Magazine article The Spectator

At the End of the Day

Magazine article The Spectator

At the End of the Day

Article excerpt

THE JOURNALS OF WOODROW WYATT, VOLUME II edited by Sarah Curtis Macmillan L25, pp. 743

This is essentially a collection of repeated conversations, jotted down in a notebook at the end of the day with an added topping of terse, tart comment from the alarmingly indiscreet diarist. Wyatt obviously intended that their publication should cause trouble, and ensured this effect by turning the reader into a kind of eavesdropper - complicit, confidential and somewhat guilty. Undeniably, it is a very difficult book to put aside, as there is not a page which fails to excite goggle-eyed enjoyment. But what, as they used to say, does it signify?

Principally, that Wyatt was a man of fierce loyalties and unbudgeable opinions. It would not have occurred to him that to record these for posterity might embarrass his friends, for he knew that he and they were right about everything.

The heroine of the book, the person to whom he spoke almost daily on the telephone, was Margaret Thatcher, and one may be sure that embarrassment will not visit her. These journals cover her downfall and offer an intimate glimpse of her state of mind - combative, disbelieving, angry, but also lonely, vulnerable, hurt. You can hear her coaxing voice - 'Bless you for ringing, dear', 'I don't know why they don't like me' - and appreciate her gratitude to Woodrow for standing by her, like a gallant knight, against all her enemies. On the other hand, because he worships her uncritically ('my brave darling'), she can never learn from him why she has enemies in the first place, nor whether they might have something useful to say. In a way, she was as much besieged and traduced by blinkered friends as by political foes. It is disarming to hear Woodrow say, 'I really love that girl, she has got such terrific guts,' because you know, in that at least, he is right. And Thatcher is right to complain that no interviewer would ever have dared tell a male politician he was 'domineering'.

The second heroine is the Queen Mother, who comes across as mischievous, girlish, clapping with delight and effortlessly piling on dazzling charm. It is amusing to learn that Princess Margaret longs to go on a bus for the first time in her life, and very touching to hear the reason why the Queen never allows celebration of her accession to the throne, namely that for her mother the day her husband died still brims with sadness. …

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