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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot