No idea where this came from! I think it might have been the LUCIA donation books

With trepidation, and only really because it fitted in with my theme of late-20th century history and politics that I’ve been reading around recently, I approached my first work on… Mrs Thatcher!  Although she has cropped up in other books I’ve been reading, this is the first time I’ve felt ready to get to grips with the woman herself.  Being of the age I am, it was impossible not to grow up affected by her. Yes, she took away the horrible school milk but she also, well, you know the rest.

This book accompanied a TV series and is not a heavyweight political biography but a quick look over the woman, her background, her family and her life in Parliament.  It’s well written and easy to read, and not particularly hagiographical (thank goodness).  There were some lovely little details (Jim Callaghan apparently had a suit made when PM where all the pinstripes were made of tiny "JC"s.  He sent enough material to make another suit to… Jimmy Carter!) and did make the case that Thatcher appeared strident and shouty because she wasn’t actually that sure of herself, and didn’t have the background or patience to understand the minutiae of political and economic policy documents and discussions.  Stories of her caring side are balanced by clear descriptions of her nastinesses, especially towards the end of her political life.  

Using the interviews conducted for the TV programme as well as her own interviews and researches, the best parts of the book for me are were Maddox shows the views and opinions of Thatcher’s contemporaries.  Chris Patten for example doesn’t believe the issues with Thatcher were down to her gender but to her lack of political acuity (as mentioned above).  Jacques Delors saw her rattled and wobbling near the end, but says all political leaders in that position get into that state.  And Geoffrey Howe is given the dignity of the author’s support and sympathy, with his resignation speech quoted at length. 

So a good book, well written and referenced. The only thing I have against it is the final sentence: "By changing national attitudes towards property, work and money, she made Methodists of us all."  I think this does Methodists a great disservice. Yes, Thatcher and her parents believed in hard work, self sufficiency, prudence, saving up before buying something etc – but I really don’t think that the society she helped create, with its greed, lack of concern for others, lack of support for the less privileged, buying council houses to make a profit and promoting the individual at all costs, is as Maddox asserts!