Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Inimitable Sir Denis... (Part-III)

Author's Note: You can read the 1st part of this post titled, "The Inimitable Sir Denis... (Part-I)": HERE. The 2nd part of this post titled, "The Inimitable Sir Denis... (Part-II)" can be read: HERE .

Denis was well known for his love of golf, and he often competed in charity events such as this one... for a charity for the blind. His advice to all future consorts (first husbands/first gentlemen) was, "And certainly don't get caught by the press having too much to drink, you now, that sort of thing." On his marriage to Mrs T, he said: "What it meant to me: a happy life, of course, companionship, of course. A common objective, I think." Their marriage was a rock upon which 'she' relied. You can view some pictures of Sir Denis... HERE.

Here are some stories and pictures depicting the life and times... of the great Mrs Thatcher. Including life after power. (Link.) Another link is HERE. Some quotes by and for Maggie can be read HERE.

My fellow blogger aka FB... Mr. BK Chowla... mentioned... there was an AD in England which read "strong as Mrs T". Since her name was associated with toughness.

The former French president Jacques Chirac has expressed a grudging admiration for the former Iron Lady of Britain - Margaret Thatcher - despite their bitter clashes over Europe. Though his memoir ("Each Step Must Itself Be a Goal") is critical of Lady Thatcher, Chirac, however, is clearly impressed by her statesmanship. Describing her as "one of the most feared figures on the international stage," The Telegraph quotes Chirac as saying: "What made her great in my view was above all her conviction... she never doubted being in the right."

There was, however, a "honeymoon period" with the then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher when he became prime minister in 1986, due to their shared concern about the "laxism of the European Commission and its desire to turn itself into a super-state". But he recalls her fury at being asked to increase contributions. "There are nine countries taking money, only three paying and I won't accept to put more into the kitty. Pay if you like, I won't pay. The Germans will, you will, I won't," she exclaimed. However, he claims she went on to concede that farming policy was "not in itself a bad thing".

Incidently, a British government document purporting to highlight some of the world's most significant events of the past 100 years involving women is unlikely to cause much cheer in India — or indeed on the subcontinent — as it curiously leaves out both Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto. The only Asian politician who makes it to the 27-strong UK-centric list, Women in Power: Milestones, is Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the world's first elected woman Prime Minister. In fact, she is the sole non-British symbol of "woman power" on a list groaning under the weight of domestic personalities and events such as the "first Asian woman councillor," the "first black female mayor," and "100 years since first woman councillor appointed."

There was also controversy when it emerged that the document did not mention Margaret Thatcher by name saying only "1979: U.K.'s first woman prime minister" while listing names of relatively less famous Labour figures. The government's Equalities Office which produced the document... and is run by Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman was accused of "air brushing" Mrs. Thatcher. Wonder... what Sir Denis would have said though.

Mrs Thatcher did not always enjoy the company of other women. But... HERE she is pictured strolling in the rose garden at Chequers (her country residence) with her friend and mentee - the late Benazir Bhutto (pic dated: 8th July, 1989). It was part of a day-long informal brainstorming session between them. Mrs Thatcher's speech at lunch for (the then) Pakistan Prime Minister (Benazir Bhutto) can be found HERE. Here are some more pics (Link.)

As for Asif Ali Zardari... the widower of the slain Benazir Bhutto, now sits smilingly, with a complete makeover, as president of Pakistan. The alternative to Mr. Zardari is the army, which has already ruled for half of Pakistan's existence, destroying civilian and public institutions. So, while Mr. Zardari may make diplomatic faux pas like trying to flirt with U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, he may be the poison Pakistan needs to heal itself.

He says that he has lived and learned from the most vibrant and brilliant of politicians - Benazir Bhutto. He insists that outside the chattering classes, he is popular. His party is also keen to stress that he is a substantial politician, having previously served as a member of parliament and twice as a minister. "He's a tried and tested politician, not only at the grass roots level, but in terms of ideas and strategy. He worked very closely with Ms Bhutto and was her principal adviser," said a Zardari aide. "He's no Denis Thatcher." Not sure how Sir Denis would have reacted to this though.

Apparently, Labour stifled Maggie Thatcher's role in women's suffrage celebration in 1978. The 50th anniversary of equal women's suffrage was a cause for celebration in 1978, but James Callaghan and his allies were determined that Margaret Thatcher did not feature too strongly in the commemoration. As Leader of the Opposition, Thatcher was the most prominent female politician of the day and there was concern that she might steal the limelight, reports The Times. A committee was formed and an exhibition at Westminster Hall was devised, along with a garden party and a special gala performance at the Palladium starring Twiggy, to be staged on the July 2 anniversary itself. It was then that Callaghan and his advisers apparently realized the potential advantages that this could bestow on Thatcher.

