Charles Moore’s masterful biography shows how Thatcher rejected “isms” before eventually giving rise to oneby David Frum / May 22, 2013 / Leave a comment
Thatcher queuing for an autograph from the actress Patricia Dainton at Dartford Fete, 1951 (© Tophams/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images)
Margaret Thatcher; The Authorised Biography, Volume 1 By Charles Moore (Allen Lane, £30)
Charles Moore is a master of deadpan. His admiration for Margaret Thatcher does not inhibit his awareness of the comic side of her personality. As an authorised biographer, Moore obtained not only access to Thatcher’s papers, but also many hours of interview time. This latter opportunity, Moore remarks, was rendered less of an advantage than it might seem by Thatcher’s characteristic lack of interest in her personal history.
“On one occasion, I asked her a question about her mother’s occupations. She replied that her mother had been a good seamstress and ‘she did wonderful voluntary work. And that’s the thing about the women of Britain—they do wonderful voluntary work—not like French women,’ and before I could stop her, she had made her escape from the uncongenial private subject to the area of political generalisation which she preferred.”
The humour decorates what will be for generations the definitive study of Thatcher’s life and career. As a friend of Charles Moore’s, I’ve witnessed this book’s long gestation. What a splendid thing to see it delivered into full and enduring life.
This first volume tells the story from birth to apogee, victory in the Falklands and re-election as prime minister in 1983. It is a work of gripping narrative intensity that also takes time to correct minute mistakes of previous studies, such as the absurd claim by a prior biography that Thatcher’s first private member’s bill—a law to prevent town councils from banning the press from their meetings—represented an act of Freudian revenge against her town councillor father.
Bloggers have already highlighted Moore’s most surprising discovery: that Thatcher owed a crucial political victory—her selection as the Conservative candidate for Finchley in 1958—to a small act of political chicanery: a deliberate flip of two votes in her favour by the chairman of the constituency association. That chairman, Bertie Blatch, achieved a measure of restorative justice. Moore identifies three members of the association who expressed a refusal to support Thatcher on the ancient principle, “If there’s a lady [running], I shan’t be voting for that lady.”
Moore situates Thatcher as both a beneficiary and a leader of the revolution in the role of…