Margaret Thatcher once said anyone on a bus over the age of 25 is a failure.
We can’t prove whether she did or didn’t say it, but she definitely didn’t coin the phrase.
"Margaret Thatcher once said anyone on a bus over the age of 25 is a failure,”
Jeremy Corbyn, 25 April 2019
We can’t prove whether Mrs Thatcher did or didn’t say this, but it appears that the phrase was originally coined by an acquaintance of one Loelia, the Duchess of Westminster, and then popularised by the duchess. At some point it became common to attribute the quote to Mrs Thatcher.
The Daily Telegraph reported in the duchess’s obituary that she once said: “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life.”
In 2006, writer Hugo Vickers wrote to the Telegraph saying that the duchess had told him that the phrase was originally coined by a poet called Brian Howard and that she had repeated it and passed it off as her own aphorism.
If the duchess’s memoirs are anything to go by, she certainly echoed the sentiment, mentioning the indignity of going from being driven by chauffeurs to having to “queue in the downpour for the over-populated bus” following her separation from the Duke of Westminster.
We’re not sure why and when people started to attribute the quote to Mrs Thatcher, but the Economist says she reportedly said it in 1986.
The Guardian reported in 2005 that Mrs Thatcher may have quoted the line to the founder and chairman of Stagecoach transport group Sir Brian Souter at an awards ceremony. We’ve contacted Sir Brian to confirm.
MPs seem unable to agree on exactly which age the quote refers to: some say 30, while others say 26 or 25.
The integrity of our elections is in danger, and we need your help
You’re probably here looking for facts. Thank you for that trust. But with the EU parliament elections on the way and more elections a possibility, we need to act now to make sure our elections are protected, before it’s too late.
Could you help protect our elections by becoming a Full Fact donor?
Misinformation isn’t new, but advancements in technology mean it can spread at an unprecedented scale. Our dangerously outdated election laws have not kept up with the digital age, putting our next elections at risk of abuse.
Currently, it’s possible for a candidate to run a thousand different political ads to win the same seat, promising something different to each group it targets. At the same time, there’s no law requiring those who publish online campaigns to disclose who they are or how they are funded. The opportunity for bad actors to manipulate election results is left wide open.
You may already know about our work to make public debate online more honest and transparent. Every day, we call out the most harmful misinformation on social media platforms when and where we see it. But right now, we’re urging the government to overhaul our election laws to make sure political campaigning is held to the same level of scrutiny online as it is offline.
This work all depends on the generosity of hundreds of people who all believe that for democracy to work, we need transparency. Our monthly donors help strengthen our voice, and show our politicians that this really matters. Would you consider joining them?
Become a donor today to make sure our elections are protected.