As Ken Stowe, principal private secretary to the Prime Minister, wrote on May 26: "With hindsight, the only thing one can say charitably is that we were all asleep when this proposition was first mooted: a celebration of 50 years of women's suffrage can hardly exclude a political dimension or women and it is inescapable therefore that the leading woman politician of the day is going to get a fair amount of the limelight. Hmmm. Talk about 'equal opportunity'...

"He thought that "a mixture of sweet reasonableness and low cunning" would ensure that there was no room for Thatcher in the royal box at the Palladium.

This was achieved by making sure that Lord Grade, the television executive who had organized the show, was in the box with his wife, the Callaghans and Princess Margaret, despite the Grades' protestations. There was consternation that Thatcher had been invited to speak alongside Callaghan at the Right to Vote exhibition.

There were discussions about the Prime Minister withdrawing from the event, but Lady Birk, the head of the organizing committee, said that his speech would be superior. Callaghan was asked by memo whether the guest list for the garden party should feature exclusively women. He scribbled: "Better speak to my wife - she can decide."

The great neo-Churchillian Margaret Thatcher was on the receiving end of a vast amount of sarcasm. "President Mitterrand once famously remarked that Thatcher had 'the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe'. Rather less flatteringly, Sir Clement Freud described her as "Attila the Hen". She probably took both descriptions as compliments." (Malcolm Rifkind in Margaret Thatcher's Revolution: How it Happened and What it Meant edited by Subroto Roy and John Clarke, 2005). Denis Healey called her "Pétain in petticoats" and "La Pasionaria of middle-class privilege". Mrs T combined a powerful intellect and a dominant personality with the prejudices of ordinary folk and an unsophisticated outlook on life. These were her natural qualities. She was proud to be a grocer's daughter from Grantham, a housewife who made her husband's breakfast, and a mother of her children as well as of the nation. She asked for no quarter and she gave none. You can read Sir Malcolm Rifkind's (foreign secretary from 1995-97) reminiscences HERE. It might make an interesting read. His take on Mrs Thatcher's trusted deputy - William "Willie" Whitelaw - (Everyone needs a Willie) can be read HERE.

Recently... Lord Tebbit stated, "I think we lack somebody of the standing of Margaret,"... when asked to name the Conservatives' biggest asset. Sir Denis has once again been proven right. He would have been pleased. For sure! Years ago he had observed "The whole of the situation of the Conservative Party today springs from that night when they dismissed the best prime minister the country had had since Churchill." That "More people deserted our party and we have never recovered."

I admire Lady Thatcher in infinite proportions. If England has to put an end to the current morass... there is only one way - 'Return to Thatcher'. The folks who opposed/challenged/back stabbed her... were political/intellectual/moral pygmies.

'Below the Parapet - The Biography of Denis Thatcher' by Carol Thatcher (his daughter). Published by Harper Collins in 1996. In it, Thatcher said that politics as a way of life did not appeal to him and that world leaders he personally got on with were
George H. W. Bush, FW De Klerk, King Hussein of Jordan and Mikhail Gorbachev, whilst he disliked Indira Gandhi and Sonny Ramphal. He revealed that spouses he personally liked were Raisa Gorbachev, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

Sir Denis was a member... of the vanishing breed called 'gentlemen'. Undoubtedly...


Note: Some info gathered, courtesy: Wikipedia, brainyquote, oneindia and the HeraldGlobe.

Mrs Thatcher's speeches (all categories, all time periods) can be found: HERE.


Denis, then 36, married 26-year-old Margaret Roberts in London in December 1951 (Pic courtesy: Link)


  1. Somehow I never liked history/civics during my schooldays. But now it is interesting, thanks to History channel. It will take some more time to get used to all the intrinsic details you have been writing.. nevertheless, I will know things better over a period of time! Thanks for posting so much of info :)

  2. @ Mohan: :)

    I like to read history or watch events unfold on the History Channel. Even I was no fan of history/civics in school. There we are taught stuff... for exams :)

    Margaret Thatcher... was and continues to be an unique figure. Sir Denis's contribution too should not be ignored.

    History is important. 'Kal' se hi 'aaj' hai. Aur 'aaj' se 'kal'. Isn't it... ???

  3. Your posts are storehouse of information, Roshmi!! Thanks for sharing such crisp and interesting info! :)

  4. If only History was taught in a bit more fascinating way at school - one not loosely equate history with boredom.

    While I was reading the post I was also visualizing the scene in my mind.

    Good post.

  5. @ Gyanban: Thanks! :)

    I agree. Schools make history dull and boring... while it is quite the opposite, actually.