15 April 2009

Thatcher did it, why can’t Brown?

Matthew Parris has a wonderful piece in Thursday’s Times:

Was W.B.Yeats describing the Downing Street ethos, 2009?

“For how can you compete... with one

Who, were it proved he lies,

Were neither shamed in his own

Nor in his neighbour's eyes?”

Twenty years ago a political aide working at the heart of the office of the leader of the Conservative Party was exposed as having dispatched a wholly inappropriate communication. It was to a woman who had written complaining to Margaret Thatcher about her council house.

The aide had replied that she should be grateful to have a taxpayer-subsidised house at all. Splashed across the press and coming as it had from the Boss's office, the letter was rude and stupid.

Thatcher knew what to do. “I'm so very sorry” was a headline on the front page of the Daily Mirror on March 30, 1979. She had sent by courier a handwritten apology to the woman. Explaining that she had known nothing of the letter (this was true), she described her own anguish at its contents. “I can only apologise,” she said, and then, again, “I'm so very sorry.” The aide (who was leaving the office anyway) was told that if the media asked, they'd be informed he had been sacked.

Hopefully, Labour printed three million copies of that Mirror page as an election leaflet. But the offended lady's response had helped to kill the story: “I feel the apology is justified and I'm pleased Mrs Thatcher was brave enough to own up,” she said.

That aide was me. I had wanted to defend myself by publishing the woman's first letter, but Margaret Thatcher's reaction was unhesitating.

Say sorry, fast, unconditionally, before anyone asks us to. Then shut up.

See Gordon, it is not that difficult.  Thatcher said sorry and looked what happened to her!

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1 comment:

  1. Oh Howard, when are you doing Confessions of a Margaret Thatcher Aide? Lovely story.