The speech that never was - Thatcher papers for 1984 open to the public

Papers opened to the public today reveal how the Brighton bombing stopped Margaret Thatcher from widening her infamous ’enemy within’ rhetoric to include not only the striking miners but also the wider Labour movement and Party.

It was a speech which would have eclipsed the ’enemy within’ speech.
Chris Collins

Draft pages of her intended speech - grabbed from the wreckage of the Grand Hotel following the attack on the Prime Minister on October 12, 1984 - detail how Thatcher planned to warn the country from the podium of the Conservative Party Conference that Britain faced ’an insurrection’.

The ’speech that never was’ went on to suggest that the Labour Party was the ’natural home’ of forces whose ambition was to tear the country apart ’by an extension of the calculated chaos planned for the mining industry by a handful of trained Marxists and their fellow travellers’.

Her own handwritten notes for the speech, released today by the Churchill Archives Centre ( ) and online at the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website ( ), suggest plans to link what she regarded as militant mining communities to General Galtieri - the Argentinian dictator defeated during the Falklands War of 1982. The note, released for the first time, reads: "Since Office. Enemy without - beaten him & resolute strong in defence. Enemy within - Miners’ leaders...Liverpool and some local authorities - just as a way more difficult to fight...just as dangerous to liberty."

Chris Collins from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, the only historian to date to have had unrestricted access to the papers, said: "It was a speech which would have been remembered as controversial and would have eclipsed the ’enemy within’ speech (delivered in private to the backbench 1922 Committee) Indeed it was intended to do that.

"There’s a certain irony that an act of great violence actually softened this speech. In the end, the original speech was torn up and later taped back together, probably by Thatcher herself, who was a dab hand with Sellotape."

Among the other 40,000 papers being released online and at Churchill College, are documents which reveal the Prime Minister’s deep sense of foreboding about her fate at the hands of the Conservative Party she ruled, prophesising events of seven years later when she would be forced to resign as PM.

She told her secretary John Coles that: "My party won’t want me to lead them into the next election - and I don’t blame them." Collins said he was amazed to find Mrs Thatcher imagining her own downfall just days after the 1983 General Election victory. The account, written when Coles left Number 10 in June 1984, also reveals that Thatcher’s doubts ran in parallel to a ’decline in her energy’ after the election win.

More light-hearted pages from the 1984 archive reveal the prickly saga of a rose called Margaret, detailing - in a scene that could have been lifted straight from the scripts of Yes Prime Minister - how an innocent flower sparked a potential diplomatic incident between West Germany and Japan.

The drama began in innocent enough fashion when a West German horticultural association asked for permission to name a rose after Margaret Thatcher, delighting officials in Whitehall wishing to perhaps promote a softer side to the ’Iron Lady’.

However, the Prime Minister had forgotten an agreement of six years earlier, signed while Leader of the Opposition, that had given a Japanese firm license to grow the original ’Margaret Thatcher Rose’.

The clearly wounded Japanese firm wrote to the PM’s office and the Whitehall machine acted swiftly to pour oil on troubled diplomatic waters. The incident provoked many pages of notes between Whitehall and Foreign Office officials. In the end, it took a letter from private secretary Charles Powell to draw matters to a close. His reassuring tones of diplomacy to the slighted Japanese company headed off any threats of legal action and potential embarrassment to the Thatcher office.

Andrew Riley, Archivist of the papers at the Churchill Archives Centre, said: "This release of papers gives us a vivid insight into life at Downing Street and into Mrs Thatcher’s state of mind during a very difficult year, both personally and politically.

"The papers provide fresh insights into the often bitter coal strike of 1984, as well as newly released materials on the impact and aftermath of the Brighton bomb."

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