Released Archives Reveal Feisty Side of Former British Premier Margaret Thatcher
Former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher's determination to implement change in the United Kingdom and her frustration in office has been revealed in the release of previously secret files. The files of the previously secret government documents from 1980 were released by the National Archives in Kew, London, under the 30-year-rule.
The records lay bare among other things her exasperation with the processes and negotiations with the European Union. At one time she even threatened to "openly" fight moves to deny the UK a budget refund and repeatedly demanded her ministers maintain a strong line during the bargaining process.
National Archives' record specialist Mark Dunton on Thursday (December 30) said the files, many of which contain hand-written notes by Mrs. Thatcher, give an insight into the woman and the changes she was trying to implement.
[Mark Dunton, National Archives Record Specialist]: "Here in these files we see the style of Thatcherism being established under very difficult circumstances. It was a very difficult economic background but Mrs. Thatcher wasn't for turning and we see in the files the strength of her convictions in handwritten comments where often her anger and frustration is very clear."
During her time in power, inflation was reined in by severe financial belt-tightening and loss-making state monopolies were privatized. Unemployment doubled by the mid-1980's to over 12 percent of the workforce.
[Mark Dunton, National Archives Record Specialist]: "The government were trying to introduce public spending cuts during a very difficult time and in one of the files we see Mrs. Thatcher writing, 'we have got to get economies' and the word 'economies' is underlined three times so we see the force of her convictions."
Dunton said the files also contained some surprises such as Mrs. Thatcher's thoughts on the Labor Prime Minister who preceded her Conservative government, James Callaghan.
[Mark Dunton, National Archives Record Specialist]: "One of the things which did surprise me was the warmth that Mrs. Thatcher showed about Jim Callaghan, her old adversary, where she actually, in a transcript of a telephone conversation with Chancellor Schmidt of Germany, she actually says about Callaghan, 'he's such a nice man', and you know, that might come as a surprise to us as we always thought of them as opponents.”
Mrs. Thatcher is Britain's longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, who dominated politics in her own country for a decade and carved out for herself a formidable position on the world stage.