Margaret Thatcher: A Tribute in Words and Pictures (2006-02-28) Paperback – 1815
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Plenty of biographies have been written about Maggie and no doubt plenty more will be. I haven't read any of them and I'm in no particular hurry to read one. However, when I saw this book on offer at a bargain price, I took a quick look and decided that it would be worth buying. It comprises anecdotes of her by various people, mainly politicians from Britain, America and elsewhere, but also including a few other significant people such as TV political reporters. Ordinary members of the public are not represented, nor is Ted Heath although there is a picture of Maggie holding his portrait.
Some anecdotes previously appeared in other publications are reproduced here by permission of various other publishers, so if any of them seem familiar, maybe you've read them elsewhere. I'm not an avid reader of political books so it's not a problem for me. Some anecdotes recall specific incidents while others offer a more general assessment. I generally like the specific incidents best. Some are very brief (Helmut Kohl's piece occupies just half a page) while others run to several pages (Rex Hunt`s detailed account of Maggie`s 1983 visit to the Falklands). The right-hand margin of each page is wider than the left-hand margin, which is sometimes used for picture captions but also includes some quotes by or about Maggie.
There are plenty of great pictures of Maggie, mostly from the seventies and eighties, though all stages of her life are represented from childhood to early in the new millennium. You'll even find a picture of her at work as a laboratory research assistant, in which capacity she worked before becoming a politician. One of my favorite pictures is described as showing her as the new Conservative leader and is dated 1974. Actually, she didn't become leader until 1975 so either the date or description is wrong, but who cares?
Michael Brunson's anecdote is about his first meeting with Maggie when, as a reporter, he asked her a question about something she'd said the day before. He was firmly put in his place, both at the time and at the end of the session, but claims to have learned a lot from the experience. Sebastian Coe tells us of an animated exchange he had with Maggie about his preparation for the 1988 Olympics, in which she reminded him of her background as a research chemist, whereupon he pointed out that he was already a double Olympic champion.
John Redwood discusses his first meeting with Maggie but goes on to explain how he eventually managed to persuade her to embark on the privatisation of many state-owned industries. He thinks that this exercise may ultimately be regarded as her greatest success. Perhaps, but I tend to think that her triumph over the trade unions was an even greater success.
One of Maggie's speech writers discusses the dead parrot sketch that Maggie used at the party conference in 1990. Maggie had never heard of Monty Python and didn't think the joke was funny, but she asked to watch the original sketch. She still didn't find it funny but included it in her speech anyway, whereupon it earned the laughter that her speech-writers assured her it would.
Edwina Currie, who represented a mining constituency, discusses the 1984 strike and its legacy, explaining that Toyota's decision to build their European manufacturing plant there was a direct consequence of Britain's reputation as a strike-free zone in the aftermath of Arthur Scargill's defeat.
This book captures much of the essence of Maggie's political career. If you're too young to remember her time in power and you haven't familiarized yourself with the period, you probably need to familiarise yourself via a different book, perhaps but not necessarily a biography. For older people and for those younger people who have studied the period, this is a fitting tribute to Maggie.