Margaret Thatcher’s ability to reduce political opponents to rubble was renowned but new evidence is available that she was also capable of leaving male admirers looking like love-struck teenagers.
John Nott, Thatcher's defence secretary at the time of the Falklands war, poured praise on his prime minister's "good looks, charm and bearing" in a highly unusual private resignation note in 1983.
The note, part of the Thatcher archives released today, suggests that Mr Nott, later chief executive and chairman at Lazard, was captivated by the feminine side of the Iron Lady.
“Your greatest triumph as a PM, if I may say so, is that your colleagues actually like you,” he said in the note, dated January 23rd. “Some of them even love you, just a little!”
The defence secretary admitted in his note that his feelings could not be revealed in a public letter but added: “It is inexcusable to say so nowadays but I actually admire you as a woman – your good looks, charm and bearing have always attracted me, as a man.
“I’m sorry but what is wrong with that? I think your emotional, instinctive and unpragmatic approach to most issues – so very unmasculine – is the secret of your success in the male-dominated world of politics.”
Mr Nott, who represented St Ives as an MP and lives in Cornwall, was widely criticised for proposing cuts to the Royal Navy shortly before Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982. He mentioned his private note in a memoir but said Thatcher did not reply.
The former minister is not the only male politician to be captivated by Thatcher. François Mitterrand, former French president, is said to have remarked that she had “the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe”.
The Thatcher papers also reveal the former premier’s despair over the fall from grace of Cecil Parkinson, whom she appeared to be grooming as her heir and had earmarked as her next foreign secretary. He resigned after news emerged that his former secretary, Sara Keays, was pregnant with his child.
The archive also shows how Thatcher rubbed shoulders with spy Oleg Gordievsky at a buffet lunch for Young Conservatives in Bournemouth in 1983: the Soviet double agent later went on to pass vital information to MI6 during the 1980s.
Financial Times Service