Painting of Chequers.May 1989 Stock Code: 130239
From Margaret Thatcher's estateA painting of Chequers, the prime minister's country retreat, executed by one of Margaret Thatcher's chief lieutenants, the staunch Thatcherite Nicholas Ridley, and presented to her by the cabinet to mark her tenth anniversary as prime minister. Thatcher adored Chequers, later writing in her memoirs that 'I do not think anyone has stayed long at Chequers without falling in love with it' (Downing Street Years, p. 36). Ridley was chosen as the painter due to his well-regarded artistic abilities, being a keen amateur artist throughout his life, with his works displayed at the annual display of MP's artistic efforts in the House of Commons. The painting, a fitting present for the longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, was among Thatcher's personal effects in her Chester Square home following her death, and was subsequently acquired directly from her estate.
The career of Nicholas Ridley was intertwined with, and central to, the entire Thatcherite project. One of the earliest converts to the free market cause, in the 1970s Ridley was one of the founders, and the first president, of the Selsdon Group, the Conservative's free market lobby group. In 1977 he drew up the Ridley Report, a secret - though subsequently leaked - plan to counter a coal strike through stockpiling coal and orchestrating a large-scale police response, tactics which were fully implemented in the 1984 coal strike. With Thatcher's election in 1979, Ridley was made minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for the Falkland Islands, where he has been widely criticised for failing to prepare for the coming Argentine invasion, and for indicating to the Argentineans that Britain would consider ceding her sovereignty. In 1981, at the height of the recession, Ridley was appointed financial secretary to the Treasury, where he aided in the ongoing policies of monetarism and aggressive fiscal tightening.
Following the 1983 election, as Thatcher used her landslide victory to tighten her ideological control of the party, Ridley was appointed secretary of state for transport. There, he had a considerable role in preparing for and countering the 1984 coal strike, and implemented many of the policies he had outlined in his own Ridley Report. He additionally deregulated the bus industry, as a precursor to privatisation. In 1987, he was appointed secretary of state for the environment, where he was responsible for instituting the community charge - better known as the poll tax - which was one of the key events that led to Thatcher's downfall. He was moved in 1990 to secretary of state for trade, but had to resign after comparing the European Community to Hitler, and calling it a German conspiracy to take over Europe. His fall, as a rigid Thatcherite, weakened Thatcher's position in the cabinet, and Thatcher herself resigned a few months later.
Ridley was made a life peer as Baron Ridley of Liddesdale in 1992, and died the following year. On the 22 November 1996, Thatcher delivered the Nicholas Ridley Memorial Lecture, where she said "Free-market economics was always Nick's passion. And he had a longer, better pedigree in that respect than most Thatcherites - or indeed I may add - than Thatcher herself. His first vote against a Conservative Government bailing out nationalised industries was in 1961. To be so right, so early on, is not to have seen the light - it is to have lit it... He would have been a superb Chancellor".
Watercolour by the then Secretary of State for the Environment Nicholas Ridley, initialled and dated bottom right corner, mounted in gilt frame. With a printed presentation message on back, together with the framer's stamp of Geoffrey Viven Ltd of Cheltenham. Painting size: 46 x 30 cm; frame size: 64 x 49 cm.
In excellent condition.
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