Margaret Thatcher 336

By chance I knew Margaret Thatcher rather better than a junior civil servant might have been expected to, not least from giving her some maritime briefings during the First Gulf War. On another occasion Denis and I once got absolutely blind drunk in Lagos – I had been given him to look after for the day, and the itinerary started with the Guinness brewery and went on to the United Distillers bottling plant, before lunch at the golf club. I had to reunite him with his spouse for the State Banquet and quite literally fell out of the car. Happy days.

I can say I was on first name terms with her – she always called me by my first name. Except unfortunately she thought that was Peter. I recall she came out to Poland when I was in the Embassy there and I was embarrassed because she knew me, and thus greeted me more warmly than my Embassy superiors. The problem was lessened by her continuing to call me Peter very loudly, even after I corrected her twice.

In person she was frightfully sharp, she really was. If you gave her a briefing, she had an uncanny ability to seize on the one point where you did not have sufficient information. She also had that indescribable charisma – you really could feel when she entered a room in a way I have never experienced with anybody else, not Mandela or Walesa, for example. You may be surprised to hear that in person I found her quite likeable.

Yet she was a terrible, terrible disaster to this country. The utter devastation of heavy industry, the writing off of countless billions worth of tooling and equipment, the near total loss of the world’s greatest concentrated manufacturing skills base, the horrible political division of society and tearing of the bonds within our community. She was a complete, utter disaster.

Let me give one anecdote to which I can personally attest. In leaving office she became a “consultant” to US tobacco giant Phillip Morris. She immediately used her influence on behalf of Phillip Morris to persuade the FCO to lobby the Polish government to reduce the size of health warnings on Polish cigarette packets. Poland was applying to join the EU, and the Polish health warnings were larger than the EU stipulated size.

I was the official on whose desk the instruction landed to lobby for lower health warnings. I refused to do it. My then Ambassador, Michael Llewellyn Smith (for whom I had and have great respect) came up with the brilliant diplomatic solution of throwing the instruction in the bin, but telling London we had done it.

So as you drown in a sea of praise for Thatcher, remember this. She was prepared to promote lung cancer, for cash.

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336 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher

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  • James Morton

    I once said I would dance a jig when she died. My Gran once said she was a bigger bum than ten arses with a face you’d never get tired of slapping. My mother to this day, can’t abide hearing her voice or seeing her face. But oddly now that day has come to pass – I feel nothing. She did me & mine great misery, in her drive to promote the monaterism that she would later deny having ever followed. In the end she was nothing to me but an unpopular politician, who without even knowing it, pushed Scotland further away from her precious union. She was a pathetic figure in the end surpassed in cruelty and sheer bloody minded stupidity by the new breed of westminster politicians. Who these days seem to be basing their careers on the legend that was Alan B’stard.

    what will amuse me is watching the contortions of the Scots tories over the coming days.

  • King of Nothing

    If there really is an afterlife she’ll have to get used to a much warmer climate.

    Nice to hear from you again BTW.

  • Indigo

    Am impressed, Craig, with your honest appraisal of Thatcher. Most would have let their negative opinions of her politics and their dreadful effects on the country colour their opinion of other aspects of her personality. To your credit, you didn’t.

    And the humour wasn’t bad either!

  • Abe Rene

    Why do readers think she was given the OM, which is in the personal gift of the Sovereign? Perhaps Her Majesty sensed her charisma? 🙂

  • November

    “This lady is not for turning” wont cut much mustard on the roasting spit, and long may she roast. The absolute bastard that she was deserves no less, though the misery of millions she promoted, cannot go unpunished and if it does then there is no natural justice.

  • Anon

    Well it took Marillion, earthquake gamma ray satellites, UFOs, swearing and the death of Thatcher to bring you back but glad something worked 🙂

    Nice to hear you are well.

  • MJ

    Hey Pete, in your list of Thatcher disasters you could have mentioned the deregulation of the City, a cynical piece of idiocy that did so much to encourage the current fiscal crisis.

  • Abe Rene

    I hold her responsible for MIRAS (tax relief on mortgages) which caused house prices in London to shoot up immediately, so that today houses in the capital are unaffordable for new buyers.

  • Indigo

    The Thatcher ‘disaster’ that comes first to my mind (perhaps because I lived in the North-East at the time) was the miner’s strike. Words can’t describe what that did to the people and communities concerned.

  • glenn_uk

    This is a true disaster for pharmaceutical companies. Sales of anti-depressants have crashed, with singing & dancing taking place throughout the land. Here in Wales, anyway. 🙂

  • Anon

    So for Paddy Ashdown seems to have been the only politician to go seriously off script and attack her in a BBC interview. But he clearly was prodded and finally concluded that destroying all the things he had mentioned was just what the country needed at the time. Doubt we will see the first part of his interview repeated.

  • Anon

    OT. Did they bump of Thatcher just to upstage Julian Assange?

    ‘Illegal we do immediately; unconstitutional takes a little longer’: Kissinger in new mass WikiLeaks document release

    Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is quoted as saying, “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer’,” during a 1975 conversation which included a Turkish and Cypriot official.

  • Mary

    ALL the newsreaders are wearing black. It is unbelievable. We will be having solemn music next. And yet they jeer at the construct of North Korea’s Dear Leader.

  • Cryptonym

    Ding! Dong! The Witch is dead. Hooray. But for the waste of fuel, the national tradition of lighting bonfires in celebration, ought to be revived in some form.

    Dreadful woman, if only those who mourn her, in a fitting tribute, could speedily join her.

    Popular legend and myth – of monsters, fiends and evil – alone will preserve her name.

    So shove her in a hole whereupon the citizenry can defecate and move on. The festivities should quickly turn to dealing with her successors: Tories, Liberal and Labourites.

  • trowbridge h. ford

    I woud suggest that she put us all at risk by reluctantly seeing that MI6 supplied an assassin to kill Olof Palme – what was intended by the Reagan Iran-Contra people to trigger a non-nuclear conclusion to the Cold War, but would have apparently led to a nuclear one which the USSR would probably have won if it had not been for the countermeasures that Moscow adopted to prevent it, thanks to all that spying that Rick Ames, Robert Hanssen, Jonathan Pollard, and the Walker gang had supplied the Soviets.

    Thatcher believed too much in what covert government could supply, thanks to Washington’s continual prodding.

  • CanSpeccy

    “she was a terrible, terrible disaster to this country. The utter devastation of heavy industry, …”

    But that was all in the interests of global free trade, free movement of people, aka, unrestricted mass migration, and an end to nationalism and national economic policy. You are for these things are you not? So how does your view differ significantly from MT’s other than in the desire to have things both ways?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Abe Rene , who says :

    “I hold her responsible for MIRAS (tax relief on mortgages) which caused house prices in London to shoot up immediately, so that today houses in the capital are unaffordable for new buyers.”

    Nice try, Abe, but MIRAS was actually introduced by the 1966-70 Labour government and continued through the succeeding Conservative and Labour govts.

    BTW, you might be interested to know that various forms of MIRAS apply in several continental European countries without having led a boom in house prices on the scale of the UK boom. No, I think you’ll have to look elsewhere for an explanation…

  • Parky

    Well, according to BBC News, she was a good chap and cared for everyone around her, except for those fools Paddy Ashdown and Ken Livingstone who dared to go off message and speak the truth for once. Apparently there will be military honors at her funeral to remind us how she enjoyed death and destruction. Back to normal now with much more gushing appraisal and adoration and no mention of the criminal destruction of manufacturing, mining and social cohesion she left in her wake.

  • Anon

    If anyone needs some relief from UK News, they are debating whether Tony Blair should be arrested on RT right now.

  • doug scorgie

    Thatcher dead

    No doubt the expense of the pomp and ceremony, with military honours and a funeral at St Pauls Cathedral will be met by our taxes.

    No tears please remember what she stood for:

    “Thatcher stands by Pinochet”

    “Baroness Thatcher has visited General Pinochet at the home where he is staying under house arrest near London – and talked of the “debt” she believes the UK owes him.”

    “The former UK prime minister met with the one-time Chilean dictator in a rare public appearance televised live from the house in Wentworth, Surrey.”

    “General Pinochet is staying in the rented mansion during his legal battle to avoid extradition to Spain.”

    “Lady Thatcher thanked her old friend for being an ally during the 1982 Falklands War – and for “bringing democracy to Chile”.

    “I know how much we owed to you for your help,” she said. “

    “The information you gave us, communications, and also the refuge you gave to any of our armed forces who were able, if they were shipwrecked, to make their way to Chile.”

    “She added: “I’m also very much aware that IT IS YOU WHO BROUGHT DEMOCRACY TO CHILE, you set up a constitution suitable for democracy, you put it into effect, elections were held, and then, in accordance with the result, you stepped down.”

    “General Pinochet said it was an honour to have Lady Thatcher there at the “simple house” on the estate, and thanked her for her “kindness”.

    She was also a dear friend of Henry Kissinger.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    A choice Thatcherism;

    “A world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.”

    Margaret Thatcher

  • Anon

    “Revocation information for the security certificate is not available. Do you want to proceed” just popped up on my Windows box playing RT

    Seems some users have been getting this from time to time since March 2012 but Oracle (it appears to be their certificate related to Java) are playing dumb.

    Anyone else with Java installed seeing this?

  • Neil

    Question for Craig:

    I loathed Thatcher while she was in power, but I also have a grudging respect for her abilities, esp given that Blair makes her look like a saint. What do you think her actions would have been re Iraq? I half-suspect she would have given Bush & co a much harder time than Blair did …

  • Kempe

    It’s become convenient to blame Thatcher for the collapse of British manufacturing but lazy and wrong. Heavy industry was in serious trouble long before she came to power and management complacency, union intransigence and a failure to invest in new technology were the real culprits.

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