Between 1979 and 1990, the United Kingdom was ruled not by one woman, but by two. To say that the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was difficult is an understatement. They got along badly.
The queen saw the grocer’s daughter Graham as a threat, who with her social reform might try to attack the monarchy and its privileges. She couldn’t tolerate the tone of her voice.
But this was not the case for Margaret Thatcher with her counterpart, New Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair. Documents revealed by the Kew Garden National Archives show a respectful and consultative relationship, especially in international relations. They generally wrote to each other, in the best British style, but they also spoke on the phone on days of crisis and saw each other in secret.
When asked what her greatest achievement had been, Margaret Thatcher once replied: “Tony Blair and New Labour.”
More evidence of Thatcher’s admiration for former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair emerged in a handwritten letter, in which the “iron lady” praised her determination, after the 9/11 attacks on New York. It was published by the British National Archives.
Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II, in an image from April 2013. Photo: AP
His letter, written in April 2002, was in response to a “kind and considerate letter” from Blair. Thatcher wrote: “You will have discovered, as I did, that just as one international crisis subsides, another soon threatens. I really admire the determination you are showing. You have ensured that Britain is known as a staunch defender of liberty and as a loyal ally of the United States. That is the best reputation (those three underlined words) that our country can have.”
The letter was included in the latest release of confidential government documents from the Kew National Archives.
Blair, who was heavily criticized for his decision to support President George W. Bush in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has previously spoken of how Thatcher was “immensely nice” to him. “I always thought my job was to build on some of the things that she had done rather than reverse them,” he recounted.
Cherie Blair CBE, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, explained that Margaret Thatcher’s electoral success made her husband aware of the importance of reclaiming the center of politics to end 18 years of Conservative rule.
Speaking to CNBC Meets, Blair said Thatcher’s dominance made the former Labor leader understand the need to shift the party to the right: “You wouldn’t necessarily associate Margaret Thatcher with the center. But nevertheless she won three elections,” she said. cherie.
Tony Blair is credited with returning Labor to government, in a landslide election in 1997, by getting the party to accept and adopt some of Thatcher’s policies of the 1980s.
Tony Blair, his wife Cherie and Margaret Thatcher, in a June 2007 image. Photo: AFP
Cherie Blair told CNBC that while on a personal level Margaret Thatcher was generous with her support, she still stood by her own political ideas. “She was very kind and generous with her support, particularly in relation to foreign affairs,” Cherie Blair said.
“When Tony first became prime minister, she certainly gave him the benefit of her experience which, I understand, was given on Thatcher’s typically firm terms,” the former head of government’s wife said.
Cherie recalls meeting Thatcher several times after her husband took office, saying, “I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of what a very human person she was.”
Cherie Blair, a lawyer in England and Wales, is also the founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which is involved in philanthropic efforts to improve the lives of women around the world.
While working for the Labor Party in the 1979 election, Blair said she understood the importance of Thatcher’s election as the first woman in charge of the British government.
A cartoon of Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, published in 2006. Photo: AFP
“She broke the mold and became a role model,” said Cherie Blair. “I think it is very important for young British women today that they are no longer laughed at when they say ‘I want to be Prime Minister’. Margaret Thatcher showed that a woman not only can do it, but can do it with conviction,” she said. .
However, Blair criticized Thatcher’s poor record in recruiting women while in office: only one woman in the eleven years of her administration was elevated to cabinet level.
“Baroness Thatcher would not describe herself as a feminist,” Blair said.
Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher met many times in secret to discuss especially international issues. Those meetings were never reported, except for one over Europe, which angered Labor and the Torys.
Tea with Gordon Brown
The economist and former chancellor of finance Gordon Brown was the one who invented New Labour, who wrote its new Manifesto. When he was nominated for Labor Prime Minister, Brown invited Margaret Thatcher to tea and tour Downing St for 2 hours.
He helped her get out of her car, he accompanied the 81-year-old woman inside and they talked animatedly about politics and the economy, after he sent letters to all the prime ministers after his inauguration. “She’s a conviction politician, like me,” Brown said.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has admitted that he was inspired by Thatcher for many of his policies. “A lot of the things that she said, even though she hurt people like me on the left, she had a certain credibility.”
Another admirer of Blair’s response to the New York bombing crisis was former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, who emailed to say: “My gosh, what a wonderful speech. Just what the country needed. It will have intimidated your enemies, excited your friends, and consoled the doubters.” It was another of the revealed files.
the war in iraq
The newly released files also show that Blair was reluctant, in the days after 9/11, to undermine the coalition formed after the attacks by rushing to invade Iraq.
Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, wrote in a memo that, in a conversation with Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith about the anthrax attacks in the United States, Blair said it was unclear whether the anthrax had been produced in Iraq.
Powell wrote after the October 17 meeting: “We had to be careful about making accusations. Blair would not be opposed to dealing with Saddam Hussein in due time for him. But we must not undermine the coalition by rushing to confront Iraq now. The Muslim world is very fragile and we would probably lose France and Germany as well.”
The files also reveal that Sir John Stanley, a former Conservative minister, wrote to Blair five days after 9/11, saying that the government should assume that there would be a terrorist attack on one or more British cities using weapons of mass destruction “in the short term” and foreseeable future”.
Stanley, a former minister of the armed forces, wrote: “I need not tell you that if terrorist organizations succeed in using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction in urban areas, the number of deaths, the time it will take for large numbers of them to people die, and the degree of excruciating pain that the victims will suffer will be far greater than anything we have witnessed in New York or Washington this week.”