Coffee House

The ‘Thatcher should quit’ splash that never was

11 April 2013

11 April 2013

When Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher did not have a great deal to do with The Spectator. She was not hostile, but slightly suspicious and perplexed. ‘This is Charles Moore,’ I remember her saying edgily as she introduced me to the Turkish prime minister at a reception. ‘He supports us some of the time.’ After the sinking of theBelgrano in May 1982, Ferdinand Mount, then the political editor, wrote a column deploring the incident and calling for a ceasefire. The then editor Alexander Chancellor, who had incited the piece when Ferdy had really wanted to fall silent altogether, put it all over the cover. Ferdy’s was an act of near-suicidal courage, as he was just about to leave to take up his job as the head of Mrs Thatcher’s policy unit at No. 10. She never said anything about it, and it had not the slightest effect on his work. It is inconceivable that a modern prime minister would be so laid back about employing someone so out of line with the overriding policy of the moment. If the Iron Lady thought well of a person, she would tolerate his unorthodoxy. She could, on occasion, be angry and vengeful, but very rarely was she petty.

Immediately after she won her third successive general election, in 1987, I took it into my head that it was time for her to go, and wrote what was intended as a cover piece saying so. Although editor, and therefore effectively unedited, I just had the wit to ask Ferdy Mount (who had returned to us) for his opinion. He said it would be mad to tell her to leave when she had just won another huge majority. He was right, of course, though I still think my essential argument — quit while you’re ahead — had some validity. I spiked my own piece. Anyway, I remain forever grateful to Ferdy. I am sure that if the article had appeared, Lady Thatcher would never have entrusted me with her life.

This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator’s Notes from this week’s magazine. Click here to subscribe to the magazine and receive a FREE copy of the official authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher, by Charles Moore, worth £30.


More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.

Show comments
  • thanksdellingpole

    I’v never heard of Charles Moore.

  • Augustus

    ” I took it into my head that it was time for her to go”
    Yes, but what a way to go! Unbeaten in three elections, never rejected by the people, brought down by nonentities.

    • telemachus

      Hestletine?
      Nonentity?

      • MarcusJuniusBrutus

        yes – nonenttity

        • 2trueblue

          Totally agree, these same people who got rid of her would have let the Falklands go, followed on by Gibraltar, and taken us deeper into Europe. They are dragged out today and frankly they have nothing to offer, they have actually achieved little. They are revered for what exactly?

    • Mynydd

      Are you talking about Mr Blair or Mrs Thatcher?

  • Hookeslaw

    ‘Ferdy’s was an act of near-suicidal courage, as he was just about to
    leave to take up his job as the head of Mrs Thatcher’s policy unit at
    No. 10. She never said anything about it, and it had not the slightest
    effect on his work.’

    Substitute Gordon Brown for Mrs Thatcher and see how totally unbelievable it reads

    • Aaron D Highside

      How on earth could anyone disagree with you, Hookeslaw? Even lefties must see the point.

  • Fat Bloke on Tour

    CM

    The Speccie is being bit heavy handed with its moderating policy.
    Why are you so afraid of free speech?

  • CraigStrachan

    So why not put the spiked piece up here on Coffee House now?

  • The Bishop

    ‘Entrusted me with her life’. I know where you’re coming from Mr Moore, but I’m sure that you – being something of a professional ‘wordsmith’ – could find a way of not sounding quite so grand.

    • telemachus

      But it is a grand enterprise
      Just listen to Alison Flood
      *
      “Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher immediately supersedes all earlier books written about her. Having worked closely with Lady Thatcher on both volumes of her autobiography, and read all the other main books about her, I was astonished at how much Moore says which has never been public before. At the moment when she becomes a historical figure, this book also makes her into a three-dimensional one for the first time,” said Stuart Proffitt at Penguin imprint Allen Lane. “Moore is clearly an admirer of his subject, but he does not shy away from criticising her or identifying weaknesses and mistakes where he feels it is justified.”

  • Fat Bloke on Tour

    CM

    In case I hurt your tender sense of taste and decency …

    She was only John Redwood with lady bumps.

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here