When it comes to Thatcher, there are three types of people:
1. Those who think she's the devil (i.e. if you trip over a stone in the road, it was put there by Maggie).
2. Those who recognise her great abilities & achievements but also see her flaws.
3. Those who see her as God.
When I started reading this book, I thought that the author was a number '3' as the back cover is lavish in praise and the introduction is fawning of the times he met her in person.
Still, the good thing about the book is that it is essentially a compilation of speeches, so any bias that the author may have only comes across in his selection of speeches which, as mentioned, are some of her best ones.
It starts off with her maiden speech in the House of Commons (in favour of her private member's bill), which won a great deal of praise from parliamentary superiors at the time. Unlike other books/ CDs, there is also interviews and speeches from before 1979, her abilities as a leader of the opposition come across well and I daresay David Cameron learnt a thing or two from her actions during this period.
Moving on to the speeches in power (which is covered by 3 chapters), I noticed that one of her best conference speeches was missed out - 1982. However, a good spread of speeches is still there, including her 'Francis of Assisi' remarks on gaining office and the 'Lady's not for turning' speech.
Interestingly, the three sections in office also cover a lot of interviews, parliamentary discourse & other material which normally don't feature in these sorts of books and help break up the narrative. These include her interview for 'Woman to Woman' with Miriam Stoppard, debates in the House of Commons around the Falklands war and a sketch she performed with the Yes Minister
After leaving power, the book becomes really interesting as it includes material from after 1990. There is her speeches during her time on the backbenches (1990-1992) where she is shown as still being obsessively anti-Federalist Europe but also a stauch supporter of John Major. There is also her Maiden speech in the House of Lords and a selection of speeches she made about Tony Blair up until (and including) her recent Eulogy to President Reagan and her 25th anniversary of the Falklands speech.
Most interesting of all, there are two eulogy speeches for Keith Joseph and Nick Ridley - a sign that Thatcher's achievements would not have been possible without key aides and political allies...
Following the Falklands ending, the appendices contains an appendix by one of her speech writers (about how she'd never seen Monty Python and was incredulous as to why her 1990 'Dead Parrot' remarks were so funny). Also, there is an appendix on her fall from power and a timeline of her life.
Throughout the book, there are an assortment of quotations by her (including 'there's no such thing as society' among others) which contain a few of the better known ones and, more interestingly, a great deal of quotations you may not have heard.
So, if you are a fan of Thatcher, then this book is a real treat and seems to show a wholly new perspective on her by concentrating purely on her oratory.
Of course, if you are a type '1' then beware - as this book contains a very strong dose of Thatcherite thought. Even type '2's might feel a little like Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear
's race to Oslo (where he only has a CD of Thatcher's speeches
to listen to, all of which seem to consist of 'No, No, No'!)
Still, if you want to learn about Britain's greatest post-war leader, then this book brings a host of real interesting insights to the table.
Hopefully the author will one day do a similar work for Tony Blair and then it may be possible to balance the ruthless ideological fixer in Thatcher with the conciliatory tones of Blair.