Reagan/Thatcher Vol 2 (The Secret Letters)

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But at the time the danger to the government was much more serious. Heseltine staked his career on the issue because he felt it touched on his personal authority as defence secretary. His main rival in this matter was Leon Brittan, newly arrived as secretary of state at the Department of Trade and Industry after his demotion from the Home Office. Brittan was feeling bruised; Heseltine was restless and looking for new worlds to conquer. Brittan, though at least as pro-European as Heseltine, wanted more of a market-based solution, which included being open to a buy-out from a US private defence contractor, the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.

Nonetheless, there was widespread astonishment when he did quit. Powell later claimed that the level of detail required to grasp the Westland affair was so great that Whitelaw never managed to understand it. There has been a breakdown in the propriety of cabinet discussions.

UK held secret talks to cede sovereignty

His job was now on the line. Moore is very good at finding his way through the detail to capture the toxic mix of amour propre, political posturing and institutional inertia that nearly brought down the government. The Westland affair gave Thatcher the most dangerous twenty minutes of her entire premiership. Both Brittan and Heseltine were present and Thatcher was vulnerable to anything they might say, since both knew how complicit Number 10 had been in their downfall. Instead, she faced Kinnock. Then he fell back upon the rhetorical generalities for which he was well known.

But then he had an attack of wind, gave her time to recover. All she got from Neil was a rather floppy baseball bat. She always was lucky in her opponents. Westland provides one of the very few laugh-out-loud moments in the book. On the weekend before the Commons debate, when her advisers were frantically helping her to prepare her defence, Thatcher had to break off to attend a constituency function in Finchley.

On her way there she was told that a local party dignitary who had been expected to greet her would not be doing so because he was having a nervous breakdown. Was this a touch of gallows humour? Or was it a genuine whine of self-pity? But he does devote a chapter to recounting the failure of her enemies to understand her properly. By the mids hatred for Thatcher herself as well as what she stood for had become something comfortable and familiar to those on the other side of the political divide. We liked disliking her. Moore is surely right when he says this led many on the left to mistake the nature of the challenge they faced.

Never … did they coldly analyse why she was winning, in order to ensure she would lose. This book does little to make sense of the changes that were happening in Britain, preferring to take the Thatcherite perspective at face value: the country was doomed unless it toughened up and all views to the contrary were simply more evidence of the rot that had to be excised. Moore makes no effort to consider the reasons underlying the strength of opposition to Thatcher, or to address the diversity of its sources.

Not everyone who was uncomfortable with what Thatcherism was doing to British manufacturing, for instance, was blinded by hatred of the woman herself. In his first volume he was forced to confront the question of how a girl from Grantham could end up as prime minister, which meant he had to explore the different worlds through which she moved, from provincial Methodism to Oxford snobbery to the legal profession to North London Jewry to the educational establishment and so on.

That made it a much better book. Here he falls back too easily into his comfort zone of rival Westminster worldviews and clubby Whitehall intrigue. Because the woman at the heart of it all remains unfathomable, the picture he paints is a superficial one.

Volume I: From Grantham to the Falklands

Reading this book is an exhausting experience because being around Thatcher was exhausting. Sitting next to her at dinner seems to have been a prospect of dread for many, because she really did go on and on. For her more intimate associates, it was simply the price to be paid for being close to the source of power. It grew increasingly intolerable for a number of them, though, especially her foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe, whose job required him to soothe the bruised feelings she left in her wake. Yet, in the period covered by this book, he just about tolerated it.

This meant that Europe was less a bone of contention than the Commonwealth. On European matters she could still be reasonably pragmatic, so long as she felt Britain was getting some value for money. They wanted her to negotiate. She wanted them to yield. These tensions came to a head over the question of South Africa. Her fellow Commonwealth leaders — including the Canadian and Australian prime ministers — had been pressuring Britain to join in international sanctions against the apartheid regime.

Thatcher refused, claiming that economic sanctions would only punish the people they were designed to help the black majority , thereby making a violent breakdown of order more likely. She was mistrustful of the policy briefings she was getting from the Foreign Office, suspecting they were infected with liberal bias.

In the light of this, Thatcher had no wish to join in an international moral crusade. Nor did she think that Britain had any special obligation to do so simply in virtue of its position as head of the Commonwealth. She tried to treat her fellow Commonwealth leaders as she had treated the miners: she affected to rise above it all, insisting that their infighting was not primarily her concern.

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It was not the British Commonwealth, she told an interviewer from the Sunday Telegraph. It is their Commonwealth. If they wish to break it up, I think it is absurd. They also risked upsetting the queen, whose affection for the Commonwealth was widely known. This threat Thatcher did take seriously. She was always very conscious of constitutional proprieties. As a sign of how much more willing she was to accommodate European than African influence, she said she would allow Britain to join the largely symbolic sanctions regime approved by the EEC at The Hague if every other European member state did the same.

She gave way but she never backed down. Like many long-serving political leaders Thatcher became increasingly convinced that personalities not policies were what mattered in international politics. She believed that everything depended on getting the right person at the top. She was genuinely optimistic that with Gorbachev in charge change might come to the Soviet Union; she was equally hopeful that new leadership in South Africa might make all the difference. Botha was not going to reform, no matter what pressure came from the outside world, but one of the next generation of politicians, such as F.

It is haunted by the ghosts of the future. He said this not because there was any sign that the voters wanted Kinnock as prime minister but because Young had been spending too much time with Thatcher to believe they could still want her; luckily for him, they only had to put up with her on their TV screens.

The really ghostly presence, however, is John Major, the man who was destined to replace her, after first Howe and then Heseltine had wielded the knife. Though Major is barely three years from becoming prime minister by the end of this volume he barely merits a mention in it. Thatcher first properly notices him right at the end, during the election campaign, when he appears at her daily press conferences as the minister with responsibility for social security.

Those jostling to be first in line to replace Cameron should take note. There are other eerie presentiments of current politics. Brittan, when he falls, is pursued from office by nasty rumours about his sexual history. Most conspiracy theories have long roots, and they fold back into earlier conspiracy theories, so that the point where one ends and another begins is hard to discern. It just needed to be nudged decisively on its way.

He also had a vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Thatcher, on the other hand, believed in staying armed to the hilt, with the threat of mutually assured destruction the guarantee of peace. Mrs Thatcher went to Washington in to put the Americans right, subjecting the president and his entourage to a torrent of argument.

Tag: Margaret Thatcher | The Spectator

The U. Distrust: Thatcher was suspicious of Reagan's conciliatory stance towards Moscow.

President Reagan Meeting with Prime Minister Thatcher on December 22, 1984

But in the end he brought her to a juddering halt. In another meeting, she went too far with her scolding and her undermining of his position. He looked her in the eye and stared her down. Around the table, no one moved.

A very acrimonious love-in: A new book reveals how Thatcher and Reagan fought like cat and dog

Later, a presidential aide took her aside to warn her that if she spoke in public the way she had just addressed Reagan in private, it would do huge damage. If she chose to disagree with his nuclear strategy, it would be disastrous for him and, in turn, for Anglo-American relations. The message was received. A chastened Maggie would keep quiet about her reservations on his goal of nuclear disarmament.

Here was an aspect of her success as a politician that many overlooked. At heart, she was a realist, and the reality was that Britain as the junior partner could only push disagreement so far. She could only look on — incandescent and impotent — as Reagan stood toe to toe with Mikhail Gorbachev, the canny new leader in Moscow who realised Russia could have a future without the Soviet Union and Communism.

She both admired and distrusted Gorbachev at the Reykjavik summit in , fearful that Reagan would blink first and betray the entire Western alliance. He outfoxed the enemy. It was the Soviets who backed down, unable to afford a new arms race.