In a defiant cry against further European integration, Margaret Thatcher declared to the Commons in 1990: ‘No, no, no’.
Her declaration, which came at a time of intense Tory divisions over Europe, was to prove a pivotal point in her premiership.
Now it has emerged that the speech was inspired by a newspaper story… written by Boris Johnson. Mrs Thatcher was sent the article by her aides to ‘light the blue touch paper’ for the speech, newly-declassified personal papers out today suggest.
Mr Johnson, who was then Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, had warned that European Commission President Jacques Delors was planning a European superstate.
His article, published on October 24, 1990, reported that the British veto over European tax laws would be axed under plans by the eurocrat.
Historians say the piece was a ‘trigger’ for Mrs Thatcher to make the famous speech railing against a European superstate that led to the headline ‘Up Yours, Delors’ in The Sun.
But it also prompted former chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe to dramatically quit as her deputy two days later – and his damning resignation speech led to her ousting. Papers released by the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge show the story was included in Mrs Thatcher’s newspaper cuttings file of October 26 with a Foreign Office letter.
The letter notes that Mr Johnson’s story is incorrect, but adds that Mr Delors’ plans ‘contain a lot of other horrors’.
Only four days later, on October 30, Mrs Thatcher made a show of defiance in the Commons after returning from a meeting of the European Council in Rome. Her papers reveal extensive preparations for the speech, which criticised a press conference given by Mr Delors in which he said the European Commission would become the executive arm of the European Community – later the EU – in a clear power grab.
Historian Chris Collins, of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which is releasing the papers, said Mr Johnson’s article was a key prompt.
‘It’s part of the trigger,’ he said. ‘Clearly, it’s there to remind her to have bash at Delors.
‘A lot of Conservatives would read articles like that one by Boris Johnson and say, ‘Yes, that’s what these guys are up to’.’
Mr Johnson’s article was included under a tab in a folder marked ‘Delors Comments’, along with the letter from the Foreign Office.
Mr Collins said: ‘As luck would have it, they fastened on this to light the blue touch paper. And it was well and truly lit.’
He added: ‘No, no, no’ is all about coming back from a very difficult, very bruising uncomfortable European Council and smashing it into the stands and just being tough and on top of them.’
The files also contain the last letter Mrs Thatcher wrote before she was forced out. Addressed to her press secretary Bernard Ingham, she thanks him ‘from the bottom of my heart, for 11 years of loyal and trusty service and companionship’.
Margaret Thatcher’s last letter as Prime Minister was a fond tribute to her press secretary
Margaret Thatcher’s final letter as prime minister was a heartfelt thank you to a loyal member of her staff.
The letter to Bernard Ingham was a start contrast to the stock replies she sent to some political colleagues who wrote to her after her resignation.
Ingham spent 11 years as Mrs Thatcher’s chief press secretary, from 1979 to 1990, and was knighted in her 1990 resignation honours list.
In a letter dated November 28 1990, Thatcher wrote: ‘Dear Bernard. My last act as prime minister must be to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for 11 years of loyal and trusty service and companionship.’
She continued: ‘As I look back on my years as prime minister, I shall always remember you as the man who stood by me through thick and thin.
I fear the strain on you and your family must have been very great: but you never complained and were always there when needed.
‘So it is with great admiration and heart-felt thanks that Denis [Thatcher’s husband] and I say goodbye to you and to No. 10 – for the two are almost inseparable in our minds – and wish you and Nancy [Ingham’s wife] every happiness.’
Mrs Thatcher signed off the letter by handwriting ‘with warmest regards from all the family, Margaret’, with Denis Thatcher also signing his name.
Charles Powell, a foreign policy adviser to Mrs Thatcher, wrote her a letter on her resignation.
He said that she ‘showed a level of greatness which will not be matched in Britain’s politics again’.
There is no sign of her reply.
Many of Mrs Thatcher’s political colleagues also wrote meaningfully to her on her resignation, including the MP Ken Clarke.
He wrote: ‘It has been a privilege to have served in the government of a truly great prime minister.
‘I will always be grateful to you and loyal in defence of your achievements.’
His letter has ‘stock’ written at the top of it, and he was sent a template reply beginning: ‘Thank you so much for your kind and generous message’.
Chris Collins, from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, said Mr Ingham was Thatcher’s longest-serving member of staff and described her letter to him as ‘moving’.
‘I can sense this tremendous emotion as the staff breaks up too and it’s so difficult for her and for them,’ he said.
‘Everybody loved her, around her.
‘It’s such a contrast between her very difficult relationship with colleagues and her very warm, almost loving relationships with many long-lasting staff members.
‘They are the family. There really is this sort of feel.’
Why Margaret Thatcher met The Wombles Composer instead of Kate Bush
Margaret Thatcher met the composer of The Wombles theme tune at the world-famous Abbey Road recording studios because Kate Bush and The Who’s Roger Daltrey were unavailable, newly-released documents show.
Mrs Thatcher’s private secretary, Caroline Slocock, who helped to arrange the visit, told the studio’s general manager, Ken Townsend, that she thought the Prime Minister would like to experience classical music being recorded in the main studio.
‘I explained to Mr Townsend that I thought the Prime Minister would also like to visit one of the other studios and meet a ‘pop star’,’ wrote Miss Slocock in an internal memo.
‘He said that these studios tended to be booked close to the time, but he thought that Kate Bush might be available.
‘If we thought it were a good idea for the Prime Minister to meet Kate Bush, I am sure he would arrange this.’
She wrote in a later memo that she was ‘quite keen that Roger Daltry (sic) and Kate Bush should be present’ but that ‘neither as far as we know are likely to be’.
The visit, in 1990, went ahead without Kate Bush or Roger Daltrey and Mrs Thatcher was briefed – with Miss Slocock typing out lyrics of The Wombles theme tune for the Prime Minister.
‘During your visit to the studios you will meet, amongst others, Mike Batt, who composed the theme music for Wombles of Wimbledon, a BBC programme about creatures who picked up litter from Wimbledon Common,’ she wrote.
‘Although some years ago, the lyrics of this are still very well remembered and are:
‘Underground, overground, wombling free.
‘The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we.’
During the visit, Mrs Thatcher bonded with Batt over their shared low opinion of the Musicians’ Union and he gave her some Wombles CDs.
She posed for a photo opportunity on the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road, which is immortalised on The Beatles album of that name, although she crossed in the wrong direction to copy the album pose.
She also posed for a second photo opportunity playing a drum kit used by Ringo Starr.
Mrs Thatcher wrote in blue pen on her briefing note that she feared the drums photo was ‘too gimmicky’, but she went ahead with it regardless.
In a letter to Batt after the visit, Mrs Thatcher said: ‘I am writing simply to thank you for the part you played in making my visit to the Abbey Road recording studios last week so enjoyable and interesting and to thank you particularly for the music which you gave me.
‘I look forward to sharing these with my grandson.’
Miss Slocock wrote that, when she approached the studio manager about setting up a visit, ‘initially he thought that my telephone call was a hoax’.
Chris Collins, from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, quipped: ‘Some of us don’t need to be briefed on The Wombles song.’
He continued: ‘She was slightly reluctant at the beginning of course to do some of the things – she was hesitant about the gimmicky stuff – but she did finally do it as she understood what the press have got to produce and she wanted to be on the front page.’
He said it was ‘kind of typical Thatcher’ that she walked across the zebra crossing the wrong way to copy The Beatles album cover pose.
‘Everybody else who copies the picture does it the right way,’ he said. ‘It’s kind of typical Thatcher that she could actually get it wrong and there were probably some people around her who knew but didn’t tell.
‘I did ask Charles Powell (who served as a foreign policy adviser to Thatcher) if she had a favourite profile, if she wanted photographers to take her left side.
‘He said ‘No, I don’t think she did’.
‘It’s just how she did it.’
The Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust is gradually overseeing the release of her private files through the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge.
PM Thatcher named outfits after Gorbachev and Wogan in clothing diary
Margaret Thatcher kept a clothing diary in her latter years as prime minister and named many of her outfits after Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev and some after BBC broadcaster Terry Wogan, newly-released documents show.
She apparently began to keep a note of what she wore in 1988, and diary entries for 1990 record that she wore her ‘Pink Chanel Gorbachev’ to Coronation Street and her ‘Wogan Burgundy’ to the Bank of England.
Wogan, who interviewed Mrs Thatcher in January 1990, appeared to have several outfits named after him including a ‘Wogan Long’ and a ‘Wogan Short’, though these may have been variations on a single outfit.
Soviet politician Mr Gorbachev had the most outfits named after him, followed by US President Ronald Reagan.
‘It’s interesting that so many were named for their association with Gorbachev,’ said Chris Collins, from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust. ‘She really was showing off on her Soviet trips – glamour was part of her approach to ending the Cold War.
‘Reagan was second in the naming stakes, while (US President George HW) Bush, (Chancellor of Germany Helmut) Kohl and (French President Francois) Mitterrand predictably got nothing at all.’
In one 1990 diary entry, Mrs Thatcher is recorded as wearing her ‘Black Dull Suit’ to meet President Bush.
When the prime minister formally tendered her resignation to the Queen on November 28 1990, her clothing diary states she wore her ‘Burgundy New York W Velvet Collar’.
Mr Collins said he believes Mrs Thatcher’s first clothing diary was in 1988 and she ‘cranks up her whole clothing operation after the visit to Moscow in 1987’, on her historic tour of the Soviet Union.
‘She’s suddenly, I think, aware of the power of clothes,’ he said. ‘She was interested before and very keen on things like British Fashion Week.
‘She begins then to see that this is actual serious politics and she’s got more clothes and she’s monitoring what she’s doing with them.
‘It comes together.’
He described it as the ‘new regime’ of Mrs Thatcher’s ‘dress adviser’, Margaret King, who was also a director of the British fashion house Aquascutum.
‘Possibly Margaret King said to her … “You should keep a proper note of what you wore and then we can juggle it around and shift this and that”,’ he said.
He continued: ‘It’s interesting that she chooses to name things after (Terry Wogan) but, for example, she chose to name a dress when she met President Mitterand at Waddesdon Park in May in 1990 but she named it Waddesdon.
‘Only certain men got the accolade of having a dress named after them.’
He said clothes were a ‘great joy’ for the prime minister.
‘She had them very carefully looked after and, in fact, in her office there was a huge room where her driver sat – this is after leaving Number 10,’ he said.
‘It was a very big room and it was full of clothing lines and all of the clothes had their own zipped-up bags with the names on.
‘There were maybe 200.
‘Huge numbers of these clothes, vast numbers, and she knew every one, no question.
‘They were lovingly looked after and they were a great joy to her. I mean, she loved clothes, they were a real pleasure in her day.’