BBC Radio 4, 29 April - 3 May 2013
In 1997 Margaret Thatcher asked
journalist Charles Moore to write her official biography, with the proviso that it would not be published until after her
it has appeared, and will undoubtedly be a best-seller. Based on meticulous research into her papers, including her
correspondence dating back to the early 1940s, Moore's book presents a picture of a determined personality, upholding what
she perceived as traditional British values (marriage, home and family), who was nonetheless prone to moments of self-doubt.
This is why Denis Thatcher was so important to her, providing her with the kind of stability - both mental as well as physical
- that encouraged her to continue.
Her rise to power was far from meteoric. She first fought a by-election in the Labour stronghold
of Dartford; and when she finally obtained a government post in the Edward Heath administration, her decision to withdraw
free school milk for primary schools earned her the soubriquet of "Mrs. Thatcher the milk-snatcher." By dint of sheer
hard work - as well as force of circumstance (the Tory Party needed a strong leader after the debacle of the miners' strike
that brought down Heath in 1974) - Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister. Although relying on older men for political support
(many of whom did not take her seriously), she managed to establish herself as a major force in British politics.
While Charles Moore's biography
represents a considerable effort of research, I wonder whether his determination to present Mrs. Thatcher as ordinary
person - coping with family as well as professional pressures - actually minimizes her political achievements. Whether
we like her or not, she undoubtedly changed the face of British politics during the 1980s. This was achieved through
her extra-ordinary capacity for hard work. I'd have liked to her fewer minutiae - for example, about her relationship
with her secretaries at No. 10 - and more about the day-to-day business of politics.
Nicholas Farrell's reading was entertaining,
although I wish that he would have refrained from trying to impersonate Mrs. Thatcher's voice, while reading extracts from
her correspondence. He reminded me too much of Steve Nallon, who used to impersonate her in the 1980s satirical series
Spitting Image. The producer of this Book of the Week was Elizabeth Allard.