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In Nikki Haley's speech suspending her campaign on 6 March 2024, she said:

I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee.

But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, quote, “Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.”

What was the original context when Margaret Thatcher said it? Was it political or campaign related? Who were the relevant parties?

2 Answers 2

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This derives from Margaret Thatcher's memoirs of her life as a girl in Grantham. In a speech in 1995 she recalls her father giving her this advice.

I learned a very great deal from my father. I will just tell you two things. I once asked him if I could go out with my friends for a walk on a Sunday evening instead of going to church -- because I had been to church once and Sunday school twice -- (laughter) -- and he said, "Never do things just because other people do them. You make up your mind what you want to do, and let the crowd follow you." I went to church. (source 10:40)

She also referred to this in an interview in 1997:

"Never do things just because other people do them", that would be the motto of your life, wouldn't it?

It would, and I remember the incident very much. "Never just follow the crowd. Make up your own mind what you want to do and if necessary get the crowd to follow you." (source)

So the original context wasn't political (and wasn't Margaret Thatcher's saying at all) but it was something that she adopted and referred to multiple times, especially after her time as Prime Minister, as justification for following unpopular policies that she believed to be right.

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    Some version of this quote first appears in print no later than George Gardiner's Margaret Thatcher: From childhood to leadership (1975): 'Margaret,' replied her father, 'never do things just because other people do them. Make up your own mind what you are going to do and persuade people to go your way.'
    – user103496
    Commented Mar 7 at 3:27
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    Is that even the same quote? Thatcher says that the crowd should follow her whereas Haley only talks about herself doing what she wants.
    – quarague
    Commented Mar 7 at 9:41
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    @quarague It's the first half of the quote. Her father's advice is essentially, "be a leader, not a follower". Haley's quote is just the "don't be a blind follower" part.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 7 at 15:15
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    @GratefulDisciple The ironic thing is that dogged persistence is also an attribute of her former rival. He still hasn't given up on "the vote was stolen".
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 7 at 17:40
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    @Barmar Yes, it's tragic and worrisome that just in the 30 year period since Thatcher's speech, the commonsensical upholding of truth that most Americans took for granted can no longer be taken for granted now. Thatcher's dad didn't need to inculcate to his daughter how "truth of the matter" (which includes facts) is a moral imperative for any good leader, unless you want to be a cult leader of course. Unfortunately, Haley's rival adopts the rhetorical prowess of the ancient Sophists rather than Truth-defending Socrates. Never anticipate that I have to teach my kids this 3rd principle. Commented Mar 7 at 17:46
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It's hard to find the original context because it seems to be one of those sayings that Thatcher just generally liked to use. One specific use was in a 1989 interview with Vanity Fair magazine, in which she said some variant of the statement three times.

Now I do not give you this for the detailed thing but just to show you that the only way I can interpret it now as a parent is trying to give me absolutely everything for complete and total kind of understanding. So that must have been extremely formative and coupled with the idea which was instilled into me very early that you do not follow the crowd because you dare not do anything else. You make up your own mind.

If I asked: “Please could I do something, everyone else is doing it, you know?” You do not follow the crowd, you must make up your own mind and that was instilled very early. Now that is the background, was it formative? Of course, the most formative we could possibly have had.

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I think it is this: you do not follow the crowd; you make up you mind what you want to do and then you try to persuade other people to go that way.

In context, she's explaining her motivation between her "Iron Lady" persona, and justifying political policies on the grounds that they were right, even if not popular. For example, immediately before the third quote above:

Therefore one can increase the confidence. I was doing the same thing on the overseas field. We had a totally unfair burden to bear in Europe on our contribution. The agricultural policy was not right, I started right in on those right at the beginning. I started right in on defence because you know there were certain people prepared to be weak about it. If you value your freedom you are prepared to defend it and you must continue to be prepared to defend it because you never know what is going to happen. I learned that from Winston Churchill.

We started right in on defence. We started right in even though we believed in trying to get down direct tax and trying to cut expenditure and not doing everything for people that they should do for themselves. It was better for them to have more of their own money to spend in their own way.

We still knew we had to spend more on defence and more on law and order, and so we did. We started to give the police a decent wage, decent equipment, raise their morale and thank goodness we did because what you are now up against is the problems of human nature.

So we did all this and it began to show through. And then all the things which I had been saying, the same sort of fundamental basic principles: you get your finances right; you get your incentives for enterprise right; you simply must enlarge opportunity, that is very important for youngsters you know, enlarge opportunity, look to see they are getting a good education and training for various things are available because there is more talent than we are using and so this has been the great thing of this particular period, enlarging opportunity in education, enabling people to get out of being council tenants if they so wish.

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