|Baroness Thatcher’s “favourite businessman”, Lord Young, led tributes from a raft of Britain’s corporate leaders, saying the former Prime Minister “changed the economy of the world”.
Lady Thatcher died on Monday aged 87, bringing praise for her efforts to transform Britain’s moribund economy with ground-breaking policies such as privatisation, reducing trade union power and cutting taxes.
Lord Young, who Lady Thatcher famously said brought her solutions, not problems, said that Britain had “been in decline for 60 years and suddenly she came in and stopped it”.
Privatisation was chief among her policies, said Lord Young, who led the sell-off of state-owned businesses in the 1980s. “At that time not a single telecoms company outside the US was owned by the state,” he said. “Privatisation was an idea that took over the world and changed the global economy.”
The CBI said the Tory leader created a “generation of growth” while Lord Browne, the former boss of BP, said she “breathed life into free enterprise”.
Lord (Digby) Jones, former head of the CBI and DTI, said: “She set the business environment free; she gave a dictator a bloody nose; she freed up the individual from the undemocratic grasp of unrepresentative trades unionism. She changed a nation and very few people can say that about their time on this earth.”
Perhaps fittingly, not everyone agreed. Romano Prodi, the former prime minister of Italy, was blunt: “Thatcher and [Ronald] Reagan are the fathers of the global crisis.” Others claimed Big Bang and the de-regulation of the City spawned corporate excess and greed.
Jon Moulton, the venture capitalist who founded Alchemy Partners and now runs Better Capital, disagreed. “Without Mrs Thatcher I would probably have stayed working in the US watching the UK decay rapidly,” he said.
“She was the reason I returned. She was a force for common sense and had both courage and integrity – she will be missed. No UK politician in my lifetime made such a difference for the better.”
Many credited her with helping a new generation of entrepreneurs to flourish and one, Lord Sugar, took to Twitter to say Lady Thatcher had “created [the] opportunity for anyone to succeed in the UK”.
Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The reforms Lady Thatcher introduced, though deeply controversial at the time, have subsequently become accepted wisdom.”
John Cridland, the director general of the CBI, said Lady Thatcher “took the UK out of the economic relegation zone and into the first division. What Baroness Thatcher did to reshape the British economy gave us a generation of growth.”
Sir David Lees, chairman of the court of the Bank of England and former GKN chairman, said: “She was prime minister in that awful period of 1979 with inflation rushing away and the trade unions being a significant menace to business. Her strength and courage are the two things I would pick out in dealing with them and giving business the confidence to address the trade unions. It is a huge legacy.”
City veteran Brian Winterflood: “She was at the forefront of Big Bang. That put us in better shape, made us big and the pre-eminent financial centre of the world. She introduced the share owning and property owning democracies and gave us Sid.”
Former P&O chairman Lord Sterling, who was a senior adviser at the Department of Trade and Industry between 1982 and 1990 and worked on numerous privatisations, said: “Was she always right? Of course not. But she certainly made things happen.” He added: “When people said she did not listen, that’s not true. She had this extraordinary ability to put her finger on the weak point in an argument.”