In what appears to be a pretty remarkable coincidence, a 1970s–era cable in which a U.S. diplomat shares his early impressions of Margaret Thatcher was released by the website WikiLeaks, just hours before the death of the former British Prime was announced.
The message about Thatcher — at the time the newly minted head of Britain’s Conservative Party — was one of more than 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic and intelligence reports from the 1970s that WikiLeaks posted early Monday. (We should point out here that these aren’t leaked documents; they’re available to the public at the U.S. National Archives.)
The cable, from February 1975 (which is available in full here), is titled “Margaret Thatcher: Some First Impressions.” And its writer is fairly blunt:
Her conventional and somewhat forced charm, and above all her plummy voice stamp her as the quintessential suburban matron, and frightfully English to boot. None of this goes down well with the working class of England (one-third of which used to vote Conservative), to say nothing of all classes in the Celtic Fringes of this island.
There are some compliments, albeit often of the backhanded variety. “She has a quick, if not profound, mind, and works hard to master the most complicated brief.” Further, she’s “crisp and a trifle patronizing” with the media, yet “honest and straight-forward” with her colleagues, “if not excessively considerate of their vanities,” the cable continues. And the unnamed U.S. diplomat who wrote it points out that she had “acquired a distinctively upper middle class personal image,” which could damage her chances of becoming Prime Minister (“the odds are against her”) but said “few are prepared to say she can’t do it.”
Four years later, in 1979, Thatcher became Britain’s first female Prime Minister and won a further two terms before stepping down in 1990. She forged a close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, becoming one of his staunchest allies. Thatcher died Monday at 87 after suffering a stroke.