Lady Thatcher’s personal and political papers for 1984 were opened on Friday 3 October 2014 at Churchill Archives Centre. Around 40,000 pages have been released.
- Papers on the miners’ strike: the material being released is mainly personal and political, although there are copies of notes from Andrew Turnbull (a Private Secretary at No 10) and from John Redwood (Head of the PM’s Policy Unit). The release includes private messages from external figures such as David Hart and Jack Peel, from outside the No 10 machine. There is also political comment in the papers released on the handling of the strike by the National Coal Board and frustration at their supposed PR naivety.
Much of the material on the miners’ strike relates to speeches delivered by Mrs Thatcher and there was interest in the changes in her tone as the strike developed. For example, in notes Mrs Thatcher drafted for her Welsh Conservative conference speech in June 1984 she was conciliatory, while in July she made a famous remark in a speech to the Conservative 1922 Committee (19 July 1984) when she referred to the “enemy within”
- Brighton bomb: there is a lot of preparatory material for the speech Mrs Thatcher would have given to the 1984 Conservative conference in October. It is now possible to compare the final drafts (political and rather combative) with the delivered version (more Prime Ministerial and softer in tone).
There is also material on the more human aspects of the tragedy, including letters by the Prime Minister to her hairdresser cancelling an appointment in the aftermath of the bomb. Similarly, Denis Thatcher no longer needed a lift to Gatwick as the close of the conference. He had been due to go away on business.
There was also interest in the shock the Prime Minister was experiencing after the tragedy, including advice from a family friend (Bill Deedes) and Mrs Thatcher’s own letter to a former Cabinet Minister (Lord Thorneycroft) on her realisation of what had happened.
- Hong Kong: in the release are Margaret Thatcher’s annotated speech notes on the Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong in 1984. The papers also include notes for her by Percy Cradock, her special adviser on foreign policy issues.
- Presentation of the Thatcher Rose: among the papers on the “high politics” of the year is a file on a “thorny” issue that cropped up in 1984. It concerned the presentation of a rose in honour of Mrs Thatcher on behalf of the German Central Horticultural Association, to mark German participation in the International Garden Festival in Liverpool in 1984. However, a Japanese rose breeder subsequently pointed out that they too had created a Thatcher Rose in 1978 and had the letter from her to prove it sent while she was Leader of the Opposition. A letter from Charles Powell, her Private Secretary for Overseas Affairs, to the Japanese rose breeder successfully calmed everything down.
Key extracts are available on the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.
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