London, Dec 30 (IANS) Margaret Thatchers resignation as British Prime Minister provoked tears in the US and Soviet Union, according to a secret Downing Street file released on Friday.
The Downing Street file entitled “The Resignation of the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher”, includes tributes from world leaders to the former premier, a two-page briefing note from the cabinet secretary explaining why an immediate general election was not necessary, and a “resignation action plan” setting out a timetable for the fateful day of November 22, 1990, the Guardian reported.
Thatcher became the Prime Minister on May 4, 1979, and was the first woman to hold the position in British history.
The cabinet files for 1989 and 1990 released at the National Archives at Kew also include the minutes of Thatcher’s last cabinet meeting, during which she said her “consultations among colleagues … had indicated that all were supportive but most thought that it was now unlikely she would win the ballot”.
Officially the minutes record that the “cabinet took note, with profound sadness, of the statement by the Prime Minister”.
The Downing Street papers show that while Thatcher’s resignation was regarded as a slow-motion car crash by those at Westminster, it was greeted with incomprehension in the wider world.
In former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s emotional phone call to No. 10 Downing Street, he told Thatcher’s foreign policy adviser Charles Powell that her decision to resign was “worse than a death in the family”.
He added that she was one of the great figures of modern times and “nobody outside Britain — indeed nobody outside Westminster — could understand how your fellow Conservatives could have done this”, the Guardian noted.
The feeling was even more acute in Moscow. The Soviet ambassador handed over a personal message to “Margaret” from former President Mikhail Gorbachev saying there had been “consternation” at the turn of events.
“Gorbachev had sent Shevardnadze [his foreign minister] out of a high-level meeting in the Kremlin to telephone him, to find out what on earth was going on and how such a thing could be conceivable,” recorded Powell.
“The ambassador said that he had indeed found it very hard to explain. Indeed, there was a certain irony. Five years ago they had party coups in the Soviet Union and elections in Britain. Now it seemed to be the other way round.”
A Foreign Office review of Italian press reaction says several papers compared her to Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria.