She was dubbed Britain’s Iron Lady, the first female British prime minister not known for pulling her punches.
But the extent of what some describe as Margaret Thatcher’s pugnacious leadership style has been revealed in newly released documents.
Government papers can only be released after 30 years, meaning those from 1979 are now in the public domain. And they reveal a tough taskmaster.
Mark Dunton at the National Archives said: “She doesn’t mind who she upsets. If she reads a paper, if she reads one by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Geoffrey Howe, she will then write: this is a very poor paper.”
Numerous ministers received the blunt messages scribbled in the margins of files. “This will not do” and “thoroughly deficient in content” are some of the examples. “Too small,” she wrote, when spending cuts are talked about. Sometimes there was just an underlined “No”.
Former press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham said: “She was not exactly the most tactful prime minister. Indeed, she was probably the most tactless woman that I have ever met.”
Experts are combing through the files for insights into many key moments in history with “shocking”, “bizarre” and even “racist” among the words they are using in reaction.