Margaret Thatcher’s scorn of her own ministers revealed in historic notes

Saturday, November 20, 2010

LONDON - Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is well known for being forthright, and now historic notes she made when she came into power have revealed her scorn of her own ministers.

From papers released by the National Archives website, it was seen how the then Prime Minister dismissed one Foreign Office briefing document as “jabberwocky”.

“This is a very poor paper and we can only assume that the Treasury is ‘otherwise occupied’ at the present,” the Daily Mail quoted her as declaring of a Treasury document submitted by then Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe.

She sent back a paper on the Common Agricultural Policy with the instruction: “Please translate into English.”

The leader made her own hand-written notes and comments in the margins, making clear her personal views and impatience with advisers.

The papers include files that passed over Lady Thatcher’s desk between May and December 1979 during her first year in power.

They contain details of preliminary ministerial discussions and briefing material on a range of contemporary issues, as well as the advice the Prime Minister received from Cabinet colleagues, civil servants and aides.

The single word “No” appears in the margin of several papers - often underlined - when proposals did not match up to her plans.

The release of the 133 files, in a joint project by the National Archives and the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, marks the 20th anniversary of Lady Thatcher’s departure from office in 1990.

Stephen Twigge of the National Archives said that the papers, which are searchable by keyword and cover issues ranging from economic policy to defence, the NHS and industrial relations, would be a valuable resource to historians and people with an interest in the Thatcher era.

“This series provides a unique insight into Thatcher’s characteristic tough-talking style of premiership in what is considered to be a significant year in modern history,” Twigge, the National Archives’ head of modern domestic, diplomatic and colonial records, said.

“By improving the accessibility and search potential of these valuable records, interesting nuggets and gems of information may be uncovered or revealed in the files, which may previously have been overlooked.

“The records often include comments written in the Prime Minister’s own hand, which can be very revealing about her reactions to memoranda and letters, giving insights into her whole approach to the job, her personal style and aspects of personality - mood and temperament,” he added. (ANI)

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