Who better to tell the inside story of Mrs Thatcher's years in power than someone who was there at the time. Hugo Young also has access to Mrs Thatcher's cabinet colleagues, and has evidently also carried out a large amount of research, all of which gives this book credibility.
There are funny anecdotes, revelations and well-worn tales in this book, but the thing that distinguishes it is the insight into Mrs Thatcher's thought processes. The title of the book, One Of Us, is taken from Mrs T's philosophy that people fell into two camps, those who wholeheartedly embraced her ideas and policies, and those who did not. The latter group were considered disloyal or not quite up to it, and could not be trusted with important jobs.
The practical side of Mrs Thatcher however saw that she DID occasionally populate her cabinets with ministers who were not 'yes men', independently minded people like Michael Heseltine or Keith Speed. Here, Hugo Young explains how Mrs Thatcher embraced the complexities of keeping different factions in the conservative party happy. All this contributed to her retaining the reins of power longer for eleven years.
A good companion to Mrs Thatcher's own memoirs, and markedly more objective.
on 30 December 2001
Any student of modern British politics or any person with an interest in the subject will at some point need an account of the Thatcher years, and this lengthy and down-to-earth biography is among the best. Save one bizarre moment when the author strongly hints that Thatcher's sympathetic attitude towards the victims of looting and riots would have appalled the electorate, whom he seems to see as a nation of John Pilgers, ever eager to support the wrong-doer, the book is also as balanced an account as is likely to be produced within the lifetime of any who remember when she was in power.
Brimming with detail, the book is also mercifully short on the very tired and oft-repeated parts of the Thatcher story, and so not a page is wasted. The thing about the book that impressed me most was the clear use of interviews with the key figures involved very wisely. This produces some very memorable anecdotes that sum up perfectly the philosophy and feelings of Margaret Thatcher. Most are neither witty nor amusing, as are most in biographies, but they are extremely revealing and enable one to get inside the heads of those who served her, those who opposed her and the lady herself to see their beliefs, dilemmas and situations. The account of the cabinet debate that finally replaced the decades-old priority of low unemployment with that of low inflation is all the more gripping and dramatic because it continues to affect us all today. The illustration of the confidence Thatcher instilled in her MPs by tearing Michael Foot's argument to pieces with masses of statistical knowledge similarly enables the reader to better appreciate the mindsets of those around her. Along with an impressive narrative which delves deep into the events of the time, a close to complete picture of Thatcher and her government emerges.
Of course, study of the Thatcher years is inseparable from study of her legacy, and the final chapter looks at this exclusively, making it the best in the book, packed with facts and observations.
It is in how he turns statistics, anecdotes and information into a narrative that the biographer's skill is revealed. To insert one's own views throughout is a post on which many fall, but Young surpasses. An authoritative account of an immensely important and interesting figure is the result.
on 5 March 2000
Given Mr Young's reputation as a supposed doyen of the liberal establishment, I was surprised to find his biography of Margaret Thatcher so balanced - even supportive on occasion. Whilst Young may not be especially heavy on detail or possess any unique factual insight into the period of Mrs Thatcher's Premiership, his discussion of themes and relationships is perhaps without parallel amongst all the works on this highly contentious character. The book is exceptionally well-written and once picked up cannot easily be put down. The author maintains interest throughout with a galloping narrative and a straight-forward analysis based upon fact and the anecdotal evidence of key witnesses. Without doubt Mr Young has written the finest biography on its subject so far. It should be recommended reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in the story of Mrs Thatcher and her life and times.
on 6 March 2001
Hugo Young delves into her character and life with great effort and much perspiration as he tells us the story of the politician that shaped a generation.
With interviews and quotes from the people that witnessed the woman from within and without, he clears the fog, exposing the wo-man from the myth. If you want to know what happened to Britain in the 1980's, read it!
on 17 September 2014
There have been more recent assessments of Mrs T and her legacy, that's for sure. But this one is distinguished by Hugo Young's fair, yet sometimes trenchant close observation both during and in the immediate aftermath of her premiership whilst he was a senior political editor at The Guardian. His erudite writing was always a joy to read, and this is no exception. Highly recommended!!