Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, who passed away on April 8, was nicknamed the “Iron Lady” for her strong will and resolute devotion to conservative principles.
But one of her former policy advisers revealed to WND that Thatcher was not quite the immovable object she’s been portrayed as, but rather a woman of reason – if you had the courage and wit to challenge her will.
Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley and an exclusive, regular commentator for WND, explained he worked for Thatcher for four years, from 1982-1986, as one of her six policy advisers.
During that time, he admits, he witnessed her earn her “Iron Lady” nickname.
“She did terrify those who disagreed with her,” Monckton told WND’s Jerome Corsi in a video interview, “and she liked to choose people working around her who equally terrified those who disagreed with her.”
Monckton even told a story of when Thatcher had been convinced, despite her campaign promises to the contrary, that certain taxes needed to be raised.
Her finance minister, naturally, balked, to which she reportedly replied, “Jeffrey, I want to put up taxes.”
“And he said, ‘What?’” Mocknton reported. “We’re not going to put up taxes, surely.”
Monckton explained her response was direct: “Jeffrey, I want your proposals, or I want your job.”
“When she wanted something done, she made it very plain that she wanted it done,” Monckton said.
But the former policy adviser also told WND for all her strength, she was flexible when presented with sound reasoning.
“The most fascinating thing about her is that far from not being a good listener, which was her reputation, she was in fact a startlingly good listener – but you had to recognize when she was prepared to listen,” Monckton explained. “Her technique, which was actually a very straightforward one, but you had to kind of learn it, otherwise you’d never get on very well with her, is that you’d start off by giving her whatever policy advice it was necessary to give, and sometimes that would be advice she really didn’t want to hear. … She would say, ‘Oh, come off it, dear. You really can’t expect me to adopt such a policy. This is completely against conservative policy,’ and then she would always pause – and this was the vital moment for her and for me, because if you then retreated … she would not have much time for you. But if on the other hand, you said, ‘Well, Prime Minster, if I may, I would like to describe this a little further, and perhaps answer your specific questions, and here’s the data and here are the facts,’ if you really briefed yourself well, then she would change her mind, and this was a thing that very few outside what we called the ‘kitchen cabinet’ would have realized: How good she was at changing her mind if it was necessary to do so.
“I mean, she wasn’t going to give up her position easily,” Monckton laughed. “You had to be very well armed with facts and statistics and reasons if you wanted her to change her mind, but she was, of course, a scientist, and therefore, if you gave her an irrefutable reason why a different course should be pursued, then she would change her course, and she would do so as swiftly as the blink of an eye. She was very, very good about this.”
Thatcher, in fact, was originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, a member of Parliament and eventually, prime minister.
Monckton also told WND the humorous story of his last ever official meeting with the “Iron Lady.” He explained he was supposed to have but 10 minutes with her for a ceremonial good-bye, yet he couldn’t help bending her ear one last time on a policy she wasn’t inclined to accept.
“She was gripped and fascinated by new ideas,” Monckton explained, “and she was still more gripped and fascinated by somebody who was man enough to stand up … and take her on.”
After making his case, Monckton recalls, Thatcher stood up, slammed the door in the Japanese ambassador’s face (for he was her next appointment) and threw off her whole schedule to talk with Monckton for the next hour and a half.
Upon hearing his reasoning on this new policy, Monckton describes how she yanked a book from her shelves and from behind it pulled out a bottle of whiskey and a couple of cut-glass tumblers to discuss the issue in earnest.
“We would set this frankly, rather ghastly whiskey – for a Scot, who on the whole wouldn’t drink it – and we then discussed it,” Monckton recalls. “She began firing a salvo of questions – it was like having the whole British fleet pointing at you, and gun after gun would blaze off and the shells would whistle past my ears because she didn’t miss a trick – and at the end of this salvo, I had more or less survived, or so I thought, and then she said, ‘And how many government departments are working on this, Dear?’ So I named three government departments that I’d been working with and they were developing aspects of this potentially quite exciting policy – and then, the killer blow. ‘And what does the treasury think of it, Dear?’
“I said, ‘They hate every line of it,’” Monckton said.
“And she said, ‘Yes, I rather thought they would,’” Monckton recalled. “So she reflected for a moment [before saying], ‘Perhaps I’m going to change their minds on that.’”
The end result?
“She quietly began implementing it after I’d gone,” Monckton said.
Monckton also described another incident where he was sent as her representative to an environmental board to work out policy that would be unpopular with the civil servants who formed the bulk of the committee. They preferred a government solution; Thatcher was pushing for privatization.
Monckton described the resistance he met and his challenge to the bureaucrats over their “disloyalty,” a confrontation that brought complaints back to Thatcher about Monckton’s behavior.
But when Thatcher called Monckton to appear before her to answer for the complaints …
Thatcher’s response is captured in the following video interview with Monckton: