MARGARET THATCHER by Jonathan Aitken


Power and Personality
Age Range: 1925 - 2013
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An admiring biography of the Iron Lady by a former “Tory back-bencher” who played a role in her government.

Admiring it is, but Aitken’s (Pride and Perjury: An Autobiography, 2003, etc.) life of Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013) is not entirely uncritical, even if he finds reasons to excuse behavior that left “bullied colleagues, derided officials, ignored communities and neglected family members” in its wake. Thatcher, writes the author, was ambitious from the very start, running into trouble with a headmistress for having had the upstart hubris to declare that she was aiming for a career in the Indian Foreign Service, since it was a fast track to political fame back home. Alas for Thatcher, India got away from Britain before she could hitch her wagon to it, and so she had to slog it out with the rest of the back bench. Mainly, Aitken writes with the exquisite carefulness of the true believer: “Although Denis’s proposal was accepted by Margaret with the full consent of her parents, the engagement was kept secret for another five weeks for political reasons.” Those political reasons, it seems, were so profound that they occasioned this doubly passive construction. In the tightest of controversies, Aitken accords Thatcher some responsibility for bad faith but places more on others: Breaking the unions in the early 1980s was mostly the fault of militant union leaders, even if Thatcher could have done better; the Falklands War was mostly the fault of the Argentines, even if her “stubbornness…and her inexperience in foreign affairs” had something to do with the mess. But mostly, Aitken is deferential and even a little star-struck, especially in the presence of Ronald Reagan, he of “good looks, good humour and good conservative views.”

More than serviceable, but best for readers of conservative views themselves. Others will want to turn to more critical commentators.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-62040-342-6
Page count: 784pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2013


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