LIVE FROM THE REAGAN LIBRARY: Guy Interviews Margaret Thatcher’s Daughter, Carol Thatcher

Carol Thatcher, English Journalist, best-selling author, media personality, and daughter of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, joined the Guy Benson Show today to discuss the legacy of her mother on British and world politics more than a decade after her passing. Benson and Thatcher discuss the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan and their mutual respect for each other, and Thatcher shares what was unique about Ronald Reagan as an individual and as a president. Finally, Thatcher gives a brief breakdown of the state of British politics, and you can listen to the full interview below!

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Guy Benson Well, I have to confess, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for days because my next guest is the daughter of someone who I have admired for years. I’ve read several of her books. I sometimes will go back on YouTube and watch Prime Minister’s Questions just for fun from the 1980s, because Margaret Thatcher was a force to be reckoned with on the world stage, and that has held up under the glare of history. And of course, what a close friend and ally she was to our president, our 40th president, Ronald Reagan. And last night here at the library, one of the elements of the program featured Peggy Noonan. One of my friends at the Wall Street Journal, she facilitated a conversation between the son of the former Canadian prime minister Moroni, and then the daughter of Margaret Thatcher. Carol Thatcher is a journalist, a bestselling author, media personality, and she joins me right here in Simi Valley. Carol, what an honor and a pleasure it is to meet you and to have you here.

Carol Thatcher How lovely to be here in happy hour.

Guy Benson Well, I want to start with a broad question about your mother’s legacy. I know people think a lot about their own legacy. I’m sure you’ve been forced to think about the impact, the imprint that your mother had on your country and on the world. What would you say it is if you had to sum it up somewhat briefly?

Carol Thatcher I would say, it’s achievements. She wasn’t just elected Britain’s first woman prime minister in 1979. She got the job and she did something with it. And domestically, I suppose she said she was going to roll back the frontiers of socialism. She did. She put the unions in their place. They were holding the country to ransom. But because we were in California at the Reagan Library, I’d like to stress the partnership between Maggie and Ronald Reagan eventually got the Berlin Wall down, which gave freedom from communism to millions and millions of people. And I like to emphasize their friendship because they were political allies. They were co-leaders on the world stage. They performed on the world stage, but backstage, they backed each other up. One quick little story is in 1987. Maggie came to Washington, DC on an official visit and went on a prime time TV show. And at that moment, the government was getting a lot of criticism for a number of issues, and the interviewer said, oh, things will flip back. And she stopped him. Cheer up, cheer up. You’ve got a fantastic country, a great president and a great future, you know? Cheer up. And the telephone exchange in the British Embassy lit up with, hey, thank you. Maggie got back to London and President Reagan telephoned ten Downing Street to thank her. And he said, I’m in a cabinet meeting in the White House. I’m going to put the phone down. I want you to listen, put the phone down. And my mother heard everybody in the American cabinet applauding her in thanks. That, for me, sums up the close relationship between those two people.

Guy Benson And it was also personal as well. In the show The Crown, which is a huge hit over in your country and in ours as well. We might come back to it later in the interview, but your mother is portrayed by Gillian Anderson, I think quite well and quite positively. But there is a moment in the show, a subplot about your brother going missing, and you actually mentioned this last night on stage as well. Your brother was in Africa, and for a while they couldn’t find him. He was doing a bike race.

Carol Thatcher He was doing he’s doing a motor rally across the Sahara desert. Yeah.

Guy Benson And I’m sure that must have been a very difficult time for your whole family, and must have just been torture for your parents. And eventually, thank God, they found him and he was fine. And the phone rang again, right in.

Carol Thatcher The private sitting room in ten Downing Street. My mother’s secretary picked it up and a voice said, and she said, can I say who’s calling? It’s Ron, because he rang his old mate just to celebrate and say how we lived. He was that, he’s well, his. But his son had been rescued from the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert.

Guy Benson One thing that I always think about, and it strikes me when I watch videos or read transcripts or books from your mother, is how resolute she was and what a true believer she was. She wasn’t mouthing platitudes because it would help get her elected. She believed these things. She believed them in her bones. She felt very strongly. You shared a story about getting home from the theater one night late at night, and she’s up working. And something she just said to you on an average random night in the middle of the week?

Carol Thatcher Well, I said, what are you working on? She was always working late at night, and she said, I’m working on foreign policy. Ron Reagan and I will go on sounding the bell for freedom in Eastern Europe. And I been out with friends outside of class a lot, and I thought, oh, come on, mum, look, the Berlin Wall has been up for ages. You know, walls are like the lyrics of the song. I’d like to teach the world to sing in peace and harmony. Anyway, who was wrong? Silly daughter. And mom and Vaughan and Gorby got the wall down.

Guy Benson And it’s just amazing that she’s sitting there. You can almost picture her burning the midnight oil, working on something, and her daughter walks in and she’s giving not a campaign speech, but she’s talking about freedom in Eastern Europe in the middle of the night to her own daughter. That’s amazing.

Carol Thatcher You asked me about her achievements. If I can say, why are we here now? On the 20th anniversary of President Reagan’s death, next year is the centenary of my mother’s birth. But in the campaign which will come to me now, you’d be amazed in the UK how often have photographs in the paper, a quote, what she did, even people who didn’t agree with her believed her and respected her. And that respect came from the point you’ve just made. She knew what she was doing, she got on with it and she stuck with it. You know, there was no changing your mind or policy between breakfast and lunch, you know, like so there was no just a soundbite. And both in politicians in comparison, in my opinion, and I’m very biased, a just lightweight and shallow in comparison.

Guy Benson And you see so many politicians that are looking over their shoulder are obsessed with polling and focus groups, and they’ll crumble at the drop of a hat. She wasn’t one to crumble. In fact her nickname was the Iron Lady. I love the origin of that nickname and how much she relished it.

Carol Thatcher It was a Soviet newspaper, and it was before she became prime minister, who doubted the iron because they said she’d been rude about Moscow and communism. Well, of course you think she didn’t agree with it. And she always said a nickname that is varnished onto you by somebody else is worth much more than one you give yourself. And she loved living up a bit, living up to being the Iron Lady. Power heels on, head on, pearl earrings. On and off she went at 15 miles.

Guy Benson In her handbag. Oh.

Carol Thatcher The handbag. Yes. Well, listen, if you go up, you know, a lot of people say, oh, blokes was handbagged. I think actually, it’s a verb in the dictionary it.

Guy Benson Became a. Verb.

Carol Thatcher But can I just mentioned something about how good she was in the House of Commons?

Guy Benson What does that mean, by the way? Someone getting a handbagged.

Carol Thatcher Oh. Boom boom boom bang.

Guy Benson She does she beat him up.

Carol Thatcher With a handbag, the handbag was a pretty useful weapon. But, when, Nancy Reagan, do you remember? There was a time when I think she was consulting, her horoscope. And the astrologer used to come in to find a lot of people with hollow scopes. And in the House of Commons, a socialist MP goes on to say that you will offend the vegans, always looking at their whole scopes. Portly minister, do you do you look at your horoscope every half hour or something? She got up, shut up and she said, no, I don’t look at my horoscope. I’m a Libra. It’s a very well balanced sign.

Guy Benson She was concerned, you said, about the advent of televising Prime Minister’s Questions because traditionalists, this is a new thing. And then she adapted and became just masterful at it.

Carol Thatcher She was terribly good. She always did her homework so she knew what answer she was going to give. But she was also she had very quick sense of humor and that stood her, I think, in very good said she could be quite frightening, actually, but she could be utterly charming. And once a black cab driver, one of the famous London black cabs picked me up outside Downing Street and he turned out, oh, hello, Carl. So I’ll pick someone up the other day being in to see your mum, the Prime Minister, he had still shaking. He was.

Guy Benson He’d gotten the handbag treatment.

Carol Thatcher Yeah, I had the Iron Lady. Yes. But she could be also be extremely charming. Extremely, extremely kind as well.

Guy Benson How was it? Because you hop into a cab and the cabbie recognizes you because you are the daughter of the Prime Minister and somewhat prominent second hand.

Carol Thatcher Second hand.

Guy Benson Fame. You called it? Yeah. How was that as a child and then as a young adult? Because there are people who are probably projecting their feelings about your mother onto you fairly and mostly unfairly. You don’t want to hurt her, but also you’re your own person. I just wonder what that was like.

Carol Thatcher Look, it’s it takes a lot of balance. You’ve just said second hand fame. I wasn’t famous, my mother was famous. And a lot of people want something from you. A lot of people don’t like you or don’t like your mother’s politics. You have to listen to an awful lot of political views because for, for complete strangers, you might be the nearest thing. They’re going to get to the Prime Minister and they hope you’ll pass on, their good ideas on what’s wrong with the government, which, of course, you don’t. And my father and I was his biographer because what was it like to be Mr. Margaret Thatcher? He was the first male consort in, Downing Street because she was the first woman prime minister. I remember him saying at the end of the election campaign said, oh, is not everyone who talk, who wants to talk to you? Who actually makes sense? Now you have to be nice to voters. So they vote for mommy. You can’t be rude, can you? And look, it’s swings and roundabouts. There were, of course, invitations. I could go in and out in number ten Downing Street because my parents lived there. Checkers, which is like Camp David in the countryside, is a very nice weekend. But it’s also like walking on eggshells. If you do something embarrassing, then you will turn up in the tabloid newspapers looking, well, you know, slap on the hand because actually you’re embarrassing the famous parent.

Guy Benson Your other parent who you just referenced, Denis Thatcher, husband to Margaret. What was he like and what was their relationship like?

Carol Thatcher He was he was with generation, where he was a complete gentleman. He was very reasonable. He saw his role as husband to the prime minister as being one of love and loyalty. Just backed her up. He was very discreet. He didn’t give interviews because he said Wales don’t get killed until they spout. He was a very he was a very I think he was a role model for, for future male consorts, I mean. Well, and Hillary, the possibility of Hillary ending up in the white House, I did say, oh, well, you know, that would be great for Hillary, but I think Bill will have to amend some of his favorite activities, the Gulf, so that some of the partying, perhaps not.

Guy Benson I want to ask you about the portrayal of your mother in popular culture, and I know sometimes you avoid it, but I think To the Crown and Gillian Anderson, I think, of course, of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, a movie that I saw several times, which I thought was quite moving. Some people on the right criticize it because it it portrayed her at times in her old age and struggling mentally. But the flashbacks, I thought it was a beautifully done movie and it was quite moving to me, actually. And your father was portrayed so, so well, and it just winsome and loyal and all these things. There are people who love her. There are people who hate her. She is still being portrayed to this day. In popular culture. Do you go out of your way to avoid it? You sometimes see it. Do you think it’s fair? Unfair?

Carol Thatcher It’s not difficult for a good actress to portray Margaret Thatcher. You’ve just done her voice rather well. Before we go.

Guy Benson I was doing an impression before the show.

Carol Thatcher Which actually was rather accurate. Looked at millions of hours of tapes of her so you can study the voice. You get the hair done in the appropriate way. Pair of pearl earrings. You need a lot of those. And and a selection of handbags and blue suits and off you go. So I don’t think she’s a very difficult role to play. But I think to get her right is more difficult. I tend not to go to theaters. There was a play in London or I tend not to go to movies. I did see a few minutes of the Meryl Streep film, because I was in a cinema waiting for another film to come on, and they showed a trailer, I was there, I know what it was like. I was lucky enough to be in the inside looking out. I don’t really. Think I need to spend my time seeing other people portray her.

Guy Benson To today’s politics. In the UK, there’s an election on of all days July 4th upcoming, a significant day in our country, and now a big one at least this year in yours as well. The Tories, your mother’s party. They’ve been in power now for well over a decade, going through all these different prime ministers, a quite a bit of chaos. They’re very unpopular. The polling looks very bizarre.

Carol Thatcher Going through is not quite the word I’d use with a change of leaders.

Guy Benson Okay, that’s perhaps more politically correct. They’ve been blowing through leaders in my mind. It’s been a bit of a mess, and the voters will render their verdict here in a number of weeks. You have the Labor Party not quite as crazy as they were a few years ago with this Corbyn figure, but they stand for what they stand for. I keep coming back to not really understanding what the Conservative Party stands for, because I see the promises that they’re putting out in this desperate 11th hour campaign saying, oh, don’t worry, we’re going to spend even more on this and more social services on that. And he kind of squints here. Like, is there much difference between these parties that is quite different than your mother’s era?

Carol Thatcher Well, as in the United States, let me just say that if I was going to be born to a politically ambitious parent on this planet, I’ve always been very grateful. It was on our side of the Atlantic, not yours, whose all campaign is 3 or 4 weeks. Yours goes on for about a year at least. My fault, that wouldn’t have suited my dad. And but look, I think what’s happened now in the UK and a lot of the polls are registering. You don’t know. People don’t know what to vote. People don’t know the difference between the parties. In my mother’s time, the parties put out a manifesto. If we win, this is what we’re going to do. So you had an idea a party is going to do this p parties that they don’t necessarily bother with that anymore. And they changed their minds. So people are saying you see on television vox pops new voters watching said, oh I don’t believe them. Well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t respect them. And the young, which I think is is unfortunate, quite often feel entirely disconnected and it’s their future. So I think you’ve got to engage young. I have given up speculating on election results. I just wait until the votes are counted.

Guy Benson But she drew very bright lines. We are going to do this and we believe these things. And by the way, the other side labor, there are socialists choose and the people chose and they chose and they chose and they chose Maggie Thatcher.


Carol Thatcher And I think if we had people, the leaders of the caliber of Ron Reagan and Maggie Thatcher today, I think we would have more solutions to some of the really urgent issues facing it about climate change, be it, Zelensky and Putin and Ukraine and the loss of life and Gaza and whatever. There is no one out there, it seems to me who’s got the authority to say, hey, we can sort this out. You sit down, you sit down. We throw away the key to the door and get on with it.

Guy Benson Courage and leadership. Lastly, very quickly, you made reference last evening to the Three Seas. You were paying tribute to Ronald Reagan. But talk about the three seas.

Carol Thatcher Well, first of all, first impression, the charisma of the man. And I mean, it was just massive. Secondly, his political convictions. Thirdly, I think his comic sense of humor was just so charming.

Guy Benson I’m enjoying this, but we’re out of time. Carol Thatcher, the daughter of Margaret Thatcher. She’s a journalist, bestselling author. Thank you so much.

Carol Thatcher Guys. Thank you.