Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter from Grantham, became leader of the Conservative Party, Britain’s habitual rulers, in 1975. Unlike just about all of her predecessors however she wasn’t a toff (or a man of course), neither did she aspire to be one of the landed classes. She surrounded herself with self-made men (few women, alas) who, in earlier days, would still have been Tory supporters but kept firmly below the salt.
And among these were various admen, most notably Tim (now Lord) Bell and Maurice (now Lord) Saatchi; two old muckers who, once Bell had left Saatchi & Saatchi, became fierce rivals, not least for the lady’s ear.
At one time, in her latter years in power 10 Downing Street, seemed to outsiders to resemble a Feydau farce; Bell going in one door, Maurice Saatchi the other and would-be interlopers like Y&R’s John Banks (which profited mightily from the Thatcher years through handling the British Gas privatisation) lurking outside the tradesman’s entrance.
Because Mrs T rather liked these dashing admen (Bell was dashing anyway) with their ‘nothing is impossible’ philosophy and Harvard-level schmoozing abilities. They told her what she liked to hear while senior politicians in her own party rather baulked at many of the things she did; like provoking a ferocious dispute with the mining unions (she won), turfing the Argentinian invaders out of the Falklands Islands and introducing the Poll Tax (she lost and lost her job as a consequence).
And agencies have played an important (although less prominent) role in political campaigns ever since. No-one has come anywhere near to matching the perceived (possibly mythical) success of Saatchi’s ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ poster since those days but, as Charles Saatchi anticipated, it made Saatchi the agency famous and gave it access to all those Tory -supporting self-made men, like British Airways’ John King, who were only too happy to give their business to this supremely well-connected (although decidedly un-posh) crew.
The Thatcher favourites are now gloomily contemplating their Seventies. But, like her (although in a much more minor way) they helped to define the business climate which, for better or worse, still prevails in the UK and, to a certain extent, in other countries too.