Charles Moore lands first blow in battle to define Margaret Thatcher's legacy and destroy 'myths of the Left'


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The Independent Culture

When Glenda Jackson excoriated Margaret Thatcher’s record in Parliament “to stop history being re-written”, she may well have had Charles Moore’s authorised biography in mind.

The first volume of the former Daily Telegraph editor’s biography, which hits stores hours after her funeral on Wednesday, is intended to destroy the “myths of the Left” which have attached themselves to its subject and create a narrative which will define her legacy, according to those who have read it.

Mr Moore, given full access to Baroness Thatcher’s private papers and who interviewed her, her family and her work colleagues extensively, gave a preview of his conclusions when he appeared as a panellist on the BBC’s Question Time.

It was “monstrous” to say that Margaret Thatcher supported apartheid. She was actually instrumental in Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, he said, to the consternation of other panellists. “When Mandela came out he went to see her and thanked her,” Mr Moore said.

Thatcher described Mandela’s African National Congress as a “typical terrorist organisation”, vehemently opposed sanctions and cast herself as a “candid friend” of president PW Botha.

But Moore’s book will argue that Thatcher’s approach, whilst appearing indefensible to anti-apartheid activists, proved more effective in pushing the regime towards a peaceful transition to a democratic society.

“Mrs Thatcher had much more to do with the eventual release of Nelson Mandela than most of those more obviously on his side,” he concludes.

Described as a “High Church” Tory, Mr Moore offered an insight into his world-view when he accused the BBC of trying to hype up the row over whether it should play the "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" song, in order to get it to number one.

Moore, like many of Thatcher’s inner-circle who railed against the BBC’s “left-wing bias” during her premiership, is a critic of the corporation and in 2010, was convicted and fined £262, plus £530 costs, for refusing to pay his television licence in protest at the Sachsgate affair.

Stuart Profitt, director at Moore’s publisher Allen Lane, said the author “is clearly an admirer of his subject, but he does not shy away from criticising her or identifying weaknesses and mistakes where he feels it is justified.”

Moore’s book, 16 years in the making and titled Not For Turning, will compete on the shelves against a title of the same name written by Robin Harris, Thatcher’s former speechwriter, which carries her endorsement.

The battle to define the Thatcher legacy in print is set to begin but it is one in which her critics on the Left will have no high-profile entrant, unless Ms Jackson decides to take up her quill.