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Peter Robinson: Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge." I'm Peter Robinson. Educated at Eaton and Cambridge, Charles Moore wrote for and edited three of the great English journals, "The Daily Telegraph," where he employed a young Boris Johnson, "The Spectator" and "The Sunday Telegraph." In 1997, Lady Thatcher asked him to write her biography, naming two conditions, that she would never read the manuscript and that the work would appear only after her death. Some two decades after he began the project, Charles Moore has published the third and final volume, "Herself Alone." Raised to the peerage last October, I should note Charles Moore now sits in the House of Lords as the Lord Moore of Etchingham. Charles, two quotations from "Herself Alone." One: She was master of the detail, which appeared in the famous red boxes she worked on each night, often until two in the morning. She enjoyed political gossip, but it was the paper rather than the plotting on the sofa or discussion in Cabinet, which she saw as the primary means of governing. Second quotation: The effect on others of her extraordinary personality, made greater by the fact that she was a woman operating in a world of men, is often the story itself." The paper and the personality, and I suppose this first question is really, of course, we come to her in a moment, but the first question is about technique. For two decades, you're interweaving these two in that very room in which we see you now. This is as sloppy a question as can be, but still it's the way it forms itself in my mind. How did you do it?

Charles Moore: Well, the funny thing is when you're doing this, Peter, you just sort of get on with it. Questions present themselves and you try to solve them. I didn't have a sort of theory of how to do it. I'll just say this though, that there are, of course, two basic sources, the written ones and the oral ones. And because Mr. Thatcher had turned the key in the lock for me, I had more or less total access to both, government paper and her own papers, and access to all the people who were closely associated with her. And a lot of others who weren't so close to her, but had something to do with her. So, interviewed 600 people for the books. And then this massive, massive amount of paper, because she was a very busy lady, as you already made clear, and she was prime minister for so long, 11 1/2 years. And if you balance the oral with the written, in a way you get that balance between that method of working on paper, where she always used to write her views on the paper as she worked, and then the personality, the phenomenon, which you get more from talking to individuals who knew her.

Peter Robinson: I'm just trying to think. It's not my view alone, although I'm very happy to state my view, but in review after review after review, this has been, the three volumes together, have been called one of the great works of political biography. It's right up there with Robert Blake on Disraeli and Martin Gilbert on Churchill. And it occurs, of course, Disraeli and all his contemporaries are dead for decades by the time Robert Blake even thinks of taking up a biography. So he realized only on paper. And Martin Gilbert's biography, which goes on for actually decades, the living witnesses tail off. Everybody was still alive, I guess, is what I'm coming to.

Charles Moore: I missed because of death about four very important people, two of whom were murdered by the IRA it should be said, two of her closest associates. But you're right that it was, there's a great difficulty here, right? When is the right moment to write a biography like this? If you write it too early, it's sort of semi-journalism. It's all tied up in what everyone is having a row about. But if you write it too late, you miss a lot of opportunities. And I felt that being roughly as I went along writing, usually about 30 years after the events was about right, actually.

Peter Robinson: I see, I see.

Charles Moore: A bit of immediacy, but a bit of perspective. That was my hope, anyway.

Peter Robinson: And one, I just can't resist this, Mrs. Thatcher, as you yourself, say, at least by her final years in office, she had quite a high regard for her own standing and intelligence and prestige and so forth. Truly, she never inquired as to how it was going?

Charles Moore: That is the case. You read out those two conditions that she set, she set me. And I must say I thought she was not going to follow them because she was not known for not interfering.

Peter Robinson: Yes, yes.

Charles Moore: A very commanding personality, and I thought she would worry, but I misunderstood the nature of her egotism. She undoubtedly had great egotism, but not the petty vanity of a lot of male politicians. So she didn't do that thing of male politicians of wanting to look back and essentially get me to write their book. She wasn't very interested in looking back. She was interested in the next thing and in doing things.

Peter Robinson: I see.

Charles Moore: She didn't want to reflect, so she actually didn't enjoy the whole business of looking back. And this was a great struggle when she wrote her own memoirs 'cause she was very unsuited temperamentally to doing so. So I think she thought, she didn't put it quite in these terms, but I think she thought I've done it, he can write about it. And she left it at that. And she literally never asked me what I was writing or suggested that I should write something or that I shouldn't write something, quite remarkable. We talked a lot, of course, but she never ever did it. She just didn't think that way. It was extraordinary.

Peter Robinson: That is extraordinary. Ron and Margaret, our audience is going to be substantially American, so let's just go straight to what is likely to interest Americans. "Herself Alone," quote: The coincidence of such like-minded occupants of the White House and 10 Downing Street in power for eight years together had never happened before, and has not happened since. You don't mean to suggest that Mrs. Thatcher, and, well, let me just say, how would you compare the working relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as against say Churchill and FDR or later George W. Bush and Tony Blair?

Charles Moore: Well, one key difference was that the friendship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was forged in adversity. They first met one another four years before she came into office and five and a half years before he came into office. He was out in the wilderness, actually. He'd ceased to be governor of California and he was running up for the nomination he didn't get in 1976. She had just become a leader of the Conservative Party. And so in these adverse times, when their views on the Cold War and their views about economics were really unfashionable, they met and they immediately hit it off and they immediately saw how much they agreed, and they liked one another's very contrasting personalities. And then she wins four years later. She becomes prime minister. Governor Reagan, ex-governor Reagan, telephones 10 Downing Street to congratulate her and the switchboard won't put him through because they don't think he's important. So he had to wait until a bit later when I think he sent her, as far as I remember, he sent a letter which got through to her. But that was a very interesting thing. And, of course, she was not pleased to know that he hadn't been put through. So, by the time he became president, she was already well advanced on her journey in office, which was proving extremely difficult at the beginning. And so you have the timing, the friendship, and the shared views. And then because she won three elections and because no U.S. president is allowed more than two terms, she was actually the British prime minister for the whole of his time in office. FDR and Churchill, that was forged when they were both at the top pretty much. The same with Bush and Bush Jr. and Blair. Here was something that went back and had a much closer ideological and personal affinity.

