By Tim Montgomerie
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In the week we learnt that Margaret Thatcher is still the Tory grassroots' favourite politician we get more insight into her government today. Under the thirty year disclosure rule the National Archive has released documents related to her government of 1981. The newspapers' coverage of those documents is summarised below.
The Liverpool riots and northern decline: "Margaret Thatcher was secretly urged to abandon Liverpool to ‘managed decline’ in the wake of the Toxteth riots, secret files released today reveal. Her senior ministers told her not to waste public money on the ‘stony ground’ of Merseyside, suggesting it would be like ‘trying to make water flow uphill’." – Daily Mail. The FT (£) implies that some thought northern cities in general could not be successfully regenerated.
Arming the police: The Thatcher Government considered arming the police because of the riots and also to ensure order during the Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana – ITN
Unions were linked with rioters: "Referring to the need to garner support for curbing trade union power, John Hoskyns, head of Mrs Thatcher’s policy unit, proposed: “We should try – implicitly and subtly, not very obviously – to link in people’s minds the moral similarity between high pay claims demanded with menaces and other forms of anti-social behaviour, including rioting and looting.” – FT (£)
Navy cuts before the Falklands: "The Prime Minister became embroiled in a bitter row with the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Henry Leach, over planned defence cuts. Sir Henry was later to convince Lady Thatcher she should send a naval task force to re-take the Falklands – but in the spring of 1981 he was furious over her “unbalanced devastation” of the armed forces." – Yorkshire Post
Nuclear deterrence: "Two-thirds of Margaret Thatcher's first cabinet opposed buying the US Trident missile system and the chiefs of staff were not unanimous. But this did not stop the "Iron Lady" from going ahead with the deal behind their backs. The cabinet were only told of the decision to buy the original Trident C-4 system when the details of the secret deal with Jimmy Carter leaked out in the US." – Guardian
IRA hunger strikes: "Margaret Thatcher secretly tried to end the IRA hunger strikes. In public, the prime minister took an unbending stand, insisting she would not bow to the demands of Republican prisoners held in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison for so-called “special status”. However, the files released by the National Archives in Kew show how her government sent messages to the IRA leadership through a secret intermediary, promising concessions if the hunger strikes were called off." – Scotsman
Wets versus dries: Norman Tebbit and Sir Keith Joseph worried that Margaret Thatcher risked going soft in taking tough economic decisions according to the Scotsman but her real battle was with the "wets", as the Yorkshire Post reports. The FT (£) notes she retreated to an "inner cabinet": "Margaret Thatcher was forced to retreat into an inner circle of close confidantes as she battled to quash opposition from so-called “wets” within her cabinet and successive rounds of “competitive leaking” threatened to “destroy” the government."
Hosni Mubarak: "The Egyptian dictator toppled by a popular uprising in February was assessed by foreign office officials to be "free of any taint of corruption" before he came to power in 1980." – Telegraph
Ian Paisley and the Pope: "Margaret Thatcher ruled out suggested speech by Pope John Paul II amid fears that Ian Paisley would 'make a nuisance'" – Guardian
A communist Mrs Thatcher didn't want to do business with: "Thatcher’s inner circle was so determined to distance her from a communist French politician during a meeting that they placed him “at a table as far as possible” from her." – Scotsman
The ironING lady: "Cost-conscious Margaret Thatcher offered to pay for an ironing board for No 10 after becoming PM… She insisted on using her own household items because she feared political enemies might spark an expenses row over refurbishment work… Her prudent attitude is in contrast to MPs' claims for items like moat cleaning that shocked Britain in the expenses scandal in 2009." – The Sun