Good politicians are hard to find.
Her two and a half years as health and social security minister (during which time she was still smoking like a chimney) seem to have left a deep nostalgia for a time when politics was less humdrum. “Willie Whitelaw used to come in when I was doing the enormous social security Bill and bellow: ‘Morning, Jean. How many millions are you losing us today?’ Those were the days. Life was fun.”
She has always played to the gallery, but not at the expense of a proper seriousness about the issues in hand. She relished being called a “fat old scrubber” by her critics for suggesting with typical practicality that sheep should be used to detonate Falklands minefields. “My point,” she said at the time, “was that you can put a sheep out of its misery and eat it. You can’t do that to a man.”