Peter Robinson: Charles, you quote Frank Carlucci who served in the final couple of years of the Reagan administration as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of Defense. Here's Frank Carlucci: "Once Ronald Reagan got through the talking points and the issues, he wanted to tell jokes and have a light conversation. But Margaret was constantly business. They seemed to be talking past each other, but in the end it all came together," close quote. How on earth did it all come together? I don't know if I ever mentioned this to you, but Bill Clark once said to me, he was National Security Advisor early in the administration, and in meetings in the Oval Office, whenever she had something cross or difficult to say, she would turn to him and say, "Judge Clark, how could you have permitted this to happen?" And Bill Clark would look at the president, who was smiling, and of course knew what was going on. But how did it all come together? They may have admired each other, but my goodness were they different kinds of people.

Charles Moore: Totally, totally. He very laid back, very general, some would say almost lazy. She working flat out very serious, not many jokes, some charm all right, but not many jokes and just very different. She very much the executive, he more the presidential figure. It's partly to do with the different systems of government. But I think it was a sort of complicity they had. I think they thought, okay, we have to have all these officials. They matter in a way. But actually, we agree more even than we can say about a lot of things and we want to help one another and that's what we're going to do. She had her ways of doing it, which was partly using feminine charm, which I think is an important aspect of her story. She had a sort of, it sounds a bit explicit to say a sexual attraction to Ronald Reagan, I don't mean it was in any sort of naughty way. But she liked this tall, impressive-looking actor. She liked his charm and she thought he was the sort of classic American and he liked what he saw as a classic English lady in Margaret Thatcher. And there was definitely a sort of elegant flirtation there and a sort of almost private communication which was beyond officialdom. I think that was important. She also knew how to run something past the system, and she used her handbag to do that. She literally used a handbag to do that because she would have a few things in the bag which would suddenly come out. And so nobody could know in advance what was coming and she'd open her bag and she'd say, "Now what about this?" And a piece of paper would come out that was making a point or a quotation that she wanted, or she'd waive something she'd read in the newspaper. And this was a way of getting around the system. Despite her tactlessness in some ways and her sometimes fractious behaviors, she was actually a very good diplomat when she wanted to be, which she always did want with the president. And she also, though she was very flattering and friendly to him and deferential because he's the leader of the free world, when she didn't agree, my goodness, she could make him feel it. And there were several issues like that and I think it's important 'cause it shows the strength of their friendship to recognize that they had strong disagreement. One was about the Falkland islands which they overcame and he backed Britain's reconquest. One was about his American invasion of Grenada, when he cut it, he cut her, Reagan cut her out of the information and she was extremely upset about that and it took a lot of work to bring that back together again.

Peter Robinson: Ed Meese told me that he was with the president. He was with the president when the call came through from Mrs. Thatcher on Grenada, and the president literally went like this. She was at him so hot and heavy. And he hung up and said to Ed Meese, "Margaret was not happy."

Charles Moore: Yes, well, that was it and very much so, and a bit of fences had to be mended there. And the big, big one, so big that people could hardly comprehend it, was that they really disagreed about nuclear weapons.

Peter Robinson: Yes, can I come to that a bit?

Charles Moore: I'm sorry, yes.

Peter Robinson: No, no, no. It's frustrating to try to talk about the third volume of this huge work, in which you were so brilliant at portraiture, which I'm listening to some of that from you now, but the amazing thing is the way you weave into this policy always remaining accessible, straightforward, clear and so forth-

Charles Moore: Thank you.

Peter Robinson: But you cover a lot of policy. So can we just almost as an example of the work in "Herself Alone," let me take you through a couple of these differences between Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Reagan, if I may, and just have you explicate it for us. So you covered the 1986 Reykjavik Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in volume two, "At Her Zenith." Very briefly Reagan and Gorbachev come close to agreeing to eliminate entire classes of nuclear weapons, which left Mrs. Thatcher horrified. And now to quote this volume, "Herself Alone:" The possibility that Reagan might again offer to get rid of nuclear weapons without regard to Soviet overwhelming superiority in conventional forces gnawed away at her. Mrs. Thatcher and Reagan never converged in their ultimate vision. He retained his dream of a non-nuclear future. She never lost her faith in the nuclear deterrent. Can you spell that out for us? By the way, Reagan would still, I think there's still a lingering reputation, mistaken, but reputation of Reagan as a warmonger.

