UK: Days of the doubters - AS SHAREHOLDERS SELL UP.

UK: Days of the doubters - AS SHAREHOLDERS SELL UP. - So: Thatcherism will live on after Thatcher is dead, hm? Doubting Toady thinks not. Barely had the Blessed Margaret left the agonies of this world behind in Year 12 when some of her apostles began to

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

So: Thatcherism will live on after Thatcher is dead, hm? Doubting Toady thinks not. Barely had the Blessed Margaret left the agonies of this world behind in Year 12 when some of her apostles began to Have Doubts. These were by no means assuaged by the coming of her only begotten political son in the run-up to the recent election. Yea, verily, before the Gallup Poll had crowed thrice, the assembled faithless were busy practising the commercial equivalent of transubstantiation: turning their equity into liquid.

When, on Red Wednesday, the voice of the Smith was heard in the land promising 60% top rates, this trickle became a proverbial Flood. Martin Copley, chairman of upbeat insurers, Domestic and General, abandoned his faith in the Thatcherite after-life and reverted to his old ways.

The sale of 40% of his stake in D and G brought in £9.5 million: a comforting little insurance policy in anybody's book, but hardly a sign of a willingness to be martyred for the cause. Copley's apostasy pales, however, beside that of Trevor Hemmings, boss of Scottish and Newcastle's leisure division, who sold £16.25 million-worth of his shares at the end of March.

From all corners of the mundus Thatcherii, the story was the same. From High Technology came Brothers Brian Reynolds and Paul O'Grady, major shareholders in the Micro Focus software group, who accepted £8 million pieces of silver for their joint share tranche. Brothers Malcolm Walker and Peter Hinchcliffe, founders of Iceland Frozen Foods, meanwhile, took note of that fact that man liveth not by freezer-bread alone and, with two fellow-directors, flogged off over £5 million-worth of equity, while Frank Brake, eponymous co-owner of foodie Brake Brothers, relieved himself of £2 million-worth.

The poignancy of it all: this last trio were the very epitome of Thatcheranity, starting their commercial lives as strawberry-sellers and chicken-pluckers respectively and - in the words of the Thatcherite Creed - working their way up.

O, ye of little faith: but littlest of all perhaps was that of Derek Coombs, a director of the Birmingham-based Metalrax engineering group. It was he who sold £1.2 million of his shares in the firm days before the election. Coombs's previous incarnation? Well, for four years (1970-74) he was Conservative MP for Birmingham Yardley. Tsk tsk.

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