Well-rounded study of an Iron Lady enthralls

NOT FOR TURNING: THE LIFE OF MARGARET THATCHER, by Robin Harris (Random House Struik) R250

Reviewed by Brett Adkins

SOME admired her, others despised her, and in some individuals – especially on opposition benches – she would invoke red hot poker wrath.

But there was no ignoring Margaret Thatcher as she oversaw a changing Britain – she herself being orchestrator-in-chief of that change – while she resided at 10 Downing Street.

Not For Turning is a well-rounded and thorough examination of the woman, the politics, the mood and turbulent waters of the time.

But more than that it is an intricate study of an iconic figure whose radical policies – for all the debate they still trigger to this day – transformed her country.

Many will argue about the methods she employed to do that, but there is no doubting that she moved Britain away from what had become a bad place, a shadow of what was once a glorious, proud nation in another era.

Her roots, humble upbringing and early life are well documented with meticulous research accompanied by a fascinating catalogue of photographs, as we watch the ambitions of an intelligent, headstrong woman with unwavering political drive translate into an evolving career as MP and, ultimately, the glass ceiling smasher – achieving the prized but daunting role of Britain’s first female prime minister.

An unswerving confidence pervades her story, as Harris points out: “If Margaret Thatcher was overawed by becoming prime minister, she never showed it.”

The author – who for many years was the prime minister’s speechwriter and a close adviser – takes us on a tour of the very public pinnacle moments in an extraordinary career such as the miners’ strike and the Falklands War. But he also opens an intriguing portal to what went on behind the scenes, and the seemingly never-ending tussles as Thatcher went head to head with colleagues.

Peppered with newspaper cartoons which perfectly sum up the political climate of the day, you will find much here that is fresh, intriguing and eye-opening.

It is only a pity the Iron Lady herself missed the opportunity of tucking into its pages.

In a poignant letter to Harris about the author’s proposed book – printed on the inside of the cover – Thatcher’s concluding words are: “I only regret that I will not have the chance to read it myself!”

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