It is a mark of the late prime minister’s impact on British society that she inspired more than a dozen pop songs of the ‘spit on your grave’ genre. Loathed by every faction of the Left, she appeared to the cultural establishment as a philistine career politician, who represented a provincial throwback to pre-War petty-mindedness, to Gilbert and Sullivan societies and classical lollipops.
In fact, she was far more cultured than any gave her credit.
She would go to the opera, always paying for her own seat, refusing to accept state charity. When she entered the opera house, various Covent Garden folk have told me, she would be formidably well informed about the plot and cast, and would test members of the board to see if they knew half as much as she did. Woe betide those who fell asleep in her box.
Summers, she would visit music festivals in Switzerland and Austria, always paying her own way.
Unexpectedly, she nurtured a passion for Bela Bartok. When the composer’s remains were transported from the US back to Hungary in 1988, she drove to Southampton to pay her respects as the ship docked and attend a memorial concert. ‘I have always been whenever Sir George Solti has been doing Bartok,’ she once declared.
On the BBC’s Desert Island Discs in 1978, she chose music by Beethoven, Dvorak, Verdi, Mendelssohn and Mascagni.
Music and art were not driving forces in her life, but she always found space for them.