Lord Howe Looks Back on Years with Margaret Thatcher

In an article published in the London Evening Standard, Lord Howe, TLG Member and former Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, reflects on his time with Baroness Thatcher during her premiership.

During his time as Foreign Secretary, he recollects when the Strategic Arms Reductions Talks (START) were being negotiated between the United States and the Soviet Union as well as the first time Baroness Thatcher met Mikhail Gorbachev:

“…I became convinced of the Iron Lady’s sincerity when I presided over her party conference performance in 1983. I heard (and saw) her ad lib three deeply felt sentences: “As I am sure you will understand, there is no one more anxious for genuine disarmament than the person who bears the ultimate responsibility for the nuclear deterrent in our own country. I wanted to say that to you. You will understand how important it is that we try to make those arms reduction talks succeed.”

Margaret’s spontaneity shone through — and for the next year or more we sought a breakthrough. I had no fewer than four meetings with Russia’s dour foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko. Soviet leadership passed, on the death of Andropov, to the feeble cypher Chernenko. Skilful detective work by British diplomats identified the man most likely to succeed him. And so there came about probably the most important meeting in Margaret Thatcher’s career.

Mikhail (and Raisa) Gorbachev arrived at Chequers for lunch on Sunday December 16, 1984. This led straight into four hours of astonishingly direct talking. “We do have to find ways,” said Margaret, “of living together on the same planet.”

The two slipped almost instantly into a pattern of conversation so spontaneous that the process of interpretation became almost invisible. By the end of the day, Margaret had famously identified him as “a man with whom I can do business” (note the “I”).

At the end of that week, in Washington, she persuaded her other soulmate, Ronald Reagan, to take the same view. Her establishment and nurturing of this triangular relationship — and of her own unique influence on the other two protagonists — was her greatest single contribution to the future of our planet.”

To read the full article, please click here.