Deportation is too good for our number-one hate figure

Were Thatcher to languish in an Argentinian jail, people would start to actually pity and like her
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The Independent Culture
My phone rang yesterday. I picked it up. I adopted a slightly robot tone of voice.

"I'm sorry, but there's nobody here at the moment," I said. "Leave your name and number and we'll get back..."

"Cut it out, Kington," said a voice. "It's Deep Third Man here."

The hairs on the back of my neck rose slightly, then went back to sleep. I hadn't heard from him in a long time. Deep Third Man was my mole at the Foreign Office. He had given himself this name because it sounded vaguely like Deep Throat, and yet sounded utterly English. It would fool anyone who didn't understand cricket. I once pointed out to him that 50 per cent of the British population didn't understand cricket. He had said that he didn't mind that as long as 100 per cent of the Americans didn't either.

"So, how is life in the Foreign Office? How is your humanitarian foreign policy panning out?"

We both chuckled. We both agreed that "humanitarian foreign policy" was an oxymoron to rival the best. Then Deep Third Man stopped chuckling.

"I've got a big one for you. Big story about to break in the FO..."

"Let me guess," I said. "Robin Cook resigns over Sierra Leone? Robin Cook resigns over Burma? Robin Cook calls on Chinese government to resign?"

"Nothing like that," said Deep Third Man. "A Robin Cook story is not a big story. `Big Robin Cook story' is another oxymoron. No, this is an extradition story..."

"Pinochet?"

"No, Thatcher."

I said nothing. It didn't make sense.

"Listen very carefully to this. And don't say a word. This is very hush- hush. We have this morning received a request from Argentina to extradite Margaret Thatcher. They want her to be deported to Argentina to stand trial for war crimes."

"Thatcher?"

"Yes."

"Extradited?"

"Yes."

"On war crime charges?"

"The Belgrano and all that. Heartless waste of human lives. Genocide. Massacre etc."

"But that's ridiculous!"

"Nevertheless, we are taking the request very seriously. We have an extradition treaty with Argentina. Under Argentinian law, there is definitely a case to be made against Thatcher. So we are looking into it closely. Robin Cook is quite tempted to grant it. It would, he thinks, be his first real act of humanitarian foreign policy."

"But why have the Argentinians never asked for this before?"

"They never thought it would be granted. But now that Pinochet has been placed under arrest, they reckon that if we can extradite an old ally we don't much like, there's a good chance we can extradite an old leader we don't like at all."

"Yes, but there's a bit of a difference. I mean, when these cabinet ministers were young, Pinochet was a distant bogey figure, a monster, an object of hate and an emblem of all that was wrong with the world. There was no way that they could reach him then. Now they can actually get revenge!"

"And all that is true of Thatcher as well."

I thought about it. It was true. Of course, Thatcher had never been in charge of a government which condoned torture and violence... I don't know, though. Nasty things happened in Northern Ireland. People got shot in Gibraltar. Hmmmm... "Would anyone stand up in public and support this move?" I asked. "Name me one person..."

"Sir Edward Heath."

Hmmmm.

"But we need Margaret Thatcher as a hate figure!" I said. "When a hate figure goes, the world is a poorer place. Think of the gap left by the passing of the Ayotollah Khomeini. Of the Shah. Of Marcos. Of Hitler."

"Do people regret the passing of Hitler?" asked a puzzled Deep Third Man.

"Yes," I said. "Or at least, they are still dazzled by him. There are more books on Adolf Hitler written today than on Churchill and Roosevelt combined. We cannot afford to lose the baleful presence of Thatcher. Were she to languish in an Argentinian jail, people would start to actually pity and like her for the first time in her life. You would not be rid of her. She would be bigger than ever."

There was a silence.

"You may be right," said Deep Third Man. "Your arguments are very persuasive. I will pass them on to the right quarters."

If you hear nothing at all about Margaret Thatcher's arrest and deportation in the next few days, I fancy that I can take a good deal of the credit. Or perhaps I should say blame?

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