| Denis Thatcher
London, Aug. 1: John Major was a “ghastly” Prime Minister who destroyed the Conservative party and led it to “utter defeat” at the hands of that “bloody man” Tony Blair, the late Sir Denis Thatcher said in his first, last and only interview.
He delivered his scathing verdict on his wife’s successor in a television documentary recorded by their daughter Carol in the months before his death in June, aged 88.
Sir Denis, who prided himself in never saying anything worth reporting, agreed to be interviewed on his marriage and life as the “shadow on the wall” — the first husband of a Prime Minister.
Recalling his wife’s removal as Tory leader in 1990, he revealed that he had nearly persuaded her to resign a year before. They even got as far as checking their diaries to identify a good moment.
“She took me seriously and looked up diaries and where the Queen was going to be. And she was ready to go. Not to be kicked out,” he said. But Lady Thatcher stayed on.
A year later she was the victim of “treachery” by her colleagues, he said, and it would have been better for the Tories if they had lost the following election.
“If Major had lost, we wouldn’t have the disaster we've got now. He was a ghastly Prime Minister, more people deserted our party, and we have never recovered.”
Major’s performance allowed Tony Blair to sweep Labour to power in 1997. “And look, look what that bloody man did to us in the last election,” he said.
“Total, total, complete and utter defeat. Disaster. The whole of the situation of the Conservative Party today springs from that night when they dismissed the best Prime Minister the country has had since Churchill.”
He conceded that after the first ballot in the challenge to her party leadership, in which she failed to win enough votes to prevent a second round, he thought she should give up, but did not have the courage to tell her.
“She might have thought I was undermining her position. But I could see it coming.”
The Channel 4 documentary, entitled Married to Maggie: Denis Thatcher’s Story, to be broadcast on Sunday, also includes a rare interview with Lady Thatcher.
The former Prime Minister, who no longer speaks publicly on medical advice, described her 52-year “wonderful marriage” to “the most marvellous husband that anyone in the world could ever wish for”.
For his part, Sir Denis recalled the young Margaret Thatcher he met when she was Tory candidate for Dartford as a “nice-looking young woman — always has-been”. He wooed her on a tour of France in his “tart trap” sports car.
He admitted being less interested in politics than his wife. When she announced she would stand for the leadership in 1975, he asked her: “Leader of what, dear'”
Sir Denis described how much he liked Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. “Mark you, I never took any liberties, you know, I wasn’t trying to get off with them or anything like that, ‘cause that’s not my style.”
And when Argentina invaded the Falklands, Sir Denis recalled the difficulty No 10 had remembering where the islands were. “I wasn’t absolutely too sure where the Falklands was, and I didn’t want to make a bloody fool of myself and say, ‘where'’ But I soon discovered: nor did anybody else.”