Margaret Thatcher’s closest adviser told her she should not fight another election after she won a third term.
Her former private secretary said the ‘unbelievable’ level of abuse she had endured had taken its toll.
Charles Powell urged her to protect her legacy, saying her place in history was secure.
‘In two or three years’ time, you will have completed the most sweeping change this country has seen in decades and your place in history will be rivalled in this century only by Churchill,’ he said in a letter.
Margaret Thatcher’s closest adviser Charles Powell (pictured together, left) told her she should not fight another election after she won a third term
Mrs Thatcher canvassing in the West Country as she embarked on her successful 1987 election campaign
He concluded by urging her to continue her work in foreign affairs, telling her that the ‘world will look to you for leadership’.
The heartfelt letter from her longstanding foreign affairs aide has not been published in full before.
Released by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation today, it is contained in her personal files, which are held at Churchill College, Cambridge.
Lady Thatcher’s official historian Chris Collins said: ‘The world was out to get her in many ways. It wasn’t a neurotic paranoid assumption that people wanted to bring her down.
‘This atmosphere that was created in the office was partly a response to that, a protection.’
In the letter – from June 13, 1987 and marked ‘strictly personal’ – Lord Powell and his wife Carla (pictured together) congratulated the prime minister on her ‘remarkable election victory’
In the letter – from June 13, 1987 and marked ‘strictly personal’ – Lord Powell and his wife Carla congratulated the prime minister on her ‘remarkable election victory’ two days earlier.
‘If ever a party and a country were carried to success on the shoulders of one person, it has been over this last eight years, and the election was the reward,’ he wrote. Commiserating with her on her bruising exchanges with television journalists in interviews during the campaign, Lord Powell said the people were on her side.
‘They know you are right and what you are doing is right and they respect you for it – because they feel better as a result,’ he added.
He compared her to Churchill but warned she must not put herself through another election as the ‘unbelievable’ level of personal abuse would take its toll.
Lady Thatcher had told the BBC that she planned to go ‘on and on’ during the 1987 general election campaign.
Staff briefed PM on Sex Pistols and told her: You might not like this
So when she was lined up for an interview with Tom Hibbert, deputy editor of teen pop magazine Smash Hits, her advisers gave her a crib sheet on punk bands such as The Sex Pistols and a warning she might not enjoy the interview.
The chat came in March 1987 – three months before her final general election victory.
The prime minister faced questions on contemporary music and her personal tastes as she attempted to appeal to the youth vote.
The Downing Street press office briefing stated: ‘You may not enjoy this interview. Mr Hibbert may ask superficial questions which betray a lack of understanding.’
The note gave a history of punk music and capitalised key words and band names. It read: ‘The “PUNK” era which hit the music world between 1976-1978 was a very basic musical style featuring a strange bunch of anti-establishment acts, most famous of which were THE SEX PISTOLS.
‘Other PUNK acts such as THE CLASH and THE DAMNED were popular… but when the SEX PISTOLS split in 1978 the style died out.’ Preparations for the interview with Smash Hits were found in the latest release of her personal files.
Lord Powell wrote: ‘All the same I hope that you will not put yourself through it again. The level of personal abuse thrown at you during the campaign was unbelievable and must take some toll, however stoic you are outwardly.
‘There comes a point where your reputation and standing as a histori
c figure are more important to your party, to your cause and to the country than even you yourself can be, and it’s not right that you should be subjected to a further round like this time.’
He warned that the Left would ‘redouble’ their abuse as they were unable to defeat her on substance.
He told her it was a ‘tremendous privilege’ to work with her for which he was grateful. He signs off with ‘affection and respect’.
Ahead of the letter’s public release, Lord Powell admitted he had been upset to observe the difficult campaign as Lady Thatcher clashed dramatically with journalists and the opposition.
‘It’s an unusual letter for a civil servant to send a prime minister even on a very personal basis, reflecting the small size and intimacy of No 10 especially in those days,’ he said.
In a heartfelt letter, Mr Powell said the ‘unbelievable’ level of abuse she had endured had taken its toll
‘I had been distressed to observe at close quarters the stress of a third election campaign and the back-biting it involved on Margaret Thatcher’s health and performance and wanted to discourage her in her own interests from any inclination to go “on and on”.’
He said he had discussed the letter with her at the time, and her main reaction was that she had no successor, ‘though several who thought they were’.
He concluded that in light of what happened later – Lady Thatcher being forced from office in November 1990 – his advice looked ‘pretty sound’.
Mr Collins said the letter showed her close bond with her staff. ‘It is no accident that Carla Powell signs this as well,’ he said. ‘This is actually a letter from friends.’
The files, along with thousands of previously published personal documents, are available online at www.margaretthatcher.org
Mrs Thatcher’s mystery starter for No 10: Former Prime Minister sent out recipe for unpalatable dish containing beef consommé, curry and cheese spread to fans
Some of Margaret Thatcher’s dishes would not be palatable to today’s connoisseurs, to say the least
Margaret Thatcher was always said to be a keen cook. But some of her dishes would not be palatable to today’s connoisseurs, to say the least.
