Pity the sellers of news in today’s crowded media marketplace. Up before the birds to set out their stalls, they wait for the customers, the news editors and content managers, to arrive.

Here they come. Squeezing this story, sniffing that, looking for the next Willy Wonka experience or a fresh take on the latest Tory rebellion, the punters are a hard lot to please. How to cut through the din and grab their attention?

Sex always sells, and cute animals, but failing that try Mrs Thatcher. Whatever the story, you won’t go far wrong by linking the UK’s first woman Prime Minister to it.

Take the example of Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor, who last night was set to deliver the annual Mais Lecture in the City. Named after the former Lord Mayor of the City of London, it is a prestigious event attended by the great, good and generally loaded. Previous speakers have included the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Kenneth Clarke, Roy Jenkins and Fredrick Hayek.

For Reeves and other Chancellors-in-waiting, the Mais gig is a bit like the final of The Apprentice, when contestants for the job appear before a packed hall of industry specialists, in this case financiers and economists. Tradition dictates that these people must be courted by any party keen to form the next government. Pass muster with this crowd and the little people (you and me), will sleep soundly at night knowing house prices are not going to fall off a cliff.

The speech has to be dry enough to satisfy the audience in the hall and at the same time connect with voters. A tough ask, but whoever had the job of briefing the media ahead of Reeves’s speech did well. As if playing some word association game, they mentioned growth, prosperity, the 1980s, a decade of national renewal, and shaking up Whitehall. Lo and behold stories appeared linking Reeves to Thatcher but without the bad bits. One paper had the Shadow Chancellor speaking of a “1979 moment”, another said she would be “channeling Thatcher”.

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Reeves was smart enough to include a get-out-of-jail card by saying growth under a Starmer government would be “broad-based, inclusive and resilient”. So not like Mrs Thatcher’s kind of growth at all.

In the citing Thatcher and getting away with it stakes, Reeves scored a seven out of ten. The week was also witness to other, far less successful, attempts to exploit the Thatcher brand for selfish ends.

The first was the V&A museum in London. In an exhibition looking at the history of British humour, a caption on Punch and Judy mentioned Thatcher alongside Hitler and Osama bin Laden in a list of “contemporary villains” used in the seaside show. Well done all those news sites that ran pictures of the three lest there should be any mix-up.

Perhaps someone took the wrong cue from the exhibition and had unwisely attempted a joke. Contrast this outbreak of misguided naughtiness with Humza Yousaf’s deliberate and extended trashing of the Conservative Party name. I worry about Scotland’s First Minister sometimes, genuinely. Something happens whenever he has to make a major speech. Maybe the lights are too strong, or he has not had his eight hours’ sleep, but before you know it he is saying the silliest things. Like announcing a freeze on the council tax without consulting council leaders, or declaring his intention to make Scotland “Tory free”, as he did at his party’s not-the-spring conference last Sunday.

In tones reminiscent of folk who want rid of grey squirrels so the reds can flourish, he said, “From the Highlands to the Borders, let’s rid this country of Tory MPs once and for all. Whether it’s in May, or November, or any month in between – let the message from our party be heard loud and clear by every Tory MP in Scotland. Your time is up and the SNP is coming for you.”

Dearie me, where did that come from? From his days as a politics student perhaps, though one might have hoped he had matured a little since then. The First Minister was not simply wrong in his analysis that the Tories were the main threat to SNP MPs at the General Election. He was so over the top in his rhetoric he managed to make even non-Conservatives feel sorry for the party.

Like Rachel Reeves, the First Minister did not have to directly say Thatcher’s name to summon her presence. Mrs T is always there in the background, north, south, east and west. She has become a historical figure as divisive as Churchill and almost matches him for mentions.

No wonder it often feels as though Mrs Thatcher has never left politics and never will. The signs were there at her funeral. I remember standing on the pavement leading up to St Paul’s that Wednesday in April 2013, waiting for the gun carriage carrying her coffin to pass. It had been hours since dawn and for a long time it seemed as though only the press and that hardy band of flag wavers seen at every major event, royal and otherwise, had turned up to claim a spot. But soon they began to arrive, all ages and from all over. Opinion was divided between those saying goodbye and those muttering good riddance, but all attached an importance to her that went beyond the norm.

The 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike has brought Mrs Thatcher to the attention of a whole new generation. There has been a long overdue balancing of the books by the media on the 1984-85 dispute. It has taken four decades, and there are truths still to emerge, but a start has been made.

Not many, if any, have changed their view of the woman who took on the miners. There is no moving on there. That is understandable but this attachment to the past does today’s politicians, and politics in general, no favours. Everywhere else in the world the clocks have carried on ticking, but in the dusty old UK it is still 1979. How can radical new ideas emerge in a country so stuck in the past?