Downing Street Diarist Carol Thatcher Makes a Quick Killing on Mom's Big Win
07/04/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT
Upstairs at No. 10 Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher, the once and future Prime Minister of Britain, labored over the next day's campaign speech. Downstairs, two harried and hungry election workers decided to raid the Prime Minister's refrigerator. They were about to slice into a joint of cold roast beef when they heard footsteps approaching. They hastily stashed the evidence—bone, beef, platter and carving knife—in a kitchen drawer and fled. A moment later Britain's First Gentleman, retired businessman Denis Thatcher, appeared on the scene in search of a corkscrew. Tugging open a drawer, he discovered the rustled beef. "What the bloody hell is this?" he boomed.
Good question. It could have been a scene from the clever stage farce Anyone for Denis?, which has satirized the Prime Ministerial couple for London audiences for a year. Instead, the anecdote is told in Diary of an Election, the first book-length look at Mrs. Thatcher's landslide win. The author is no Labor sore loser, but the PM's daughter, Carol, 29, a journalist and the unofficial wardrobe mistress for the four-week campaign.
As its title suggests, the book is a day-by-day accounting of Mrs. Thatcher's triumphant reelection, and it was produced with dazzling speed. Working late nights and predawn mornings, Carol dashed off her book in the amount of time it usually takes for veteran campaign chroniclers like Theodore H. White to change their typewriter ribbons. "When we got the election results at 5 o'clock Friday morning, I said goodnight to Mum," Carol recalls, "and then I sat down and wrote the last of it. I finished, I suppose, about half past 10 or 11 p.m., and the next morning, at the printers in Hertfordshire, it was belting off the presses at the rate of a thousand an hour. This really must rate as one of the quickest—and what pleased me is that it doesn't look like a rush job."
Well, the book is readably witty, but the analysis is sketchy and the viewpoint anything but objective. Mostly, the Diary is crammed with tidbits that Tory trivia buffs will relish. We learn that Maggie's favorite noggin is "a weak whisky and soda," that she gives her clothes nicknames—one purple outfit, for instance, she calls aubergine, French for eggplant. There are details that only a dedicated wardrobe mistress could know: "She doesn't wear her best clothes on the campaign trail because they aren't enhanced by missiles of flour, eggs, tomatoes and so on." And one observation that older, more experienced reporters had never noticed: "She has very sexy legs." Carol also reveals that the Prime Minister shares one trait with her most caustic foes: "She detests watching herself on the box and won't have it switched on until she is sure she is off."
Carol reports that father Denis—often teased in the British press as a cocktail and golf enthusiast—pitched in like a trooper at countless campaign whistle-stops. "He is always first off the mark to lead the clapping or to drum up support with hearty and bass-toned 'hear-hears,' " she writes fondly. "In Harrogate, he had notched up nineteen 'hear-hears' and wasn't on bad form in Edinburgh either."
In contrast to her twin, Mark, who has dabbled in car racing and business consulting, Carol is a single-minded careerist. After qualifying as a solicitor, or lawyer, she put in five hardworking years in Australia as a newspaper and television reporter, returning to Britain late in 1981. She now writes features for the Daily Telegraph and occasionally hosts a weekly radio show called Nightline. Unmarried and uninterested in raising children—"I'm far too independent," she says—Carol dreams only of continuing her career in journalism. Critics snidely claim that she owes her success to her famous mother. With her book in the stores and doing well at the equivalent of $10 hardcover ($6 paperback), Carol may reckon that selling well is the best revenge.