Among recipes that she sent out to fans is one for something called a ‘mystery starter’.
The ingredients are listed as two packets of Philadelphia cheese, one flat teaspoon of curry powder and one tin of beef consommé, undiluted.
She recommends topping each set dish with a black olive. To vary it, she suggests adding leftover chicken, shrimps or mushroom.
The strange recipe is contained in a file marked ‘favourites’ which contained responses to any questions she might be asked.
It contains a letter to a class of school children in which she writes that her favourite meal to eat when working late in the House of Commons was a Buck Rarebit.
This is a rich cheese on toast dish was a poached egg on top, from the MPs’ cafeteria.
Chris Collins, her official historian, said: ‘I don’t think she was a genius in the kitchen. But she was game.
‘She actually liked doing things like that. She liked anything where you had to have a method, and you put effort into it.
‘It wasn’t exactly what cooking was about. It wasn’t inspiration. It was the sheer physical joy of ingredients. I actually think she did rather enjoy doing it. To me it is quite possible that these came from some scrapbook that she once had.’
She also says she likes to watch Yes, Minister.
Asked if she’d ever got into trouble at school, she remarked: ‘There’s a streak of rebellion in all of us’.
Margaret Thatcher trying out some of her own experiments in her kitchen inside No.10
The recipe was one of several found in a file of her ‘favourites’ dated 1979-1987.
The folder includes standard replies to some of the most popular requests and questions in letters to the prime minister, which were dealt with by Number 10’s secretaries, the Garden Room Girls.
Lady Thatcher’s recipe for orange and walnut cake, ‘lamb chops in a parcel’, and stuffed ‘courgettes maison’ served with prawns and mornay sauce, were also included in the file.
Get a haircut, Mrs Thatcher ordered ‘scruffy’ Nigel Lawson: Former PM was said to have regularly complained about her Chancellor’s unkempt locks
Margaret Thatcher ordered her chancellor, Nigel Lawson to ‘tidy up’ because he looked scruffy, according to her personal files.
The then prime minister wrote the instruction ‘Nigel – tidy up’ on a briefing note from February 24, 1987.
The reference is believed to be to his hairstyle, which she thought was unkempt and about which she regularly complained.
Lord Lawson, who became a life peer in 1992, recalled recently that Lady Thatcher also demanded he get his hair cut as soon as he was offered the job of chancellor after the 1983 general election.
Margaret Thatcher ordered her chancellor, Nigel Lawson (pictured combed, left, and more unkempt with his wife, Therese, right) to ‘tidy up’
‘She only gave me one piece of briefing for the job,’ he said. ‘She came absolutely straight to the point. She said, “Nigel you must get your hair cut”.
‘She had the idea – and she may have been right, I don’t know – that somehow the financial markets wouldn’t take altogether seriously a chancellor who had long hair.’
Lord Lawson resigned as chancellor in 1989 following a bitter row with Lady Thatcher’s economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters.
Charles Moore, in his official biography of Lady Thatcher, relates another episode, in 1987, when she returned to the issue of her chancellor getting his hair cut.
She phoned David Young, her then employment secretary, to complain about how ‘appallingly scruffy her ministers, notably Lawson, Kenneth Clarke and Nicholas Ridley, whose crime was to wear a cardigan, looked on television’, the book relates.
Lord Lawson (second from left) with Chancellors and finance ministers from Canada, German, France and America
‘She said, “Nigel’s got to get a haircut”, “Absolutely right” (Young) “Will you tell him?” “No, Prime Minister… you’ve got to tell him” (Young).’
Mr Moore then reveals that it was actually left up to the chancellor’s wife, Therese, to tell him.
Lord Lawson later admitted that he did get his hair cut, but said it was at his wife’s suggestion, denying that Lady Thatcher ever told him to.
In his memoir, Kind of Blue, Mr Clarke, a Cabinet minister under Lady Thatcher, recalled that she decided she wanted to see more young people representing the party on television.
Lord Lawson pictured at the Conservative Party Conference in 1990
So she ordered Lord Lawson and Mr Clarke to have their hair cut and to appear on television from time to time. ‘Nigel and I were notorious for being lax about such things as haircuts,’ he wrote.
‘Male fashion in the late 1980s was fairly hirsute, so our laziness had been reinforced by the hairiness of other respectable people. I think Nigel did as I did and ignored the instruction, even from the prime minister, to go to a barber.’
Chris Collins, Mrs Thatcher’s official historian, said: ‘The message got through and he Lord Lawson was not happy with the idea that he was being told. Like his wife suggesting it or something.
‘There was a long-running issue about this. She did feel he looked a little scruffy. She liked you to be presentable; you were the chancellor, you were representing the government.
‘I mean, there was a deeper problem there, of course, but it would’ve been there even if they had been on the best of terms.’
Lord Lawson resigned during an an increasingly acrimonious dispute with Sir Alan over whether Britain should enter the European exchange rate mechanism, the forerunner of the Euro.
Lord Lawson wanted to go in but Lady Thatcher backed Sir Alan, who opposed membership.