Charles Moore: Yeah, yeah, it's very fascinating and I think it may be to do with something that actually Mrs. Reagan observed, that Ronnie was fundamentally optimistic and Mrs Thatcher less so. Mrs. Thatcher had a more, I think ultimately she was optimistic, actually, because she believed in the power of freedom, but she was very, very alert to threats of freedom. And she did not think that once the nuclear weapons had been invented, it was going to be taken off the face of the earth. And if wasn't, you had to have it. If you were an important power in the free world, you had to have it. She really truly believed in the deterrent theory. Reagan, I think, perhaps not all the time, but broadly speaking, thought that it was so terrible, the prospect of the destruction of everything and everybody, that you had to do everything you could to get rid of it. And that ultimately that could be done. And that was, of course, part of his interest in the Strategic Defense Initiative, which actually Mrs. Thatcher came to support for more tactical reasons. And that I think was the difference. It could have produced the most terrible ructions. It did produce some ructions. And the specific fear she had was that Britain and Europe would be left in the lurch in a way that United States wouldn't be because the United States would not be subject to conventional invasion by the Soviet union, but we could have been. So that was a big problem. And she thought that Reagan at Reykjavik, that was the worst moment for her, might sort of, as some people put it at the time, have just sold the shop and gone past everybody and condemned the world to an incredibly unstable situation. But the point was that now why didn't this cause a real falling out between them? And the answer is because they wanted the same thing. They wanted to win the Cold War and they knew they were doing it together and they wanted to win it for the usual reasons of all countries. But also because they actually wanted the freedom of the countries of Eastern Europe and of the Soviet union itself. They cared about the citizens of those places, which normal geopolitics hadn't cared about much. And so they had a common purpose and that saw them through the whole thing.

Peter Robinson: Charles, I wanna come back to the policy differences between the two of them. One more, actually, they differed on Gorbachev. I'd like to return to that. But you just touched on something that you elucidate in the book, and you argue that Mrs. Thatcher is the first prime minister since Churchill, which means not Attlee, not Heath, not Wilson none of them, not Callaghan she's the first prime minister since Churchill, you argue, who really feels at a human level for the people of Eastern Europe.

Charles Moore: Yes, I think that's definitely true. Well, she actually hated communism fundamentally. She didn't just think there's a danger in the world order where this may be a problem because of Soviet power, though she did think that. She was very concerned indeed about that. She thought this is an evil system, if you like, that's Reagan's phrase, an evil empire, and the world shouldn't continue like that. And the fundamental reason why it was evil was its oppression of its own people, even more than than the threat to other people. And she particularly moved by that in the case of Poland for which she had a very close affinity, but actually it was true for all those countries and for the Soviet people themselves, and that's why they responded. The most extraordinary scenes perhaps in her premiership where those that took place in the Eastern Bloc when she visited, most important Moscow in 1987 and Poland in 1988, and actually Armenia and Ukraine just before she left office, enormous crowds, huge, huge moving spectacle of people looking to her and cheering her and so on. And of course, they all weren't allowed to in theory. And she actually appeared on Soviet television and two sort of great fat communist journalists tried to beat her up on air live because it was part of Gorbachev's glasnost to show it all in public, which had never happened before. But she absolutely walloped them. And so millions and millions of Soviet people were watching this and couldn't couldn't contain their excitement that she was challenging them, live on air, and there was nothing they could do.

Peter Robinson: Somebody was talking back to the bastards before their very eyes.

Charles Moore: On behalf of them, on behalf of the Russian people.

Peter Robinson: I see, fantastic. All right, the differing approaches between Reagan and Thatcher to Gorbachev himself and in some ways to communism, although you may talk me out of it. I'm very prepared to be talked out of almost anything by you, Charles. Two quotations, you contrast two 1987 statements. One is by Reagan and the other by Thatcher. This takes a moment, but you'll see what I'm doing here. And I draw this from your book, of course. In Reagan's speech at the Berlin Wall in June, this point about trust, that is whether Gorbachev could be trusted, whether glasnost and perestroika were real, this point about trust became a challenge where perestroika and glasnost, and now you're quoting Reagan, "the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state?" he asked. "Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West?" So he sought tangible evidence. "There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," close quote. Now Thatcher. "There are historic and courageous things happening in the Soviet Union under Mr. Gorbachev's leadership," she said three weeks after Reagan's Berlin speech. "These things should, I believe have the support of the West because every enlargement of liberty of discussion, every increase of initiative and enterprise is of a fundamental nature in human rights and that we must welcome and hope that this courageous plan of Mr. Gorbachev's will indeed succeed," close quote. Well, that's actually not a difference in shading or nuance. Reagan is saying, "Oh, yeah, buster, show us. Come here and get rid of the Berlin Wall." And Mrs. Thatcher is saying, "No, no, no, no skepticism. He's a courageous man of goodwill. We must help him." All right, explain.

Charles Moore: It's partly where you stand in your own country. Mrs. Thatcher was never going to be outflanked on the right, if you can put it that way. So she would get the complete trust of all conservatives on this issue. I think Reagan had a more difficult task with the Republican Party in making them feel confident that he would sufficiently confront the Soviet threat at all times. So that's part of it. But I also think that she had persuaded herself when she invited Gorbachev to her country house at Chequers in December, 1984, and he was not at that point the leader, but he was likely to be the leader. She persuaded herself that she could, as she put it, do business with this man, and some sort of chemistry, again, almost with a sort of sexual element in it had arisen. And she loved the way they had such frank disagreements about everything. And she thought, "I'll never gonna agree with this man, but I can respect him and I'm interested in what he's trying to do, and we should try to help him." And I think precisely because she was not the big power, she could take more risks than Reagan. And you might even say she took risks for Reagan because she helped to open up the situation. And almost the first thing she did, I mean, six days after seeing Gorbachev for that first time, she arrived in Camp David to explain to President Reagan why she thinks this guy mattered, and Reagan was receptive to that. And it probably helped him that she could be the forerunner on that stuff and she could take some of the risks. Now, the critics of Mrs. Thatcher would say that she put too many eggs in Gorbachev's fragile basket. And I think there's some truth in that towards the end when he was becoming very unpopular within the Soviet Union. She didn't really acknowledge that enough. I think fundamentally, she saw movement. She saw that the West could now, after having installed Cruise and Pershing missiles bargain from strength, and that's what she intended to do with the man she decided to trust.

