Dartford memories of Baroness Thatcher
PUBLISHED: 14:09 08 April 2013 | UPDATED: 14:27 08 April 2013
Memories of Margaret Thatcher have flooded in after news broke this afternoon of the former prime minister's death.
Baroness Thatcher had a strong bond with Dartford. She twice unsuccessfully stood as MP here in the 1950s as Margaret Roberts but it is also where she met her future husband businessman Denis Thatcher.
Avtar Sandhu MBE, a Kent county councillor holds great admiration for Lady Thatcher. As a young man he watched his father Darshan Singh Sandhu MBE, an active Conservative supporter, forge a great bond with her during and after her time in power.
He said: “This is very sad news. I met her on one occasion in 1985 but my dad met her several times. I was about 20 years old when she came to Dartford. In our culture, it is customary to give a garland to any prominent visiting leader.
“As she approached my dad told me to take it out the carrier bag and he put it on her. The photographers went mad.
“She was one of the best leaders in the world. We would like to celebrate her life.
“She was an Iron Lady. She had a view of her own and she would let, not only cabinet members, but backbenchers know that she was a woman with her own mind.”
He added: “I am sure she will become the most famous prime minister over time, even possibly more famous than Churchill.”
Baroness Thatcher often visited Dartford. In 1984 she opened Dartford’s Thatcher Court sheltered accommodation and visited Leigh College (now Leigh Academy) in 1991.
Her early years in Dartford are represented in the film The Iron Lady with the couple’s young selves played by Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd before the film charts famous parts of her leadership as prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: “It was with great sadness that I heard about the death of Lady Thatcher. She took over as Prime Minister at a time when the country was in a desperate state and had lost confidence in itself. Yet she gave the country back its sense of pride.
“She provided inspiration for many people including some who didn’t agree with her views. As the country’s first, and so far only, female Prime Minister she ran the government with an iron will and clear political convictions.
“Lady Thatcher retained a strong affection for Dartford. I had the honour of meeting her several times and we chatted about her experiences in Dartford. She first got to know Denis when she was the candidate in Dartford and had missed her last train home. He kindly offered her a lift and their relationship grew from there.
“There are many activists in Dartford Conservative Association who actually helped campaign for Margaret Thatcher. You will still now hear them refer to her as Margaret Roberts, as that was her name at the time.
“This is a sad day for Dartford. The town has lost someone who was part of its history yet her legacy will remain for many years to come.”
Leader of Dartford Council Jeremy Kite said: “There are very few people of whom it can honestly be said they changed a nation but Lady Thatcher is one.
“Her connection with Dartford was a source of pride to us and when she came to a fundraising dinner in the town not long after she had left Downing Street it was obvious that she had some really warm memories of her time here.
“It was during her years in this part of Kent that she met her future husband Denis and it would be nice to think she might have honed some of her political skills on Dartford doorsteps.
“She gave Britain real leadership at a time when it greatly needed it and I think history will show her to be one of the greatest Prime Ministers.
“In terms of her legacy I think it is extraordinarily significant that of all the policies she introduced, some of them not without controversy, very few have gone on to be overturned. She caught the spirit of the age and was a leader of considerable vision.
“I suspect that she was responsible for encouraging many people from all sides of the political spectrum to put their head above the parapet and enter politics either in their communities or in Westminster. She seemed to show what was possible and what could be achieved if you had a vision and persistence. Britain owes her a huge debt and I doubt that we shall see her like again.”