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Students of Mrs Thatcher's formative years will be amused by papers released under the 30- year rule that show her as being familiarly obstreperous from the beginning. In 1960, as a brand- new MP, she used her maiden speech to launch what was to be a 25-year crusade to curb local government - a private member's Bill to give the media access to council meetings. The Conservative government tried hard to sit on her proposal - even though it mirrored a pledge in its election manifesto - unless she watered it down, allowing councils to sit in camera in certain circumstances. She was fuelled, it seems, not so much by concern for principles of freedom of information as by her loathing of local government, which blossomed so spectacularly in the Eighties. Her working style was already formed. An official noted: '(She) clearly holds a low opinion of local authorities, their members and officials,' while a parliamentary draftsman opposed her attending a meeting with the Public Bill Office, saying: 'If she treats them as she has treated us, she may well put their backs up. There is not a thing you can say to her.' Even Henry Brooke, the then Home Secretary, got a taste of the handbag: 'Her technique is to say she must have much more than she really expects to get]' he wrote, adding: 'We have got to hold her to what she agreed.'

TWO HUNDRED of the BBC's grandest sat down at 10am yesterday to hear John Birt read aloud Turning Promises Into Realities, his 35-page document on the BBC's future. It was, according to those present, a sombre event. But by 1pm, when the film of the talk was broadcast to all staff, executives heard themselves greeting the Word of Birt with approving applause, of the sort more normally heard on BBC game shows.


It is good to see from the newly published register of members' interests that the new intake of MPs have the get-up-and-go to find themselves lots of interesting extra-parliamentary work, even at this time of high unemployment. Phil Gallie, Conservative MP for Ayr, for example, is 'parliamentary liaison officer' for Scottish Power, which also provides him with a company car and health care. And Sebastian Coe, runner-turned-MP for Falmouth and Camborne, who travels around in a Hertz Europe car, is a 'regular speaker on a remunerated basis on corporate fitness' - presumably something to do with slimmed-down industries. Liz Lynne, the new Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale, is the owner of a watch and a suit given her by the local Kashmiri community last May. Which must have been cheaper than a suit for her predecessor, Cyril Smith.

WHEN Liz Forgan, just appointed John Birt's head of radio, left the London Evening Standard to join the Guardian in 1978, her farewell present was a coal scuttle. Can someone tell us why?


There's little happening at the moment to put a smile on the face of the average Shetlander, but the antics of the 300 or so media people on the islands help a little. (So does their money: the crofter whose land overlooks the wreck is charging TV crews pounds 250 a day.) A BBC radio reporter found himself lodgings in the former lighthouse-keeper's apartments at the (now automated) Sumburgh lighthouse. Arriving back late at night, the man had to fumble around in a snowstorm looking for the lever that would supply power to the pump that provided water. Having found and pulled a likely lever, he sat waiting patiently for the cistern to fill, until he was informed that he had extinguished the light that should keep ships such as the Braer off Sumburgh Head.

CAN THE abuse heaped by the critics on the Bolshoi Ballet's shows at the Royal Albert Hall do anything to deflate the event's promoter, Derek Block? In the souvenir programme ( pounds 10) he writes: 'Yuri Grigorovich and I have both had long and distinguished careers in the theatre, though in different spheres.' Grigorovich has been the artistic director and chief choreographer of the Bolshoi for nearly 30 years. Block has put on concerts by Suzi Quatro and Johnny Mathis, to name but two.


12 January 1763 James Boswell, 23, describes the beginning of his affair with Mrs Lewis: 'I came softly into the room, and in a sweet delirium slipped into bed and was immediately clasped in her snowy arms and pressed to her milk-white bosom. Good heavens, what a loose did we give to amorous dalliance] In a moment I felt myself animated with the strongest powers of love, and, from my dearest creature's kindness, had a most luscious feast. Proud of my godlike vigour, I soon resumed the noble game. I was in full glow of health. Sobriety had preserved me from effeminacy and weakness. A more voluptuous night I never enjoyed. Louisa was madly fond of me; she declared I was a prodigy. I said twice as much might be, but this was not, although in my mind I was somewhat proud of my performance.'