Peter Robinson: All right, you are progressively disarming me, but I'm going to have one more go at you, Charles. One more pair of quotations. This is Ronald Reagan explaining his view of the Cold War in a private conversation in 1977. This has become quite famous. And he said to Dick Allen, who would become his first National Security Advisor, "Would you like to hear my view of the Cold War?" I have this in my head because Dick Allen told me about it. "My view of the Cold War is we win and they lose." All right. Now, "Herself Alone," broadcasting on Moscow TV after the talks, this is during her visit to the USSR in '87, is that correct?

Charles Moore: Yes, yeah.

Peter Robinson: '87. Mrs. Thatcher spoke of Gorbachev's, and here you quote her, "great historic mission. We look forward to the Soviet Union becoming as well as a great military power, a great international power, a great and strong economic power," close quote. Now, all right, so in three volumes, Charles, I find myself with a little bit of a mental reservation. I find myself thinking, "Oh, I must raise this one with Charles," and now I have a chance to do so. And the reservation runs as follows, that you talk about their different political situations they both found themselves in, fine. Actually, there was one moment when Don Regan, then chief of staff, told us speech writers. I was a speech writer in those days, "The president wants you to ease up on Gorbachev." And we said in... And so Don Regan walked us down the hall to the Oval Office where we could hear it from the president himself. And this is shortly after, all right. So yes, there's no doubt that's going on. And we speechwriters thought the old man had gone soft on communism. But isn't it also possible that Mrs. Thatcher, she shared some of the, honestly, the confusion and naivete of Gorbachev himself. Reagan sees all the way to the bottom of communism. He knows the system cannot, Soviet communism, cannot be reformed, remove the gulag, remove the iron fist, and it will collapse. Whereas she really does seem to have supposed that Soviet communism itself could be reformed. All right, I now leave it to you to tell me where I'm wrong, because I'm sure I am in some way.

Charles Moore: I don't think she really thought that, I don't think she really thought that Soviet communism could be reformed, but I think she felt that they were winning, to take up the Reagan phrase, they, the West, were winning and the communist were losing. And it was the duty to try and manage the defeat of the communists rather than let extreme violence break out. She was always very concerned by a reactionary communism that would hurl at Gorbachev, which actually nearly succeeded in the year after in 1991. And she wanted the most orderly possible transition and she didn't want the Russians killing people in Eastern Europe or indeed anywhere.

Peter Robinson: I see.

Charles Moore: And so it was a sort of management issue. And I think you feel that more if you live on the continent of Europe than if you-

Peter Robinson: Of course.

Charles Moore: live way away from there in the United States. I don't think it was a fundamental disagreement with Reagan on that point, but there was certainly quite a big difference of degree.

Peter Robinson: Right, right, okay, got it. Europe, 1973, Britain joins the European Union, or as it was at time, the European Economic Community with the support of Margaret Thatcher. 1988, Prime Minister Thatcher gives an address in Bruges, Belgium. During that speech, she says, this, of course, is in "Herself Alone," "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels," close quote. And in Europe you write the speech caused, these are your words, absolute horror. Between '73 and '88, what changed?

Charles Moore: She got to know the European community better and she didn't like what she saw. She didn't really know anything about foreign affairs until 1979 when she became prime minister. And then she had a bruising four-year negotiation about trying to get a budget rebate out of them. And this, the iron rather entered her soul about them as a result of that. She never was a mad enthusiast for European community because she was worried about sovereignty, but she felt it was an economic necessity and she also thought it was useful in the Cold War as a sort of anticommunist alliance. Her closer encounters with it made her more disillusioned. But even in the British speech that you quote from, that's a you're a skeptic speech, but it's not an anti-European speech. She's not saying, "Let's get the hell out of here." It's more trying to make a bigger, better Europe. She says in the speech, "We must never forget the Prague, Budapest and Warsaw, or great European cities," which is throwing down a gauntlet to the Soviets, but also to Europe, to the European community.

Peter Robinson: To the Germans and the French.

Charles Moore: They weren't reaching out to these places. So she was saying bigger and looser, please. And let's not have more statism. Let's have a looser alliance of democratic nations. Of course, you're right in the trajectory your question implied, so that she gets more and more cross. And by the time she left office in the end of 1990, she was very angry indeed, because she didn't want a single currency that was being proposed.

Peter Robinson: Can we come to that? I've got a clip. This is Prime Minister's Question Time, November 22nd, 1990. She has already announced that she will stand down in the leadership contest. And indeed, six days later on November 28th, she leaves Downing Street for the last time. And in this clip, we hear someone shout she'll be governor, and what he means is governor of the European Central Bank.

[video clip start]

Member: Will she tell us whether she intends to continue her own personal fight against a single currency and an independent central bank when she leaves office?

Member: No, she's gonna be the governor.

Margaret Thatcher: On the present structure-

Members: Here, here!

Member: Order, order, order, Prime Minister.

Margaret Thatcher: What a good idea. I hadn't thought of it. But if I were, there'd be no European Central Bank accountable to no one, least of all to National Parliament. Because the point of that kind of European Central Bank is no democracy, taking powers away from every single parliament and being able to have a single currency and a monetary policy earning interest rates, which takes all political power away from us. As my right honorable friend said in his first speech, after the proposal of a single currency, a single currency is about the politics of Europe. It is about a Federal Europe by the back door. So I'll consider the honorable gentleman's proposal. Now, where were we?

