"I have yet to find a new home in London."
Phone call between George Bush and Margaret Thatcher, 24th December 1990
The President: Margaret, how are you? I wanted to call to wish you and Denis a Merry Christmas.
Mrs. Thatcher: Thank you, George. Merry Christmas to you too.
The President: I understand you have a new home in London. What is it like?
Mrs. Thatcher: No, I am still in my oId place on the outskirts of London. I have yet to find a new home in London.
The President: It has been a very traumatic year for all of us. You know, my meeting with Prime Minister Major went very well; we had a very good talk. How was the visit played up in Britain?
Mrs. Thatcher: It went well here.
The President: I think John may have felt a little uneasy coming here at this time.
Mrs. Thatcher: I assure you all is well. John had been, after all, my Chancellor of the Exchequer and was not out of touch from the beginning.
The President: Well, again, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I also wanted to say that I and the American people would like you to come to the White House this spring to accept the highest presidential award, the Medal of Freedom.
Mrs. Thatcher: Of course I will accept. I am greatly honored and overwhelmed by this.
The President: Lech Walesa is probably the only other nonAmerican who has received the award. The details of the visit for the presentation can be worked out later, but I very much look forward to seeing you at the White House in the spring. Be sure to bring Dennis and any other friends that you want to attend the ceremony. Now I just want to put Barbara on the phone.
The First Lady: Merry Christmas, Margaret. I send my best wishes to you and Dennis. You know you are welcome to come stay with us anytime you come to the U.S.
Mrs. Thatcher: Merry Christmas to you, Barbara. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing both you and George next year.
From the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. As you will remember, Thatcher had been removed from office a few weeks earlier.
And then, suddenly, it was. In November 1990 she was ousted from office and, of course, Chequers. And kind Alistair McAlpine recreated the entire day for her at the Dorchester, with all the same people.
It was like attending a wake. We all sat there and Margaret was miles away thinking about how she’d been stabbed in the back and we were all even more polite than ever and it was just dreadful.
And that year even Denis couldn’t liven things up.
Always interesting to read these chats between world leaders. If anything for more to see the, at the risk of using a buzz word, performative nature of them.
By this I mean that Thatcher leaves a massive conservational lay-up of:
‘I have yet to find a new home in London.’
And he doesn’t reply ‘How so?’ or similar. You realise the caller is provided with cue cards for whoever they are speaking to and they rattle through them as quickly as politeness allows. The inference being that accords are held more by the deals that underpin them than the relationships that decorate them.
Mark Thatcher’s footwear!
(Oh, no I’ve succumbed to Chat and treating Substack like Twitter - my old addiction - so I will have to delete the Substack app now. And I already did that as soon as they introduced Chat but my subscriptions all disappeared too, nothing new arrived in my email. So I came back. Succumbed. Woe.)
Fascinating piece, though, Henry. As ever. Thank you.