Thatcher memoirs

Cold War: Early meeting with Ronald Reagan [memoirs extract]

Document type: Press
Source: Margaret Thatcher The Path to Power (London, 1995)
Editorial comments: MT met RR at the House of Commons, 0930-1000. He was accompanied by Justin Dart (a long-time Reagan friend and supporter). After meeting MT, RR went on to see Sir Keith Joseph and Reggie Maudling.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count:
Themes: Conservatism, Foreign policy (USA), Leadership

I had met Governor Reagan shortly after my becoming Conservative Leader in 1975. Even before then, I knew something about him because Denis had returned home one evening in the late 1960s full of praise for a remarkable speech Ronald Reagan had just delivered at the Institute of Directors. I read the text myself and quickly saw what Denis meant. When we met in person I was immediately won over by his charm, sense of humour and directness. In the succeeding years I read his speeches, advocating tax cuts as the root to wealth creation and stronger defences as an alternative to detente. I also read many of his fortnightly broadcasts to the people of California, which his Press Secretary sent over regularly for me. I agreed with it all. In November 1978 we met again in my room in the House of Commons.

In the early years Ronald Reagan had been dismissed by much of the American political elite, though not by the American electorate, as a right wing maverick who could not be taken seriously. (I had heard that before somewhere.) Now he was seen by many thoughtful Republicans as their best ticket back to the White House. Whatever Ronald Reagan had gained in experience, he had not done so at the expense of his beliefs. I found them stronger than ever. When he left my study I reflected on how different things might look if such a man was President of the United States. But in November 1978 such a prospect seemed a long way off.