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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating and fascinating political biography
I decided to read John Campbell's second volume of his life of Margaret Thatcher prompted by the release of the movie, "The Iron Lady", starring Meryl Streep. The book has been around for some years now and with the recent release of Cabinet papers for 1981 under the 30 year rule it might have seemed in need of an update but not a bit of it. Of course there may be...
Published on 10 Jan. 2012 by Hywel James

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first volume
You can't fault Campbell for not doing his research. This is an extraordinarily detailed work. However it suffers from the same fault as the first volume - a tendency to defer to Thatcher's own account of herself. It's a biography, albeit a political biography, so perhaps it's a bit unfair to criticize its political judgement too much, but he takes too much of the...
Published on 31 Jan. 2013 by Mr. P. I. Browne


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating and fascinating political biography, 10 Jan. 2012
By 
Hywel James "Hywel James" (Devon, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 (Hardcover)
I decided to read John Campbell's second volume of his life of Margaret Thatcher prompted by the release of the movie, "The Iron Lady", starring Meryl Streep. The book has been around for some years now and with the recent release of Cabinet papers for 1981 under the 30 year rule it might have seemed in need of an update but not a bit of it. Of course there may be details which need to be overhauled but in the main the story is wholly convincing and its judgements entirely sound:balanced, shrewd and fair.

Moreover the narrative grips you from the start and despite the length of the book - over 900 pages - it reads like a political thriller. Campbell is an extraordinarily good writer. Highly recommended, not least to those like me who are far from being fans of the Iron Lady.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid follow-up to the Grocer's Daughter, 27 Sept. 2004
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The first volume of John Campbell's biography of Margaret Thatcher was entertaining because he succeeded in finding an original way of telling the Thatcher story. The book was based on the premise that she played up her past, so much so that in the 1980's Peter Hennessey was able to claim that it was almost as though her father was running the country from beyond the grave. In Campbell's telling of her life up until 1979, he exposed the extent to which she embellished certain truths to further her own position, and this made for a gripping and enjoyable read.
This second volume has proved trickier, if only because it is more difficult to create a chronological account of a Government in action. Campbell has wisely split the book up into thematic areas which broadly move forward chronologically as the book progresses - rather like Baroness Thatcher's memoirs. If this book has a theme it is her lack of man-management as PM, which eventually rebounded on her with the resignation of Geoffrey Howe. However, as the book moves through a number of areas this is a point which is sustained, but without any real sense of narrative.
This is not to say that this is a bad biography - rather it highlights precisely why the first volume was so entertaining. Instead, The Iron Lady comes across as informative first, entertaining second - and there is much to commend. He has created a very balanced and fair biography, acknowledging her strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. It is a book which has also been written a suitable period after events have been written - not only can we see the effect of her policies, but the personalities involved have also got their accounts out into the open.
Campbell's writing is superb - he has a fairly brisk writing style that enables him to argue a point well. There is some repetition of turns of phrase, but that is only to be expected in an 800 page volume. When he needs to do drama - especially in the penultimate two chapters - he does it exceptionally well. He is also adept at picking up humorous quotes and anecdotes which are illuminating at the same time.
There are a few other drawbacks for example there is little mention over her plans for Lord Young which to my mind is the most eccentric incident of her premiership which seems like an omission.
However, to list them all would be just nitpicking: The Iron Lady is an good solid biography. With a little more flair it would have been an excellent follow-up. Ultimately the difficult nature of the subject has left him with few strands to pull together through the whole book, though this does not prevent it from being a rewarding, informative and enjoyable read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Of what metal was she made of?, 27 April 2013
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This review is from: Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 (Hardcover)
This is by far the best and most thorough biography of Margaret Thatcher yet to appear, superseding Hugo Young's effort. I was almost going to write 'definitive' but of course Campbell has not had access to the state archives of her time as Prime Minister, locked away under the thirty year rule, or Thatcher's private papers held at Cambridge University. Instead he has relied on memoirs, diaries, newspapers and broadcast media to analyse Thatcher and her premiership.

Campbell writes from a centrist, Blairite, Europhile perspective. He broadly supports her neo-liberal policies and is perceptive of the clash between her economic liberalism and her nationalism, and he is also critical of her Euroscepticism. By reading what must amount to hundreds of thousands of words spoken or written by Thatcher, Campbell is able to make those generalisations of summarising what Thatcherism was all about, thereby enlightening the reader. He has accurately understood her personality and political philosophy. For the most part, this is a critical assessment of her, usually providing both sides of the argument. By utilising the memoirs of her colleagues (Howe, Lawson, Major, etc) Campbell avoids hagiography of the most divisive Prime Minister of modern times.

Having read some of Campbell's other biographies of British politicians, I would go so far to say that he is the best political biographer we have at the moment. As the book progresses, however, Campbell increasingly becomes critical of Thatcher, culminating in the last chapter which is almost entirely negative; she was neglectful of her family, prejudiced, a 'batty old eccentric' who by refusing to retire quietly was damaging the Conservative Party (the party was 'hag ridden' by her repeated forays into politics). However despite making some valid points, Campbell allows his animosity towards her views to cloud his judgment.

For example, he writes of her arguments put forward in her last book, Statecraft: her belief that most of the major problems of her lifetime had sprung from the Continent is 'blinkered nonsense' despite being true; her support for renegotiation of Britain's EU membership is denounced as 'fantasy' yet renegotiation is now mainstream policy; her support for withdrawal from the EU should renegotiation fail is 'impracticable' yet support for withdrawal has sizeable public support. Campbell is unable to understand the irony that the issue that brought about her downfall, Europe, Thatcher was proved right. Who now supports joining the euro or ever increasing union?

I have not read Charles Moore's authorised biography so I cannot compare the two. I would be surprised, however, if Moore's access to her private papers has substantially challenged the interpretations offered by Campbell. This is a superb biography.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb political biography, 10 Aug. 2004
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Andrew Norman "andrew0410" (Beds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 (Hardcover)
Having read The Grocer's Daughter (Campbell's first volume on Mrs T) I had to get the second volume - and my expectations were exceeded. I started reading with a strange mixture of interest and reluctance, thinking the subject matter worthwhile but likely to be rather familiar. But Campbell's study is compelling reading, which gave me many fresh insights. One strength of his as a professional biographer is that his work possesses an objectivity and even handedness which is not to be found in the several accounts put into the public arena by Mrs T herself and other members of her governments.
Has any other post WW2 PM had such a profound impact on British society as Mrs T? "No.No.No!" Campbell's verdict is that her impact was both for better and for worse, careful though he is to state that a longer perspective is yet needed before a balanced judgment can be formed on all aspects of her reign.
Quite superb political biography. I don't know what he will turn his attention to next, but I hope that Campbell will be around in fifteen years or so to write the definitive biography of Tony Blair.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime masterpiece set at great pace, 20 Feb. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 (Hardcover)
This biography is by far the best around. Although a heavy book, the pace is set just right, including material from a vast range of sources which never fail to add to the book. A balanced account - a hard thing to find concerning a book on MT - it considers arguments from all sides. Including her life after 1990, this is a must for the casual reader interested in the period, the scolar, and, perhaps most importantly, a book for those who wish to learn from the mistakes of the C20th century's most influential politician.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first volume, 31 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 (Hardcover)
You can't fault Campbell for not doing his research. This is an extraordinarily detailed work. However it suffers from the same fault as the first volume - a tendency to defer to Thatcher's own account of herself. It's a biography, albeit a political biography, so perhaps it's a bit unfair to criticize its political judgement too much, but he takes too much of the received Thatcherite account at face value. Opinionated and often extraordinarily ignorant, Thatcher pursued a course whose consequences we are still living with. Privatization was not a wonderful success. The economy did not improve. Northern Ireland remained an unresolved problem. It's hard to see this as success, so I would have preferred a more informed and critical political assessment. Campbell offers a version of the received account - "standing up to terrorists", rather than failing to address the problems of Northern Ireland, "defeating the unions" rather than destroying the manufacturing base upon which union power was based and not enough about her (unintended) contribution to the rise of Scottish nationalism - a subject the English barely think worth mentioning. He's quite even handed over Europe and the exasperation she caused which resulted in Britain carping on the sidelines rather than involved in the decisions. But a fascinating read and well worth the price.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Follow-up to Grocer's Daughter, 22 Nov. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 (Hardcover)
Campbell's second volume is even better than the first--it is fascinating and well written. The book covers Thatcher's life up to 2003, so it is very current as well. Campbell does not imply that Thatcher was timid in her early years--despite what the jacket cover says--merely cautious and astute, as all good politicians are. Thatcher was not afraid to make difficult decisions, and despite mistakes and misjudgments (especially during her third term), this is the kind of leadership that is needed to make great changes. This volume is a remarkably fair and even-handed appraisal of Thatcher and her legacy.
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Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2
Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady v.2: Iron Lady Vol 2 by John Campbell (Hardcover - 16 Oct. 2003)
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