War Cabinet showdown that helped shape history: Margaret Thatcher's recollections of a turbulent decade at the helm of the Conservative Party and Britain are published today: The Falklands

THE COURSE of the Falklands war - and perhaps the entire political landscape of the 1980s - could have altered dramatically had the War Cabinet not backed Margaret Thatcher at a critical meeting in the spring of 1982.

The former prime minister reveals in her memoirs, The Downing Street Years, that she privately resolved to resign if the committee accepted a settlement brought back from Washington by Francis (now Lord) Pym on 24 April, shortly after he succeeded Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary.

'I can only describe the document which he brought back as conditional surrender . . . I could not have stayed as Prime Minister had the War Cabinet accepted.'

She spent five hours preparing for the crucial meeting, when she unleashed a clause-by-clause demolition of the text. Why was there no insistence on self-determination for the Falkland Islanders? Why was there to be almost unlimited Argentine immigration and acquisition of property? The rest of the committee agreed and the crisis passed.

Of Pym's sacking in the 1983 reshuffle, the first in a succession of disposals of 'wets', she writes: 'I began by dropping one would-be pilot, whose sense of direction had on several occasions proved faulty.'

Judging by her reference to the Foreign Office, she perceived domestic pressures as part of a continuum at least equal to those from abroad. Advice she received on 2 April summed up the 'flexibility of principle characteristic of that department'.

She was presented with the dangers of a backlash against British expatriates in Argentina, problems with the UN Security Council, the lack of reliance that could be placed on the EC or the US, the risk of Soviet involvement and the disadvantage of being viewed as a colonial power.

The alternative, she writes, was that a 'common or garden dictator' should rule over the Queen's subjects, prevailing by fraud and violence - adding: 'Not while I was Prime Minister.'

From May 1982, she says she was under almost intolerable pressure to 'negotiate for the sake of negotiation' and because so many politicians were desperately anxious to avoid the use of force - 'as if the Argentinians had not already used force by invading in the first place'.

The sinking of the General Belgrano, which she says Admiral Sir John Woodward, task force commander, had concluded was engaging with two destroyers in a 'classic pincer movement' against the British fleet, provoked a large amount of 'malicious and misleading nonsense'.

The claim that the action was political, to undermine a peace initiative from Peru, 'will not bear scrutiny' she says, insisting the plan was communicated to Francis Pym on 1 and 2 May, although the War Cabinet did not see it until later.

The account, compiled from a personal memoire begun in the summer of 1982 and finished at Chequers over the following Easter, is only a partial one. The rest, she says, 'will have to remain secret for a considerable time to come'.

The Downing Street Years; Harper Collins; pounds 25.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
gaming
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Network / Systems Administrator (LAN, WAN, Windows)

£38000 - £42000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Netw...

Investigo: Group Financial Controller

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible