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.

336 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher

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  • Anon

    Hmm, is the Java updater tripping over the fact that something not quite right is in between me and the certificate servers. Or is Oracle staggeringly incompetent as the bug is still listed as “Open” despite ongoing reports for over a year.

  • Mike Ames

    I don’t agree with everything Mrs Thatcher did; she made many mistakes but she put Britain first, was a conviction not a focus-group politician, she had a vision that she believed in and as for ruining British industry I think the unions, the management and lack of investment caused the real damage she just faced up to the problem and did what was needed.

    If you want a testament to her achievement politics have remained broadly Thatherite (excluding the dismal Brown days) ever since. Even Blair admitted that he continued her legacy.

  • John Goss

    I had a not too dissimilar experience to yours with Dennis Thatcher on a Russian summer-course at Norwich. It was with a chap who claimed to have had the rather dubious honour of being ‘last fag-master at Eton’. For the evening of entertainment that always accompanies these social courses some young Scottish undergraduates had opted to demonstrate a national folk-dance called ‘Strip the Willow’. Their problem was, because they were all women, confusion arose as to who the male partners were supposed to be, so they commandeered me and Fairbanks-Smith to partner them. Rehearsals were disastrous, almost as bad as when they were all women together. The moves seemed to go all right but the music always went on for a few bars after the dance had finished, or it finished a few bars before the dance itself. On the night of the show we had been downing one after another until somebody rushed into the bar panic-stricken and screaming at us that we were on. (I think there had been a search party out looking for us). Somehow we got onto the stage and amazingly, for the very first time ever, the dance finished at the same time as the music. Neither of us could believe it. We looked at one another and burst out laughing.

    Politically we were miles apart, but yes, sometimes if politics is laid aside, there can be common-ground, even if it is found in a well-filled glass. That, I guess, is what diplomacy is all about. Three years later Thatcher had had her war in the Falklands and I had joined the miners in Birmingham on their march against her pit-closures.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Conflict

    Thatcher exits the stage leaving an endowment of contempt for local democracy maintained, bolstered and hoisted by her protégé, agent Cameron and his malfunctional sick crew hell bent on their toxic elimination of community-spiritness and fairness; these are corrosive neo-liberal values that has left Britain a nastier place – coarser, greedier, sadder, more divided.

    June 22nd this year some of the enlightened ‘angry’ will take over, seize back togetherness and educate. Representative Democracy is a sham with synthetic delegates of the status quo establishment.

    This is an assembly of the people of Britain, time for all to capture public business.

  • Anon

    Glenn and Ben

    That had to be deliberate by someone at CNN surely inserting that photo into her obit package.

    CNN has drawn unwanted attention on the internet after broadcasting a picture of Margaret Thatcher with Jimmy Savile.

    Thatcher, the former Prime Minister, passed away aged 87 this morning after a stroke. However, the US news channel has run a photo of her with the disgraced DJ and TV presenter.

    In case anyone missed it upthread photo at

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ 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.”

    Spot on, again. And not only heavy industry (a Western European decline, in fact) but also light industry and manufacturing industry in general.

    Phenomena well attested at the time in works by serious commentators like Andrew Schonfield (“British economic policy since the war”, 1958) and Michael Shanks (“The stagnant society”, 1961).

  • Stephen Morgan

    Let’s have some sympathy for the devil.

    After all, he’s the one who’s got to deal with her from now on.

  • Mary

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thatcher was “a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength; a woman of greatness. She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders. I send my most sincere condolences to her family and to the government and people of Great Britain.”

    MK Avigdor Liberman, the former foreign minister, noted that Thatcher was the first British prime minister to visit Israel. “I remember well the tears she shed on her visit to Yad Vashem and the empathy she expressed for our nation’s past and future challenges,” he said, calling her a great friend of the Jewish people. ”Margaret Thatcher was a strong and courageous leader and stateswoman, who showed great foresight and was not afraid to act in the interests of her country and people.”,179844

  • Fudgefase

    Thatcher was the sole cause of the selling off of council houses and the destruction of affordable housing stocks for working families. I shed no tears.

  • guano

    Thatcher – Thatcher = 0

    Just as she dies we decide that we should never have abandoned coal power stations, or banking regulation, or Union power to regulate corporate greed, or animal food regulation, or morality in the courts of justice, not least in the area of marital breakdown.

    She was a Goliath, a monstour of Grendel proportions and fame. The double G of Maggie.

    Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum
    Listen! We –of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,
    þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon·
    of those clan-kings– heard of their glory.
    hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.
    how those nobles performed courageous deeds.

    Nobody of this generation of emasculated politicians can lay claim to have laid her legacy to rest. Tony Blair emulated her violence and violation of international law. Gordon Brown peddled her economic trash into extremity and David Cameron wafted incense over her broken victims’ gore.

    However Craig is totally correct to give Mrs Thatcher credit for her strength of character. She inherited a generation that dreamed of a different idea to colonialism and class barriers, emerging from the second world war, and the endeavours of a thousand years of British commonsense and decency. She delivered leadership for both those aspirations: social equality and global trade.

    Craig mentioned a few years ago that her attitude to torture was moral and clear. It wasn’t going to happen on her watch or in her name. Let that be her monument. A bold, adventurous, annoying but honest human heart. Let that be her testimony, that she ruled in an age before the war on terror and nobody can place the crimes of her successors at her door.

  • John Goss

    Guano, I love the maths. You’ve been practising with the Captchas but it’s logically correct. I did not know she had morals over torture. Let that be her saving grace then. But let’s not forget she was honorary president of the bogus charity “Atlantic Bridge” and with Fudgefase I am shedding no tears.

  • Cryptonym

    As the first Gulf War – over Kuwait and Southern Iraq’s oil – was already underway, along with sanctions that killed millions in the end, she was in at the beginning of the current crusade, or revived series crusades and shares in its criminality and consequent woeful results for humanity and for frail, recovering British prestige, stolen for a fig-leaf of legality, to form a bandit coalition. By the time Desert Storm was launched, she was gone from power but her influence remained through the party and her protege Major did not waver or act independently in foreign affairs from the outlaw course she set us upon. Could it be that someone with such an independent bent, as we’re told she had, really have just been another performing puppet, regurgitating others’ ideas as her own, a servant of manipulative power, than mistress of her own and failed hijacker of all our destinies?

    The newborn monopoly private sector simply leeched off the public teat and consumer captivity and drew on investment and research carried out and paid for by nationalised industries in public hands, innovated nothing beyond what was handed to them at the outset.

    Economic events culminating in the existence of criminal, too big to fail banks, bailed out to an extent that could have saved every indusry lost: from steel-making; mining; car and commercial vehicle manufacture; shipbuilding and so much more – could have saved all thousands of times over, with plenty change to spare and could now be dominating world markets, in a balanced, shock-free resilient economy. The contradiction in the belief that we couldn’t do certain things – we couldn’t go it alone – in quality engineering and manufacturing particularly, but apparently, paradoxically, in others it seemed some were supernaturally equipped to succeed unerringly in the world of kleptocratic, parasitic banking and finance, leglised theft. This contradiction, this simultaneous clutch of mutually exclusive beliefs still bewitches her knavish fans, counting their ill-got gains.

    Her vilest spells weaken, by comparision with today the 1970s were halcyon happy days.

  • Stephen Morgan

    She’s only been in hell for three hours and she’s already closed down three furnaces – some wag on twitter.

  • Mary

    No irony.

    Obama hails Margaret Thatcher as ‘great champion of freedom’ in tribute

    Meryl Streep adds to bipartisan tributes to former British prime minister, who has died at the age of 87

    Barack Obama led tributes from the United States to the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, whose death on Friday* led to an outpouring of remembrances that went well beyond normal courtesies.

    Obama described Thatcher as “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty” and a true friend to the US. Former president George HW Bush and the Republican House speaker John Boehner also paid generous tributes.

    *It appears that the Guardian have got their Fridays muddled up with their Mondays.

    The master of extrajudicial killing by drone, the fact that he has not closed Guantanamo as he promised, the fact that he is persecuting Bradley Manning, put Obomber’s tribute into context.

  • English Knight

    The “Finchley voters bloc” in this blog have so far only managed to raise their heads just slightly over the parapet. Where is resdis when you need him?!

  • Mary

    Thatcher state funeral to be privatised

    Responsible department: Cabinet Office

    In keeping with the great lady’s legacy, Margaret Thatcher’s state funeral should be funded and managed by the private sector to offer the best value and choice for end users and other stakeholders.

    The undersigned believe that the legacy of the former PM deserves nothing less and that offering this unique opportunity is an ideal way to cut government expense and further prove the merits of liberalised economics Baroness Thatcher spearheaded.

    Number of signatures:33,816
    Created by:Scott Morgan
    Closing:10/10/2012 09:25


    Loving it.

  • craig Post author

    Kempe, Habbakuk,
    British heavy industry was failing so it needed to be quickly and completely eliminated, thus ruining most of the country north of Watford. A generation later the British financial services industry failed completely so it needed to be – propped up by the taxpayer with an incredible commitment that puts ordinary taxpayers in debt for generations, thus saving London and the South East because these jobs, unlike industrial jobs, are essential to the country.


  • mike

    Great timing: The bitch dies, just as her corn-fed cub’s benefit cuts for the disabled come into force.
    Hopefully, we’ll see a repeat (and then some) of the Poll Tax Revolt, if people can switch off their screens for long enough to talk to their neighbours.
    It’s the rich against the poor. Always has been. Easy credit delayed this kind of disclosure, but now that’s gone. The lines have been drawn and they’re pretty clear,
    It’s simply a case of what kind of world you want to live in. Please act accordingly.

  • A Node

    She was quite simply a traitor. She sold out her country, not for principle, but for her own selfish, self important benefit.

    She was interviewed for the job of Prime Minister at a Bilderberg Group meeting. She was told what policies she would have to implement if she wanted the job, and she agreed. And so to pay for her brief period in the spotlight, the infrastructure of our country was thrown to the globalist jackals, our manufacturing plant and skills were broken up and destroyed for ever, our financial regulations were turned into a thieves’ charter, and our welfare state became the enemy instead of a proud mark of civilisation.

    True, Blair and Cameron went through the same interview, made the same deal with the Devil, and have continued the same policies. True, if she had refused the deal at that meeting, they’d have found someone else to do it, but she took the 30 pieces of silver, and started the whole rotten business.

    But what really gets me is that she isn’t universally despised. Blair was just as bad but he has to live with our loathing and his children know how their father made his fortune. He’s paid a price, not high enough but a price. But fucking Thatcher has come out of it smelling of roses. Because she was a figurehead for privatisation throughout the world, the MSM protected her reputation to the end, made her revered instead of vilified.

    State funeral indeed. I’m even having to pay to bury the witch.

    I have decided to renounce my atheism for the day so that I can wish with more conviction that she rot in hell.

  • A Node

    “There is no such thing as Society” – Thatcher 1988

    “There is no such thing as Thatcher” – Society 2013

  • crab

    Of coarse there should be a world of difference between letting a sector of work (and peoples lives) run down gently because it is deemed unprofitable, and demolishing it with haste (throwing out the ‘babies with the bathwater’).

    Today there is even no talk of running Financial and Insurance ‘work’ down, which would be easily Socialised with modern IT infrastructure and which as private business only directly profits a tiny and ruthless minority.

    Almost everything useful is made by China now – this was somehow deemed desirable decades ago, and arranged at haste chanting this old mantra “tough decisions need to be made”

  • doug scorgie

    The MSM is trying to imply that Mrs Thatcher did not want a state funeral “in accordance with her own wishes.”

    I remember that a few years ago Tony Blair suggested that Mrs Thatcher should have a state funeral when she dies. He was heartily seconded by all the Tory MPs and the MSM.

    The uproar by the British public that followed caused a massive U-turn on that idea.

    Mrs Thatcher has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for many years, a truly horrendous mental illness. So she would not have been able to comprehend what was being proposed by her lickspittles as regards her funeral arrangements – let alone making her own wishes known.

    However her death poses a problem for our next elected government, whichever party that may be. The new Prime Minister will not be able to have a photo opportunity with Mrs T on the doorstep of number 10 (as Blair, Brown and Cameron did) to signal to their true masters in the “City” that Thatcherism is alive and well.

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