[video clip end]

Peter Robinson: Obviously, my question is about Europe, but apart from anything else, it does just remind one she was alone in this playground of boys. It was just astonishing.

Peter Robinson: And as you say, she just that moment announced her resignation that day, and yet she is so buoyed up by what she's talking about that she overcomes the inner misery and it's a fantastic performance, yeah. She dominates that chamber, which is not an easy thing to do. All right, well, but this trajectory of her thinking on Europe, which of course brings to the question that I'm sure you've been asked 10,000 times, but I can't resist asking it myself, what would she have made of Brexit? John O'Sullivan, who was a speech writer for her, said Mrs. Thatcher would have favored Brexit, and Charles Powell, perhaps her most important, as I understand it from your book, certainly in the final years, her most important foreign policy advisor, Charles Powell had said, now Lord Powell, he's your colleague in the upper chamber, Charles Powell has said, "No, no, no, she would have opposed Brexit." Charles Moore will now pass the deciding vote.

Charles Moore: Well, I always refuse to answer the question, what would she have done? Because I feel my only selling point is knowing what she did do. And I feel that people tend to put a wish, their own wish, into her voice sometimes for things that she might have said. What I do know, however, is that once she left office, she was in favor of us leaving the European Union. And she was never in favor of that when she was in office. Just before she fell, she gave interviews in the struggle of the leadership, including one to me, actually, as a journalist, in which she called for a referendum on the single currency, because she felt that the British people would vote against a single currency. She did this without any consultation with colleagues and they were furious because the whole idea of a referendum was something they wished to avoid. She took it up very strongly and she repeated it ever afterwards. And it was the foundation of what happened in the Brexit referendum of 2016, because gradually, through her pushing to a large extent, the idea of the referendum got forced into the British political agenda and all parties came to agree with it on and off and finally they had it. The word Brexit I think hadn't been invented by the time Mrs. Thatcher died in 2016, but, 2013, I'm sorry, and the referendum was three years later, 2016, but she was in favor of us leaving. She told me so, she told many other people, but she never said it publicly because she was advised that after all she was out of office by now, that it would be so divisive within the Conservative Party that she just didn't want that sort of trouble at her time of life. That was really the argument, that it was too unkind to her successors, too difficult, too exhausting, and so on. And she needed holding back. She wanted to speak out, but actually she didn't, but her view was clear.

Peter Robinson: I see, I see. All right, the fall, we've talked about her announcement in November of 1990 that she would not stand for the Tory leadership. Hold on, let me just say this. Here's what an American sees. She wins three general elections. She wins the Falklands War. She never loses any vote of confidence in the House of Commons. And in 1990, she's one of the dominant figures on the entire planet. And then her party does her in. Can you explain as briefly as possible, as succinctly as possible, the mechanics of how it happened? For us, it's very confusing. There's no counterpart in the American political system to a party leadership election. And then why it happened.

Charles Moore: It was very confusing to us, but essentially, because the prime minister is the person who can command a majority in the House of Commons. That's really all the prime minister is. If a large number of people in her parliamentary party decide they want her out, they can get her out and that's perfectly within the Constitution and you don't need a general election for that. And that's what happened. Though, by the way, it's interesting, it's a good trick question, who won the Tory leadership election of 1990 with the largest number of votes? Answer, Margaret Thatcher. She won, but not with enough votes to prevent a second ballot, and she resigned rather than face a very controversial second ballot. But you can see why she would mind so much about that. And when I saw her afterwards and she was writing her memoirs, I said, "What are you going to call them?" And she said, "Undefeated." And the reason she said that, which is sad is she didn't call them, was this point you're making and I'm adding to, she was never beaten. She won every single general election which she contested and she won the leadership election which caused her to resign. So you can see why she would feel confused about the situation, too. However, it was understandable. She'd been in office too long. She had developed with her colleagues the very unpopular poll tax, a form of local tax. And she had fallen out with her senior colleagues, though not with the public, about Europe, because they were much more in favor of European Union than she was and they were thoroughly fed up with her on that issue, and she also had very fractious personal relations with her senior colleagues. So if you bring all that together and under the British system, you're in for 11 1/2 years, it's very rebarbative and combative, and the next generation wants its day in the sun and so on, I think it becomes more comprehensible and everybody could see that she was never going to go unless she actually got beaten in some way.

Peter Robinson: And that was true.

Charles Moore: Yes.

Peter Robinson: That was true? She had no plans for stepping down. She would have taken-

Charles Moore: She would say so sometimes, but in fact, she would never have gone unless she was defeated in a general election in my view. And Dennis, her husband, tried to persuade her to leave after 10 years in office, May '89. And she said, "Oh yes, yes, quite, yes, yes, I will. But I don't think the queen would like it to happen quite yet," which she'd made up that excuse. And so they felt it was time to prize her out. I think that's really what it was.

Peter Robinson: We've been talking about Mrs. Thatcher's foreign policy, but briefly, well, let's just play another clip if we could. This again is from the same day, and she has announced that she's stepping down, and she will leave office in 6 days. Here's her summing up.

[video clip start]

Member: There is one statistic that I understand is not, however, challengable, And that is that over her 11 years, the gap between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% in this country has widened substantially. How can she say at the end of her chapter of British politics that she can justify many people in a constituency such as mine being relatively much poor off, much less well-housed, and much less well-provided then it was in 1979? Surely she accepts that is not a record that she or any prime minister can be proud of.

Margaret Thatcher: Mr. Speaker, all levels of income are better off than they were in 1979. But what the honorable member is saying is that he would rather the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich. That way you will never create the wealth for better social services as we have. And what a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich. That is a liberal policy. Yes, it came out. He didn't intend it to, but it did. I give way to the honorable gentleman.

Member: I'm extremely grateful. The prime minister is aware that I detest every single one of her domestic policies and I've never heard that.

Margaret Thatcher: And I think that the honorable gentlemen knows that I have the same contempt for his socialist policies as the people of East Europe who've experienced it, how they got there. I think I must have hit the right nail on the head when I pointed out that the logic of those policies are they'd rather have the poor poorer. Once they start to talk about the gap, they'd rather the gap was that, down here, gap, not this, but that. So long as the gap is smaller, so long as the gap is smaller.

Member: Order!

Margaret Thatcher: They'd rather have the poor poorer. You do not create wealth and opportunity that way. You do not create a property-owning democracy that way.

[video clip end]

Peter Robinson: I mean, it is just the sheer, apart from anything else, the sheer animal vitality. After 11 years in office, she dominates the chamber, even though she's just suffered this mortal political blow. It is just astonishing. All right, here's the question. If you'll permit me a bit of a personal musing, 1979, a few months after she became prime minister for the first time was when this American began to study at Oxford. And young as I was and little as I knew about economics, I could feel the difference between New York, from which my plane departed, and Britain, and in particular, I remember friends telling me that the Kings Road was the fashionable shopping street for young people in London. And Charles, it was grim, and the offerings were very, by comparison with Manhattan, the cars were older, people were not as well-dressed. You could just see it and feel it. And by a decade later, when I would return to London, after a decade of Mrs. Thatcher's economic policies, the King's Road sparkled as if it were Madison Avenue. Now, I just don't know how does one... I just don't know how one tells the generation that cannot remember Britain in the late '70s what she accomplished. How does one do that?

Charles Moore: Well, it's a highly complicated story, one interesting statistic helps. Mrs. Thatcher was always associated with division because there were so many massive arguments going on, but actually, here's an example of harmony that her policies produced. When she came into office in 1979, 29 plus million working days were lost to strikes in that year. And when she left office in 1990, fewer than 2 million working days were lost to strikes? So there's a landscape of industrial relations completely transformed to actually be more harmonious than before, less divisive than before, because strikes had been one of the biggest problems of the 1970s and had done much to cause the conditions you observed. I think that was really important. Her trade union reforms which were careful and gradual were immensely important. And so was the liberation of markets, privatization, the reduction of regulation and the reduction of tax, though that was more successful at the higher rates than it wasn't the lower. I actually think that less successful. one people would always say that Mrs Thatcher carried out so many cuts in government spending. Actually, there were no net cuts in government spending in her time. Obviously, some things were cut, but there were no net cuts. She actually didn't significantly reduce the share of the state's, states share of the economy. But what she did do was create a economy, and she gave a completely different attitude, brought about a completely different attitude to opportunity and to entrepreneurism so that people did start to think, "Well, yes, I can do this." And that's what you were seeing in that clip. She was not in favor of equality if it took away opportunity. She wanted opportunity and that would lift people. And I think to a marked degree, it did.

Peter Robinson: She steps down in 1990. You're poignant, moving, fascinating on her final years. You mention, by the way, a trip that she took to Asia and the United States in 1997. And I hope if you'll permit me one more indulgence of one photograph of that trip, she's visiting the Hoover Institute. What strikes me about this all these years later is that this supposedly woman of iron, she took our oldest, and Mrs. Thatcher's just instinctively, what you miss here is that she knelt down and chatted with the children and she instinctively posed our daughter in the middle of the picture in the most loving and gentle nurturing sort of way. It was quite a thing.

Peter Robinson: All right, but back to business. The way we remember her, I have bad news for you. More people in this country are going to watch season four of "The Crown" than are likely to read "Herself Alone." And that requires me-

Charles Moore: I fear you're correct.

Peter Robinson: Sorry?

Charles Moore: I feel you're correct.

Peter Robinson:Yes, well, that requires me to ask a couple of questions about the portrayal of Mrs. Thatcher in "The Crown." Accurate enough as regards her personality and comportment?

Charles Moore: I think Gillian Anderson's portrayal is powerful in one respect. She gets this woman of immense seriousness and determination who is coming from what Americans call the wrong side of the tracks and is making her way in immensely difficult circumstances with utter determination. And that's very well portrayed, I think, and the emotional intensity that goes with that. That's definitely an important part. What it doesn't get is, first, is the development of Mrs. Thatcher in all those years in office, nor does it get the sort of humanity which you observed in your dealings with your daughter. Mrs. Thatcher was not a pompous person and she was not actually a haughty person, though she was very frightening, could be very frightening. She loved work, she adored work, and if she worked well with people, she was immensely kind to them and rewarded them. And the womanly side of her, the motherly side came out because she was always very nice to secretaries, doormen, detectives, private secretaries. She'd often cook food for them because under the strange British system, there's no budget for the prime minister to eat unless they have distinguished visitors. So she would actually cook simple meals upstairs whenever we're writing speeches together, that sort of thing. There's none of that sort of humanity coming through in the portrait. And therefore I think none of the sort of odd way in which Mrs. Thatcher was persuasive to people. She didn't just lecture people, though my goodness, she could lecture. She used her sex and her talk of being a housewife, a phrase you probably wouldn't use now, to reach out to voters and say, "We women understand these things. We know the reality of economics. We know what it's like to live under inflation. We know how to budget for our household, and these men with all their jargon, they don't. They fooled you and we've got to recapture the situation." This sort of direct relationship between Mrs. Thatcher and millions of voters, even a lot of voters who actually didn't like her, but still understood what she was talking about, was very, very important, and that somehow doesn't come through. She seems completely cut off from reality in "The Crown." And of course, the actual political accounts that "The Crown" gives is very much the standard left-wing version. So there's a ludicrous scene when the man who got into the queen's bedroom, the sort of vagrant who got in, gives the poor queen a lecture like a Labour Party speech of the period about why Mrs. Thatcher is so wicked. And the queen appears to agree with him and says afterwards, when somebody says the man's a lunatic, she says "No, no, he's like the fool in 'King Lear,' as if he were very wise somehow," which in fact the queen is not interested in Shakespeare and doesn't like fools. But there's a sort of unreality there.

Peter Robinson: Right, right.

Charles Moore: I thought some of the stuff with the queen was well done, the sort of-

Peter Robinson: The tension and unease between the two of them was real, was it?

Charles Moore: Yes, well, that was right. That was right, but the rudeness was utterly wrong on both sides. They were never, literally never, rude to one another. And one of the things that people can't get hold of, they always want in these dramas, for the queen and Mr. Thatcher to have an argument. Never, ever happened, never, literally never.

Peter Robinson: And one specific point, Mrs. Thatcher never would have asked the queen to dissolve Parliament as she does in "The Crown."

Charles Moore: No, there's a completely absurd bit when she's falling from office, when she rushes to the palace and says, "Please dissolve Parliament so that I don't have to leave office." By the way, that wouldn't mean she didn't leave office. It would probably mean she did. But it's just unthinkable, the whole thing, she would never have asked, the queen would never have agreed. The whole thing is bilge.

Peter Robinson: By the way, John O'Sullivan, sorry, let's stick with the palace for a moment longer. John O'Sullivan made the point the other day that the important relationship in the royal, the queen and Mrs. Thatcher, it was an often uncomfortable relationship, although respectful, to which I'd like to return in a moment, but that the queen mother and Mrs. Thatcher understood each other and got on famously. Is that is that so?

Charles Moore: That is correct, yes. I think it's partly to do with different roles. The queen mother having been sort of retired since 1952 had a certain greater freedom,

Peter Robinson: I see.

Charles Moore: Whereas the queen has to be, and she particularly feels this I think, totally correct, so it would be unregal of her to be seen to favor one prime minister rather than another another, and she certainly doesn't think that way. Obviously, she might personally prefer one to another, but she never ever discloses something which suggests a political view in any sort of partisan manner, and so that that's part of the reserve all the time. The queen mother was very sort of obviously patriotic and she thought that Mrs. Thatcher was restoring Britain's greatness. I think it is as simple as that.

Peter Robinson: I see. Charles, final question about the palace. I think our listeners, our viewers, are going to be Americans. Can you sum up, you note that there were tensions between Mrs. Thatcher and the queen, but that Mrs. Thatcher leaves office and the queen gives her the Order of Merit, which is in the sovereign's personal gift. It's not given on anybody's advice. Later, she makes Mrs. Thatcher a Garter Dame. Is that the way to put it, Garter Knight?

Charles Moore: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Again, that's the highest honor in Britain. Only 24 seats in St. George's Chapel. It's in the sovereign's personal gift. She attends Mrs. Thatcher's 70th birthday celebration. The queen attends Mrs. Thatcher's 80th birthday celebration. And then as you note, you note all of this, of course, but then as you note, the queen attends Mrs. Thatcher's funeral, the first time the sovereign has attended the funeral of a prime minister since the funeral of Winston Churchill. So it is clear that the queen, whatever the personal difficulties or awkwardnesses, the queen esteems Mrs. Thatcher very highly. Why do we care? Why in your system does it matter? Why did it matter to Mrs. Thatcher that the queen thought... I guess what I'm saying is explain, this is 2021 by the time most people will see this and this 95, 94, 95-year-old lady still matters in Britain. Why?

Charles Moore: Yes. Well, partly for the basic constitutional reason that she's the head of state and she really fulfills that role. And so ex-officio and in her personality and in her longevity, she represents continuity and trust. And very few of us can remember any other way. You know, I'm 64 and I was born after the queen came to the throne. I mean, that's an extraordinary, extraordinary thing. And when Mrs. Thatcher, a strong monarchist, a strong traditionalist despite her, in some ways, revolutionary tendencies, it mattered tremendously that the respect she felt for the queen should be understood by the public. And she would have, of course, worry about the queen's good opinion. The queen doesn't really bestow praise, even less does she bestow criticism. She keeps it all in. For example, if she thinks, if the queen thinks that you might be making mistake, she will never say you're making a mistake. She might say, "Are you sure?" I think that's about as close as it gets. So she says a lot by saying very little. The interesting thing about their relationship is that this was unique and a bit of a shock for both of them, the head of state and the head of government, both women in a almost completely man's world. And it took a bit of getting used to on both sides, but you're completely right to come back to the respect. It was very important that the queen did all the things you said about the Order of Merit, the Garter and so on, and coming to the funeral, the only one she attended other than Churchill's. And a friend of mine spoke to her afterwards and said something about it was a wonderful funeral, but did Mrs. Thatcher really deserve the gun carriage, which carried her coffin and normally associated with victory in war, which of course, there was a victory in war, a small war, the Falklands. And my friend said he virtually sort of shriveled up under the queen's gaze for having made the suggestion that the coffin should not be on the gun carriage. She thought it quite appropriate.

Peter Robinson: Excellent. We come to a summing up and I wonder whether, just another couple of questions, but another another clip here. And this is someone who, almost certain the two of you must have known each other. Well, you'll see. He's very much on Mrs. Thatcher's side, and yet.

[video clip start]

Roger Scruton: She felt that she had to embellish it with a complete doctrine, which she borrowed from the Institute of Economic Affairs about the need for market solutions to every social problem. Now, I'm all in favor of market solutions where they apply, but not every social problem does have a market solution and there is a need for the maintenance of traditions in education and in culture and in the law, which are not traditions of free enterprise, but much more conditions of some kind of collective renunciation, people deciding-

Peter Robinson: Renunciation of the state.

Roger Scruton: No, renunciation of one's own individuality. That's what a culture is partly. And I think she wasn't sensitive to all that part, aspect of things.

[video clip end]

Peter Robinson: Charles? Overwhelmed, the doctrine, everything fit into an economic doctrine and she missed things as a result.

Charles Moore: I agree.

Peter Robinson: By the way, I should say that was the late Roger Scruton in an interview four years ago. You did know him, you must have known each other.

Charles Moore: Of course, I did. I've just written an article about him yesterday, his love for fox hunting.

Peter Robinson: Oh, really.

Charles Moore: For the new foundation of his that's starting in the United States.

Peter Robinson: Ah.

Charles Moore: No, Roger's onto something, but I think he exaggerates. I think what you have to remember is what Mrs. Thatcher was up against, the problem she's trying to deal with. As with all politicians, what are they trying to deal with at the moment in which they gain power? And what she was trying to deal with was too much socialism, too much government interference, and too much economic failure. And therefore, she had to talk about free markets, individualism, opportunity, enterprise, getting the state off the backs of the people, and so on, because that was the big issue at that moment. This didn't mean that that was all she was interested in. She had a strong sense of British tradition. She had a romantic, not always very accurate idea, of British history. She loved the British forces. She understood the importance of social order and she had a strong idea of a Christian social order. And she had an idea of the beauty of our heritage and culture. Those are all things that Roger himself rightly admires and I think they're all there in her. I think she's a rather fascinating mixture of a conservative conservative and a radical conservative, and both those things were sort of competing within her nature in a creative manner.

Peter Robinson: Just a couple of final questions. Two decades of work, Charles, two decades of work, and now it's done. I say what comes next for you, which is, I mean, you write for "The Spectator, you write for, you're a busy man. Honestly, I don't know how you were able to do all the writing on the side, so to speak, while you were working on the biography. Still in all, you've got a big hole in your life. How do you intend to fill it?

Charles Moore: Well, just right now, Peter, I'm rather pleased to have a hole. And actually, it doesn't seem as big a hole to me as you might think, because so much seems to be going on and the world's going mad and there's absolutely tons to write about. I haven't got time hanging heavily on my hands. I do have a theory about writing books, which is that if you wonder whether a book should be written, you probably shouldn't write it. You should only write it because you really must write it. And I felt when I got this extraordinary opportunity to write this book, such an important story and such extraordinary access, that it'd be mad not to write it, it would be wrong. Not looking to do another book for the sake of it or even because it might be a bit of fun. It's got to be really worth that extraordinary effort, because though I've been very busy as an editor over the years and a writer, what I realize is that writing a big book is far more demanding than any of those other things because it's fundamentally so lonely and you have to try and be the sole architect of an enormous structure when you can't really, or I can't really, make the ground plan. I've done that and I'm very pleased and honored to have done it, and I'm not rushing to do something else.

Peter Robinson: I see that Mrs. Thatcher laid the foundation. All you had to do, Charles, was build the cathedral on top of her. It is a magnificent thing. One last time, just for the sheer pleasure of it, just a few more seconds of Margaret Thatcher, six days before she leaves office.

[video clip start]

Margaret Thatcher: A single currency is about the politics of Europe. It is about a Federal Europe by the back door. So I'll consider the honorable gentleman's proposal. Now, where we? I'm enjoying this, I'm enjoying this.

Member: You could wipe the floor with these people.

Margaret Thatcher: I was talking about Europe.

[video clip end]

Peter Robinson: "Herself Alone." She was high-minded and highly-educated yet had a common touch. She was fierce but kind, rude and courteous, calculating yet principled, matter-of-fact yet romantic, frank yet secretive, astute yet innocent, rational yet capricious, puritanical yet flirtatious. She had an icy stare and a warm heart, close quote. Claire Luce, the playwright, mid 20th century playwright, Claire Luce used to say that history would give even the greatest figure only a single sentence, which is not quite the right thing to say to a man who's just written three volumes, but what do we need to cling to? What's the final state? What's the final lesson of Mrs. Thatcher for all of us?

Charles Moore: Well, do you know, despite all the importance of the ideology, if you like, and the views that she put forward, in a way it's the example of woman leadership. It's a special thing that a remarkable woman could bring to a male world that really added the value. And I think it's to do with a certain loneliness in that situation and also with perfectionism, which is something that a woman will tend to feel much more than the club of men will ever feel. So, what I think is extraordinary in her story is that she did her best, and it's remarkable how few people really do that.

Peter Robinson: Right, Charles Moore, Lord Moore of Etchingham, thank you.

Charles Moore: Thank you, Peter.

Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge," the Hoover Institution, and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.

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