The lady's not for turning

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"The lady's not for turning" was a phrase used by Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister, in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference on 10 October 1980. The term has thus been applied as a name to the speech in its entirety. It is considered a defining speech in Thatcher's political development,[1] becoming something of a Thatcherite motto.[2]

The phrase made reference to Thatcher's refusal to perform a "U-turn" in response to opposition to her liberalisation of the economy, which some commentators and Ted Heath had urged,[3] mainly due to the fact that unemployment had risen to 2 million by the autumn of 1980 from 1.5 million the previous year and the economy was in recession,[4] exceeding 3 million by the time the recession ended in 1982.[5]

It was written by the playwright Sir Ronald Millar, who had been Thatcher's speech-writer since 1973, and was a pun on the 1948 play The Lady's Not for Burning by Christopher Fry, although Thatcher missed the reference herself.[6][7] Millar had intended the "you turn if you want to" line, which preceded it, to be the most popular, and it received an ovation itself, but it was "the lady's not for turning" that received the headlines.[6]

The speech as a whole was very warmly received at the conference, and received a five-minute standing ovation.[3]

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  1. ^ Kettle, Martin (5 May 2009). "Could Hazel Blears be Labour's Margaret Thatcher?". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ Raines, Howell (28 April 1988). "Thatcher Retreats; Aid to Poor Restored". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b Apple, R. W. (11 October 1980). "Mrs Thatcher Stresses Concern for Britain's Jobs". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ "1980: Thatcher 'not for turning'". BBC News. 10 October 1980. 
  5. ^ "1982: UK unemployment tops three million". BBC News. 26 January 1982. 
  6. ^ a b Lawson, Mark (18 November 1988). "Putting words in political mouths". The Globe and Mail. 
  7. ^ Evans, Eric J. (2004). "Thatcher Triumphant, 1982–8". Thatcher and Thatcherism (2 ed.). London: Routledge. p. 34. ISBN 0-415-27012-X. 

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