Margaret Thatcher: The Road from Llandudno

There must be something about the sea air at Llandudno.

It was there, at the Liberal assembly (as they were known) in 1981, that David Steel told his party members: "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government."

And they did, even if government in the sense he meant it was almost 30 years away.

The role played by this north Wales seaside town in Margaret Thatcher's political development has been noticed before, in the Grantham Journal and her own memoirs, but today's publication of Margaret Thatcher's authorized biography (Volume One: Not For Turning) by Charles Moore gives new insight into events there in 1948.

It may not have been the conference rhetoric that inspired Margaret Roberts, as she then was. Indeed, she wrote to her sister Muriel: "The level of speaking was very low."

But Miss Roberts did find time for plenty of networking, dining out twice with a mentor of hers from student days, John Grant. He happened to sit next to the chairman of a constituency association looking for a candidate and suggested the future Lady Thatcher might be suitable.

The constituency chairman, John Miller, didn't think "a woman would do at all" for Dartford, a Labour seat on the borders of London and Kent. According to Moore, Mr Miller and his wife Phee (and their association's women's chairman) agreed to have lunch with John Grant and Margaret Roberts.

Moore reports: "The lunch took place and Margaret made a very favourable impression. Nothing definite seems to have emerged from it at the time. Indeed, in her full description of the conference in her letter to Muriel, Margaret makes no mention of the meeting with the Dartford dignitaries. But before the end of the year it had borne fruit."

She was duly selected for the seat - "an even greater moment than her entry into Oxford" - according to Moore. She didn't win in either 1950 or 1951 but Moore says "it revealed to her the extent of her political talents, threw here into the combat she always enjoyed and set her on the course of her life".