Margaret Thatcher, By John Campbell

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The Independent Culture

Reading this book on the Tube I kept it cover down, in case anyone thought I was a fan. I'm not and never will be, but by the time I reached the end of this magisterial biography, I was prepared to concede that Thatcher had virtues in proportion to her failings; and that, as Marvell wrote of Cromwell, "If we would speak true/ Much to the [woman] is due."

In this abridged version of his two-volume biography, John Campbell charts Thatcher's progress from grocer's daughter to MP to Education Secretary to PM for 11 years, to embittered Baroness sticking the knife into Major's government whenever she could. It's interesting to learn that her public face of utter conviction was often belied in private; her political resolve often had to be stiffened by Geoffrey Howe and others.

Campbell's style is cool, detached, offering sympathy, praise, criticism and blame in equal measure. A book that couldn't have been written by a friend or an enemy, it's an enlightened and enlightening portrayal of Thatcher and other key political figures of the 1980s.