The passing of Lady Margaret Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister in English history, reminded me of many visits that I made to the sceptered isle in the early 1980s. It was time when London was not as calm as it is today: steel bomb curtains were hung conspicuously from government building exterior windows, such as the Ministry of Defence where I was visiting on business. The IRA was about, and just in case, security was ramped up. My visit to an Air Vice Marshall was to discuss matters of mutual interest, and of course to have some bilateral eating and drinking. "Maggie" had become PM in the late 1970's and was in the midst of bringing order from chaos among the populace, according to my British hosts. She was fighting entrenched and long-standing opponents, and busy earning her 'iron lady' nickname.
My British hosts and I walked the short distance to a waterside pub and restaurant, now called Tattershall Castle. We had several menacing-looking escorts for that walk from Royal Horseguards. We were hand wanded as we entered the gangway to the boat. Over a few warm beers we spoke of the climate, not the weather, but the political one, in our respective countries. Ronald Reagan, who would be forever part of the Thatcher fan club, was topic A for the British folks with whom I dined. Our common concern was the Soviet Union, and its powerful far-reaching tentacles. Cold War talk was always first and foremost among us. Bad habits or just common concerns, you pick. My counterparts agreed that information about the Soviets were about was necessary and that became my task for the next four years. It was mentioned that the PM had given her full support to the initiative.
Within a decade the Berlin Wall would come down, the USSR would crumble, and a new burst of freedom would bloom throughout Europe's former communist countries.
Reading the tributes to Maggie Thatcher today I was struck by these comments from former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, who said,
“Margaret Thatcher was a major politician and a striking person. She will remain in our memory and history. Thatcher was a politician whose words carried big weight. Our first meeting in 1984 laid ground to the relationship that was at times complex, but always even and on both sides serious and responsible. Gradually interpersonal relationships also formed which became more and more friendly. In the end we managed to achieve mutual understanding, and this was a contribution to the changing atmosphere between our country and the West, and to the end of the Cold War.”
A fitting tribute to a great lady I never met but always admired.