Thursday, 3 May 2018

Margaret Thatcher 'wanted a whites-only South Africa'

Diaries of one of the Iron Lady's top diplomats also reveal she wanted to 'push' Vietnamese boat people into the sea and 'loathed' Germans. All the details are included in a book 'Behind Diplomatic Lines: Relations With Ministers', written by Patrick R. H. Wright, and is published by Biteback. 

Margaret Thatcher wanted to ‘push’ Vietnamese boat people into the sea, ‘loathed’ Germans, and believed South Africa should become a whites-only state.

She disliked men with moustaches because they ‘looked like hairdressers’ – and may have quit as Prime Minister because of husband Denis’s heavy drinking.

That is the controversial portrait painted of her in a new book by Sir Patrick Wright, who was head of the Diplomatic Service at the end of Thatcher’s Downing Street years and at the start of John Major’s term in office. His diaries give a vivid account of her bitter clashes with her Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe – she described him as ‘that old bumbler’ behind his back.

Wright’s diaries reveal his shock at the former PM’s views on apartheid. ‘She wanted a return to pre-1910 South Africa, with a white mini-state partitioned from neighbouring black states. When I argued this would be an extension of apartheid, she barked, “Do you have no concern for our strategic interests?” ’

He also claims that Thatcher was ‘at her worst’ during 1989’s Vietnamese boat people crisis. He says Howe told him she favoured ‘a policy of “pushing off” – refusing to allow them to land, oblivious of appalling implications… with photographs of sinking boats and drowning children’.

Months before Thatcher was forced to resign in 1990, Wright’s diaries note Whitehall gossip about Denis’s heavy drinking and ‘worries that this could be a reason for herto give up early’. It hints she may have had a drink problem too.

A new book has revealed that Margaret Thatcher (pictured) disliked men
with moustaches because they ‘looked like hairdressers’ – and may
have quit as Prime Minister because of husband Denis’s heavy drinking
Mrs Thatcher & Me: The uproarious diaries of one of her top diplomats show NOBODY was safe from the Iron Lady's fire
BY SIR PATRICK WRIGHT, FORMER  FOREIGN OFFICE PERMANENT UNDER SECRETARY 

Sir Patrick Wright was the most senior civil servant in the Foreign Office for the turbulent final four years of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

The post gave him a front-row view of Mrs Thatcher’s many antipathies – which included Germans, the Foreign Office and men with moustaches – as exposed in his fascinating diaries. Here, the entries begin with her views on apartheid-era South Africa…

JUNE 20, 1986 One week before taking over as Permanent Under-Secretary from Sir Antony Acland, we were both invited to lunch with Mrs Thatcher. She opened the conversation by thrusting a newspaper cutting about Oliver Tambo [ANC president] in front of us, saying that it proved that we should not be talking to him… She continued to express her views about a return to pre-1910 South Africa, with a white mini-state partitioned from their neighbouring black states. When I argued that this would be seen as an extension of apartheid, she barked: ‘Do you have no concern for our strategic interests?’

JUNE 24 I paid my first call on Geoffrey Howe [Foreign Secretary]. No talk about the Prime Minister, though he was already having a very difficult time with her, particularly on South Africa, where their views were poles apart.
The book's writer Sir Patrick Wright, pictured, was the most senior civil servant in the Foreign
Office for the turbulent final four years of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership
JUNE 25 At lunch with Robert Armstrong [Cabinet Secretary], he described relations between the PM and the Foreign Office as worse than he could ever remember with any PM. When discussing her views about another Foreign Office official, Robert replied ‘All right, until 11am’, explaining that the PM had emerged from Cabinet to see this official talking to the Foreign Secretary. This was apparently enough to damn anyone.

AUGUST 3 At a meeting in the PM’s study in No 10 she again started talking about partition as a solution to South Africa. All her (and Denis’s) instincts are in favour of the South African Whites.

JULY 13, 1987 Lynda Chalker [Minister for Europe] told me this morning that the PM had been heard to refer publicly to Geoffrey Howe as ‘that old bumbler’.

JULY 13, 1987 Lynda Chalker [Minister for Europe] told me this morning that the PM had been heard to refer publicly to Geoffrey Howe (pictured) as ‘that old bumbler’
FEBRUARY 20, 1989 After conflicting statements out of Iran on whether Salman Rushdie was still ‘condemned to death’, EC foreign ministers met. The French proposed that all EC heads of mission should be withdrawn in protest at Ayatollah Khomeni’s latest outburst. The PM decided that all UK staff should be withdrawn. (She apparently told Geoffrey that if any of them was harmed, she would hold him personally responsible.)

JUNE 22 Virginia [Wright’s wife] lunched with Elspeth Howe, who told her that Margaret Thatcher was totally impossible. ‘We should all stick together, and to our guns.’ She said that it was a pity that all this could not be leaked.

'IF SHE DOESN'T LIKE IT, SHE CAN BLOODY WELL DO IT HERSELF'
OCTOBER 29, 1989 At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kuala Lumpur, John Major [who had replaced Howe as Foreign Secretary] was invited almost every day to have lunch or dinner with the Thatchers. John showed signs of independence. At one point, when I pointed out that the PM might object to something, he blurted out: ‘If the PM doesn’t like it, she can bloody well come and renegotiate it herself.’

