Margaret Thatcher liked teddy bears and whisky, files show
|Toronto Star 22 Jul 2018 at 05:46|
Newly released documents have pulled back the curtains on such lesser-known aspects of the life and times of Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister from 1979-90.
The documents, mostly from 1988, were published online Saturday by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. They are searchable, and some documents can be downloaded.
Here are some of the more intriguing insights from the papers:
Backing a single market
Decades before Britain voted to leave the European Union, Thatcher gave a celebrated speech on Sept. 20, 1988, in the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium, that spoke of the need to keep ties to the bloc:
“Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the community.”
But while not backing an exit, a draft of another speech, made in April the same year at a Lancaster House conference on the single market, Thatcher noted:
“We must get this right. Too often in the past, Britain has missed opportunities. How we meet the challenge of the Single Market will be a major factor, possibly the major factor in our competitive position in European and world markets into the 21st century.
“Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers — visible or invisible — giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people. Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it. It’s not a dream.”
“Above all, it means a positive attitude of mind: a decision to go all out to make a success of the single market.”
As the foundation wrote:
“The speech did not seem so vital at the time … But from the perspective of 2018, with Britain convulsed by Brexit, Bruges grows ever larger in significance, to a degree that could cause us to overplay the speech. MT did not expect or intend it to have quite the role some would now suppose: In no way was Bruges a manifesto for withdrawal. Indeed, she expressly and emphatically asserted the opposite, lest other elements in the speech leave any doubt on that question.”
A thing for teddy bears
A Thatcher Foundation spokesperson told The Guardian newspaper that Thatcher was “into” her teddies. Thatcher collected at least two teddy bears, named Humphrey and Mrs. Teddy, the documents show.
She was presented one teddy bear around the time she was visiting the headquarters of the supermarket chain Asda in Leeds, England, in December 1988.
During the visit, she also observed a “Christmas pudding microwave demonstration” and was shown how to cook turkeys safely, according to The Yorkshire Evening Post.
Thatcher revealed her meat preferences and those of her husband: “I like the white meat best, but Denis always goes for the dark meat.”
As for the teddy bear, she said she would place the toy under her tree.
The files reveal that the bears were quite popular, and Thatcher was often asked to loan them out to various museums and for events. In one letter from No. 10 Downing St. to the Marquess of Bath, Thatcher wrote:
“Thank you so much for returning Humphrey. I am sure that he had a lovely time at Longleat.”
Vetting the guest list
The documents also opened a window into how Thatcher and her husband put together a guest list of 229 names for a gala at Downing Street.
Denis Thatcher personally vetted the list, adding red check marks to “those who I would personally like to see included” as guests, he wrote. (More than one tick meant “super person and a known friend and wonderful to have them here.”)
He wrote question marks next to “those who I believe do NOT help,” the files show.
Among the latter were former Beatle Paul McCartney, naturalist David Attenborough and singer Shirley Bassey.
But composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and actress Judi Dench got a thumb’s up. So did TV personality Rolf Harris, later convicted in a sexual abuse scandal.
More private documents on Thatcher, housed at the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, have previously revealed or confirmed such tidbits as: