Embassy Row: First impression

The U.S. Embassy in London found her “imperious” and “patronizing,” with a “quick, if not profound, mind” and “frightfully English to boot.”

The embassy’s first impression of Margaret Thatcher was described in a confidential diplomatic cable sent Feb. 16, 1975, to Washington, where Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was preparing to meet the woman who had just unseated Prime Minister Edward Heath in a leadership election for Britain’s Conservative Party.

Mr. Kissinger visited Mrs. Thatcher in London two days later and helped arrange her White House meeting with President Gerald R. Ford in September that year.

Mrs. Thatcher, who died Monday at the age of 87, also was seen as “Britain’s newest political star” and the “personification of a British middle-class dream come true,” the cable said.

The diplomatic dispatch is among 1.7 million cables written from 1973 to 1976 and published over the weekend by WikiLeaks. Unlike the 250,000 classified cables leaked illegally to the anti-secrecy website and released in 2010, the latest diplomatic dump was declassified and obtained through the U.S. National Archives.

The Thatcher cable reflects admiration for her stunning upset in the party leadership fight and condescension over her humble upbringing as the daughter of a grocer. It also expresses doubt that she could ever be elected Britain’s first female prime minister, a post she claimed four years later.

Margaret Thatcher has blazed into national prominence almost literally out of nowhere,” the cable said. “She has a quick, if not profound, mind, and works hard to master the most complicated brief. … In dealing with the media or with subordinates, she tends to be crisp and a trifle patronizing.”

Mrs. Thatcher “espouses the middle-class values of thrift, hard work, law and order [and] believes in individual choice, maximum freedom for market forces and minimal power for the state,” the cable said. “Hers is the genuine voice of a beleaguered bourgeoise, anxious about its eroding economic power and determined to arrest society’s seemingly inexorable trend towards collectivism. …

“Her immaculate grooming, her imperious manner, her conventional and somewhat forced charm, and above all her plummy voice stamp her as the quintessential suburban matron, and frightfully English to boot.”

OPEN AGAIN

Ten years after being banished from Washington, the Iranian resistance will reopen an office Thursday just a block away from the White House, where three presidents kept the dissidents on the U.S. terrorist blacklist until a federal court intervened.

“This marks a new era,” said Soona Samsami, the U.S. representative for the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.

She added that the resistance sees a “serious prospect for change by the Iranian people and the organized opposition” because of an internal power struggle among the ruling mullahs of the brutal Islamist regime.

Founded in Tehran in 1981, the resistance is a democratic coalition of five Iranian opposition groups and calls itself the “longest-lasting political coalition in Iran’s contemporary history.”

President Bill Clinton put the resistance on the terrorist list in 1997, meeting a key demand of the Iranian regime as a precondition for talks with the United States. President George W. Bush kept the dissidents on the list, although demands were growing in Congress for their removal.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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