APRIL 16, 1991 John Drew, the European Commission’s representative in London, at a reception this evening, told me a good story about a meeting between Jacques Delors [EC president], John Major [still Foreign Secretary] and Mrs Thatcher. At one point, Thatcher had fixed Delors with her basilisk stare and said ‘Mr Delors, I am watching you very carefully’, to which Delors had replied: ‘Don’t watch me, Mrs Thatcher – it’s this young Prime Minister of yours you need to watch!’

‘MEN WITH MOUSTACHES? THEY LOOK LIKE HAIRDRESSERS’
JUNE 25, 1986 Margaret Thatcher’s contemptuous opinions of the diplomatic service contrasted strongly with her complimentary views on almost every individual diplomat she met. After almost every foreign trip she made, she appeared to be impressed by the head of mission (particularly if he was tall and good-looking). One of her reservations was beards. When a bearded colleague of mine started a Foreign Office job, I warned him that it might be better, given Mrs Thatcher’s known prejudices, if he shaved it off. He shaved it off!

Moustaches were also a problem. Of one moustached colleague, Margaret Thatcher is reported to have claimed: ‘The trouble is, he looks like a hairdresser.’

SEPTEMBER 29 Margaret Thatcher, pictured, has been showing signs of her Germanophobia over the past few weeks… she seems to be obsessed by a feeling that German-speakers are going to dominate the community
NOVEMBER 14, 1990 Douglas Hurd [Foreign Secretary] told me of a talk he has had with the Prime Minister on personnel questions. Her description of a member of the service as ‘twee’ apparently relates to a suit she once saw him wearing with crocodile-skin shoes. She also reverted to her prejudice for tall men by saying she did not think another member of the service was ‘big enough’ for a certain post.

HER DOUBTS ABOUT THE FRENCH REVOLUTION... ON FRENCH RADIO

DECEMBER 1, 1987 Spent most of the morning and lunch with J├╝rgen Sudhoff, the German Permanent Under-Secretary. One problem is that Helmut Kohl [the German Chancellor] and Thatcher so dislike each other. Sudhoff told me that Kohl had telephoned her after the Brighton bomb, and felt hurt that she had never called him back.

FEBRUARY 1, 1988 We seem, as usual, to have become isolated, and the Prime Minister’s recent meeting with Mitterrand [French president] and Chirac [French prime minister] was very bad-tempered, with the PM at one point telling Chirac not to threaten her.

FEBRUARY 28, 1989 My talks with my Austrian opposite number, Thomas Klestil, were mainly about Austria’s application to join the European Community (on which Mrs Thatcher was already showing her dislike of the thought of ‘another German’ joining the club).

JULY 14 Bastille Day, and the economic summit in Paris, preceded by interviews with the PM on French radio, casting fairly offensive doubt on the value of the French Revolution, and claiming in effect that Magna Carta had thought of it first! Why does she always have to go to meetings facing, or provoking, a row?

SEPTEMBER 29 Margaret Thatcher has been showing signs of her Germanophobia over the past few weeks… she seems to be obsessed by a feeling that German-speakers are going to dominate the community. Any talk of German reunification is anathema to her.

FEBRUARY 8, 1990 There was apparently a tempestuous Cabinet meeting today. Len Appleyard [a diplomat] gave us a vivid account, which led Douglas Hurd to remark: ‘Cabinet now consists of three items: parliamentary affairs; home affairs; and xenophobia.’

FEBRUARY 13 The PM continues to bleat about reunification to all her visitors – the Polish PM being the latest. She is also revelling in being the only politician to argue for the lifting of all sanctions against South Africa.

APRIL 5 Peter Carrington [former Foreign Secretary] gossiped with me about things Mrs Thatcher had said to him about Germany. I told him of her remark about Munich, saying that she could never bring herself to visit ‘that place’, at which Peter commented that she had very little understanding of history: ‘After all, it is not as though she fought in the war.’

JUNE 4 Peter Middleton [Treasury Permanent Secretary] told me of an extraordinary meeting between the PM and a Treasury team last week. Her loathing of the Germans and the European Commission is such that she apparently started to refer to the Commission as being in Bonn. When corrected, she said: ‘No. I meant Bonn. After all, the Germans are going to take it all over.’

BLACK MOODS... AND FEARS OVER DENIS'S DRINKING HABITS
DECEMBER 20, 1989 Percy Cradock [an adviser to Mrs Thatcher] spoke to me privately today about her health and mood; he suspects that she is taking pills or vitamins for her perpetual colds and combining this with occasional drinks. He is finding her much less lucid than usual.

JANUARY 3, 1990 Nicky Gordon Lennox [our former ambassador to Spain] called on retirement from Madrid, and gossiped with me about the Prime Minister and Denis Thatcher. He had been struck by how heavily Denis was now drinking, and referred to worries among Margaret Thatcher’s close circle that this could become a reason for her to give up early.

JANUARY 3, 1990 Nicky Gordon Lennox [our former ambassador to Spain]
called on retirement from Madrid, and gossiped with me about the Prime Minister
and Denis Thatcher. He had been struck by how heavily Denis (pictured)
was now drinking
IS THE IRON LADY EYEING UP THE TOP JOB IN HONG KONG?
FEBRUARY 13, 1991 I asked Douglas Hurd if there is any background to press stories that Margaret Thatcher might go to Washington as ambassador. He totally rejected it, but said that John Major is worried about her, and thinks that someone should think of a role for her.

APRIL 9 Mrs Thatcher is obviously steamed up about the governorship of Hong Kong. I wondered whether she had stimulated a letter in the Telegraph today, proposing her as governor?

MAY 30 Stephen Wall [Major’s foreign policy adviser] tells me that John Major has now twice called on Mrs Thatcher, but is increasingly irritated by her erratic behaviour. I had seen Major at a state banquet in April. He talked quite angrily about Mrs Thatcher, saying that most of the press attacks on his ‘dithering’ came directly, or indirectly, from her; he really thought that she had become unbalanced.

UNSEEMLY ROW OVER PRINCESS MARGARET'S CHINA TRIP
JANUARY 18, 1987 I face a very embarrassing and difficult row with Buckingham Palace, having asked Roger Hervey [a diplomat] to raise with Princess Margaret’s private secretary Lord Napier the size and cost of her entourage when visiting China. Lord Napier was extremely resistant and thought that Princess Margaret at least would strongly object to being asked to contribute to the cost.

JANUARY 20 I spoke to Bill Heseltine [private secretary to the Queen], who reacted robustly, describing the proposal that the Government should pay for Princess Margaret’s children as ‘quite monstrous’, and said he would talk to the Queen.

Princess Margaret (right) is pictured with her daughter Sarah in China. The Government of the time faced a row regarding the size of her entourage and its funding
A LOYAL ADDRESS FROM THE BUM FROM TUM
JULY 16, 1987 At a Buckingham Palace dinner for King Hassan of Morocco, King Simeon of Bulgaria told us that he had been invited to the Palace for lunch, but had fainted as they were going in. The Queen had earlier asked him what his crest was, and he had said ‘Saxe-Coburg’ – ie the same as hers. He had come round lying on the floor, and opened his eyes to see the Saxe-Coburg crest on the ceiling. He thought he must have died and gone to heaven!

OCTOBER 20, 1987 Alan Munro [former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia] told an improbable story about a Nigerian chieftain called the Bum of Tum, who was invited to join a Durbar [reference to a Foreign Office building used for receptions] for the Queen, and to give a loyal address. Unable to attend, he sent a telegram saying: ‘My Loyal Address is PO Box 1, Tum; signed BUM.’

TROUBLING NEWS ABOUT THE PM’S KEY AIDE
JANUARY 23, 1989 A worrying letter today from David Goodall about Peter Morrison [ex-deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary], who got drunk in David’s residence and poured out offensive attacks against the FCO, saying that we were all useless wimps; hated throughout the Conservative Party; and despised by the PM.

NO SYMPATHY FOR VIETNAMESE REFUGEES
JUNE 8, 1989 The problem of Vietnamese boat people was discussed this afternoon. The PM was said to have been at her worst, simply failing to listen to any arguments she disagreed with. Geoffrey Howe told me that the PM… is moving towards a policy of ‘pushing off’ [refusing to allow them to land] – apparently oblivious of the appalling implications, with photographs reminiscent of Palestinians and Jews in 1947 in sinking boats.


A MUDDLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
APRIL 15, 1987 A meeting to brief Geoffrey Howe on my visits to Israel and Turkey. He was shocked by my account of Israeli impediments to Palestinian family reunification, and has asked for further details so he can brief the PM ‘to steer her away from Finchley’. After I had criticised several aspects of Israeli life, Geoffrey laughed and said: ‘I see you have maintained your admirable objectivity about the Middle East.’

APRIL 21, 1988 This evening to the Albert Hall for the 40th anniversary gala of Israel’s independence, which I had accepted largely to correct The Mail on Sunday’s impression of anti-Zionists in the FCO. Some difficult moments (eg a reading which referred to the Jews returning to ‘Empty Zion’); but otherwise a rather jolly evening of songs and readings.

JANUARY 16, 1989 William Waldegrave’s call on Arafat in Tunis, and his reference to Shamir’s [Israeli prime minister] past as a ‘terrorist’, has led to a renewed storm in the press about FO twits and anti-Semitism. The PM was said to be furious (no doubt with her Finchley constituents in mind).

...BUT AT LEAST SOMEONE CAN REDUCE HER TO GIGGLES!
JULY 7, 1988 To No 10 for Peter Carrington’s farewell dinner, at which both the PM and Carrington made excellent speeches, with the PM telling the story of her meeting with the Chinese, at which the latter spoke non-stop for two hours, and Carrington passed her a note saying ‘Margaret, you are talking too much’ – an occasion which he described as the only time he had seen Margaret get the giggles.

(Source: Daily Mail)

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