Charles Moore on Margaret Thatcher: The handbag ruled
At my present rate of a speech about my biography of Margaret Thatcher roughly every other day, I can discern a pattern of questioning.
Although Mrs Thatcher was an intensely political person all her life, very few people want to ask me about her politics. What fascinates them is the Thatcher phenomenon - her character, her mythology and the trajectory of her life. Because I have been able to reach so many private sources, both written and oral, I believe I can cast new light on this.
Questions that come up again and again include:
Was Mrs Thatcher a good mother?
Did I like Mrs Thatcher?
Was she kind or unkind?
Did she help women?
How did she get on with the Queen?
What were her religious beliefs, and how did they affect her career?
The nearest to political questions tend to be:
Did she make the country more selfish?
Was she really conservative or really revolutionary?
What all this confirms is a key point that any biographer should remember: the obvious thing you start from is often the most important and the most interesting. In Mrs Thatcher's case, the obvious thing is that, as party leader and Prime Minister, she was the first and only woman. This shapes everything else. The handbag ruled.