearer home, they did".

Margaret Thatcher, the authorised biography, by Charles Moore is out now (Allen Lane)

Last updated: 12:22pm, April 25 2013