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Correspondence

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher enjoyed being who she was.  She did not think of this inner bounce as a gift of fortune but as a virtue, as obligatory self-respect.  She was a patriot and a Tory in that way.  The party was her milieu—the people whose self-respect resembled her own and supported it.  The country, too, was an inference from self-confidence.  “One was patriot,” you could hear her saying, “because it is shambolic not to be—and contemptible.”  In this instinct and opinion there was some wisdom, and also a British strength once so common as to be unremarkable.  But in 1979, when she became prime minister, it was receding in British society, and especially at the top.

Oddly enough, her chief rival as prime minister, her nemesis, had exactly the same opinion and strength.  Michael Heseltine was the sort of buccaneering, self-made toff that she most admired in the Tory world.  He was the sort of man she would have wanted to be if she had been a man.  Margaret Thatcher was a woman who lacked Heseltine’s knowledge of the world.  Both had energy and quick, unoriginal minds, but Heseltine made his own money.  He did not see Britain as a mere extension of the Tory vote.  He embraced both the center and the right as an opportunist who embraced anything that was profitable and effective.  Heseltine...

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