Magazine article The American Conservative

Thatcher Was No Neocon

Magazine article The American Conservative

Thatcher Was No Neocon

Article excerpt

1979 was a particularly good year for me. My column in the London Spectator had taken off, then Clay Felker--the legendary American editor who had discovered Tom Wolfe--flew over to London and asked if I would be interested to write for Esquire in America. But the best news came in May of that year, while swimming off a beach near Corfu. The captain of my father's boat informed me that a woman--he could not pronounce her name--had been elected British prime minister.

I did not meet her until she had become Lady Thatcher, having been stabbed in the back by nonentities like Michael Heseltine and Geoffrey Howe. But she had written a short note of encouragement earlier when I had a spot of bother with some illegal powder in my pocket, and she came to stay with me in Switzerland in the summer of 2000. Lady T, as her intimates called her, made breakfast for her husband every day before going to work at 7 a.m. She knew how important it was to save money, and when I offered to send a private plane for her visit to Gstaad, she personally rang and said, "As a friend is lending me his airplane to go to Austria, why don't I combine the trip, stop over to see you and then fly eastwards, thus saving you a penny or two?" This was vintage Thatcher, a responsible housewife who respected other people's money as much as her own.

She also showed her mettle when the Argentine junta grabbed the Falklands, with just one sentence: "Armed aggression should not be allowed to pay and the Falklanders should be allowed to live under the government of their choice." She broke the unions that were holding the nation hostage, refused to cancel the conference she was attending after the Brighton bombing--where her closest friend was murdered--and did not shed a tear in public, "but a hell of a lot in private," as her hubby told me.

All this goes to show one thing: steadfastness and courage under pressure breeds respect from enemies. Ronald Reagan I never met, but he, too, showed the same qualities whilst in power. Van Galbraith, our ambassador to Paris under Reagan, once told me that his favorite moment during his ambassadorship was looking out from the French windows onto his garden and seeing Margaret Thatcher almost lecturing Ronald Reagan and waving her finger at him. …

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