Archive

Large scale document archive

1990 Nov 20 Tu
Archive (Thatcher MSS)

Press Office: Ingham press briefings (Paris Embassy) [after the first ballot] [released 2015]

Document type: Declassified documents
Document kind: Briefing
Venue: UK Embassy, Paris
Source: THCR 10/4/197
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: There are two briefings on the tape, around 2100 on Tuesday 20 November and 0110 on Wednesday 21 November.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 4473
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Leadership, Conservative (leadership elections), Media, Famous statements by MT, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

First briefing - beginning about 9pm local time

Bernard Ingham

[tape time 1.20] … to make myself available, as they say - here I am. Um, just a little bit of background. The Prime Minister came back - this is unattributable British sources - the Prime Minister came back about 5.45. The, the the - sort of restricted session didn’t seem to go on very long. Round about that. This is Paris time. And she joined the Foreign Secretary, the Ambassador and his wife. Peter Morrison arrived I suppose at about 5 o’clock or thereabouts. There was myself and Charles Powell and Mrs Crawford there. And we had tea and cakes, and a chat and whatever. And then the hairdresser came about an hour later. She - the hairdresser came and she went upstairs a little before 6.45 and we assembled in Peter Morrison’s room - room number two - at 7.15. That was overlooking the courtyard, we could hear you all. [laughter - someone says "we couldn’t hear you", Ingham laughing too]. Well, it’s very difficult, it’s rather high up you see. We couldn’t see. I heard the noise though. ["Maybe ?next time"] Now stop it. And I suppose we heard just after - what, 6.30, no 7.30, um, and you know what happens from then on. After the, um, the Prime Minister had spoken to Denis Thatcher and her family and Norman Tebbit, expressing … the Chief Whip, George Younger and Kenneth Baker expressing thanks to them for all their efforts and of course she is going to fight a second round.

Peter Allen, ITN

Sorry I missed all that. You said Denis Thatcher, family, Chief Whip …

Bernard Ingham

Norman … well, err, umm Mark, I think she talked to Carol too, Norman Tebbit certainly, Chief Whip, Kenneth Baker and George Younger.

Journalist

Did she call Mark in America or is he over here?

Bernard Ingham

I think he is over here.

Peter Allen, ITN

Was that all in a succession of phone calls then Bernard?

Bernard Ingham

Yeah.

Journalist

Who actually then conveyed the result to, err, Peter Morrison?

Bernard Ingham

Chief …

Journalist

Could we wait for the microphone?

Journalist

Sorry. [Some indistinct comments, microphone arrives] Who actually conveyed the result to …

Bernard Ingham

I think the Chief Whip conveyed it to Peter Morrison.

Journalist

Were the phone calls from Paris to London or the other way round or a mixture?

Bernard Ingham

There was an open line.

Journalist

When people assembled in Peter Morrison’s room, number two, was that the same group as downstairs? Did that include Douglas Hurd? And did it include you and Charles, or …?

Bernard Ingham

Mm. [ie, assents] Douglas Hurd came in and out, you know.

Journalist

You and Charles were there?

Bernard Ingham

Douglas Hurd wasn’t there at the moment the result came, but he came in later.

Journalist

And the Prime Minister was there? She was there?

Bernard Ingham

Yes, indeed. Absolutely! Yeah. [Laughter in the room, which Ingham joins]

Peter Snow, BBC

The phone went and Peter Morrison was called to …

Bernard Ingham

No, the phone didn’t go, because there was an open line.

Peter Snow, BBC

Sorry, ok, yeah. And Peter Morrison was on the open line first …

Bernard Ingham

He was, and then he presented the figures to the Prime Minister.

Journalist

At what time exactly?

Bernard Ingham

Sorry?

Journalist

[Irish accent] At what time please? At what time?

Bernard Ingham

Oh I don’t know what time. It was after half past seven.

Peter Allen, ITN

What did she say?

Bernard Ingham

No, no I am not going into any of that. I mean the …

Journalist

The Foreign Secretary would have had the results relayed afterwards? He wasn’t there, he didn’t know the results.

Other journalist

The Foreign Secretary didn’t know this.

Bernard Ingham

I think he knew, yes. I think plenty of people …

FCO official

I asked that John because I anticipated the question. I believe he heard it on the radio.

Journalist

Were the phone calls purely to thank these people? Was there any question of seeking advice or …

Bernard Ingham

No, no. She thanked them. But she, she came down and very quickly … it was after she had done that that she spoke to them, yeah.

Journalist

Could you characterise please Bernard her reaction even if not her words?

Bernard Ingham

Oh disappointed. She said …

Peter Snow, BBC

Would you characterise … [talks over & interrupts] Sorry Bernard. Would you characterise the phone calls as consultation or were they simply sort of thank you and …

Bernard Ingham

Thank you.

Peter Allen, ITN

[indistinct question] … Bernard, sorry …

Bernard Ingham

No, no hang on a minute. Let’s finish this one.

Peter Snow, BBC

I want to be clear what she … I mean you are not going to tell me what she said to Kenneth Baker and Tebbit and so on …

Bernard Ingham

I certainly shan’t do that

Peter Snow, BBC

Of course you won’t …

Bernard Ingham

She simply spoke to the people to thank them for their efforts.

Peter Snow, BBC

Could I be quite clear? There was no way that she asked their advice then?

Bernard Ingham

No. She … she [6.00] had determined that she would stand and go for a second ballot.

Peter Snow, BBC

Without consulting anyone, to be precise?

Bernard Ingham

No, no. I mean, a lot of consultation had gone on, of course. Before.

Peter Snow, BBC

But not since she heard the news?

Bernard Ingham

No.

Peter Snow, BBC

Quite.

Journalist

Bernard, are you saying before the precise figures were known she had already made up her mind …

Bernard Ingham

Well, the government is in a position where … Same

Journalist

… to stand?

Bernard Ingham

… indeed it always knows what it is going to do in certain circumstances, yeah.

Journalist

These phones calls you said were before she made her statement. But in her statement she said she had a lot of telephoning to do.

Bernard Ingham

Well, she certainly did. And she went back inside to do it. Same

Journalist

So who did she speak to after …

Bernard Ingham

Well, damn it, I’ve told you. Denis Thatcher, her … Same

Journalist

So it was afterwards?

Bernard Ingham

Yeah.

Peter Allen, ITN

When you say that government always knows what it will do in certain circumstances, she had talked to her advisers, backers before …

Bernard Ingham

She talked to Peter … she talked to Peter Morrison. Mm, mm [as if agreeing with Allen]

Peter Allen, ITN

If this is the vote, what do we do?

Bernard Ingham

We know … I mean, obviously, you have to take account of a range of possibilities and this is exactly what she did.

Peter Snow, BBC

So there’s no problem …

Bernard Ingham

There’s no problem at all.

Peter Snow, BBC

Well, no no no no. Timing timing timing. I mean we were outside there. We heard the announcement of the results sort of 7.34ish, right [Ingham grunts assent], she appeared I mean two minutes later. She was very very quick out there.

Bernard Ingham

Absolutely. We knew exactly what we were going to do.

Peter Snow, BBC

Well, no indeed. But you are telling us she had one, two, three, four, five phone calls …?

Bernard Ingham

No, I didn’t! [indignant] I said afterwards. [Other Journalists interject, some laughter]

Peter Snow, BBC

Sorry, I am sorry, sorry. Good good good. After she made her statement. So …

Bernard Ingham

The penny has dropped.

Peter Snow, BBC

Got it. [More laughter from other Journalists] No, no, just be absolutely clear. So, call comes - Morrison open line, Morrison says ’thank you very much’, tells the Prime Minister, she almost immediately goes downstairs onto the steps?

Bernard Ingham

We know exactly what the position was. We knew what we were going to do in various circumstances.

Journalist

The family, Bernard. Were Denis, Mark and Carol all at Downing Street?

Bernard Ingham

God, I’ve no idea where you were. I would guess that Denis and Mark were, yes. I don’t know where Carol was.

Journalist

Could you say a bit more about the Prime Minister’s attitude? You just used one word, ’disappointed’.

Bernard Ingham

[8.00] That’s all I’m prepared to say, yeah.

Journalist

[Indistinct question - about nomination?] … by whom?

Bernard Ingham

She hasn’t yet. She announced her intention to let her name go forward. I mean - I don’t actually know when nominations open.

[Indistinct words]

Peter Allen, ITN

Could we ask you a general question, Bernard? I mean, clearly it is a pretty difficult situation in which to carry on, isn’t it?

Bernard Ingham

The Prime Minister is going to take it to a second round. She is going to fight a second round, full stop. [8.34]

Journalist

Does the Prime Minister - or is it too early to say - does she expect her nominees once again to be the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary?

Bernard Ingham

I don’t, I can’t - I mean, I can’t answer that at all. Same

Journalist

But would that not be …?

Bernard Ingham

Well, what did Douglas Hurd say when he came down? Same

Journalist

Well, he would, I am just wondering about - well, he said he would support her again.

Bernard Ingham

Well, he said he had also consulted the Chancellor, didn’t he? Same

Journalist

He did, did he?

Bernard Ingham

Mm. [assenting] I mean I …

Same Journalist

You see, I didn’t … [other Journalists talk]

Bernard Ingham

Didn’t he? Oh. Oh. Well, I think - I think they have talked at any rate.

Journalist

But the PM has not talked to the Chancellor?

Bernard Ingham

No, no no no.

FCO official

[speaking quietly, perhaps directly to Ingham] Not to my knowledge.

Bernard Ingham

Ah. Ah, right.

Journalist

Excuse me, has this changed any plans?

Bernard Ingham

Yes. We shall … I don’t think that there will be a press conference tomorrow.

Journalists

No press conference?

Bernard Ingham

No, no.

Peter Allen, ITN

Will there be a briefing?

Bernard Ingham

No. What she is going to do is that she is going to sign the document. Mm, mm. Female

Journalist

[Question indistinct]

Bernard Ingham

Sorry. And then she makes a statement to the House, yeah.

Journalist

Bernard, just because it is operationally important, are you certain that there will be no press conference tomorrow, pretty certain?

Bernard Ingham

Yes. Same

Journalist

Right.

Journalist

Can you tell us what time you are due back in Britain?

Bernard Ingham

I should have thought we will be back about 1 o’clock, or thereabouts, yeah.

Journalist

There is a rumour that she may be going back to UK tonight. Is that nonsense?

Bernard Ingham

No, no absolutely not.

Journalist

Bernard, did you have any indication that the vote might be this close, or did it come as a surprise the actual …

Bernard Ingham

I think it came as a disappointment. Mmm.

Journalist

Will she be arriving back at Northolt, or will there be an opportunity for photographers then?

Bernard Ingham

Yes, I think we shall go back to Northolt. But there won’t normally be an opportunity there, no.

[pause, no questions for a moment or two]

Journalist

Let’s be clear on her movements now. She has gone to Versailles, presumably missed the ballet, has she? Going to the dinner, is she?

Bernard Ingham

Well she is bound to have missed - I don’t think she could have got there in time for the ballet now. She left about ten to, didn’t she? Ten to. I mean I think it - I mean she might be with a bit of luck arriving now, that might be in the middle of the ballet or in one of the intermissions, but err …

Journalist

Her duties here tomorrow are to attend the conference in the morning and …

Bernard Ingham

To attend the conference and sign the treaty, yes.

Journalist

And what time would all that finish, roughly?

Bernard Ingham

Ahhh … [voice - 11.15] Well, yeah - I would have said 11.30 or something like that.

Journalist

[Scottish accent] Bernard, when was the decision taken to cancel the press conference?

Bernard Ingham

Err, this evening. Ah, in order that she may get back and prepare for the statement. Same

Journalist

On your advice, or did she …?

Bernard Ingham

Well, I certainly didn’t dissent. Same

Journalist

But you would have liked to have been available to us, you must have been disappointed yourself?

Bernard Ingham

I am deeply disappointed never to be available to yourselves, yes. [Laughter from Journalists] I mean, my first duty in this life is to look after you. Even though you don’t look after me. [General laughter, Ingham joining.]

Peter Allen, ITN

Before the evening disintegrates, could we ask about Douglas Hurd?

Bernard Ingham

What do you mean "if the evening disintegrates"? [Laughter from Journalists.] You mean your evening?

Peter Allen, ITN

I see hysteria settling in in Downing Street.

Bernard Ingham

Well, that’s pure invention on your part. But that won’t be the first time. [Laughter from Journalists]

Peter Allen, ITN

I thought you only assaulted the BBC, Bernard. [tape at 12.00] I didn’t know you went for us as well. [Laughter, Allen joining.] Can I ask what the Foreign Secretary is doing tomorrow?

FCO official

Tomorrow? Well, he will be going - I don’t know his diary for tomorrow Peter, actually. He will be going back, um. Just trying to recall. I honestly don’t know.

Journalist

Isn’t he seeing the Portugese tomorrow?

FCO official

Oh, I see. I thought you meant after he got back. No, no. Tomorrow morning he has got a bilateral with the Portugese, I think it is about 9 o’clock or 9.30, and then he will be in the plenary for the signing and then he will go straight back to the airport with the Prime Minister.

Journalist

Any breakfast meetings?

FCO official

No.

Bernard Ingham

[Speaking quietly, perhaps to FCO official] We don’t go in for that information if we can …

Journalist

Very briefly, do you know what time she is due back tonight, from Versailles?

Bernard Ingham

Well, we will be very lucky if she can back before midnight.

Journalist

Are we going to get any more from you or her tonight?

Bernard Ingham

Well, I don’t know. What do you think? [General laughter]

Journalist

Could I …

Bernard Ingham

Stop it! [More general laughter]

Journalist

Could I just confirm that the Foreign Secretary did speak to the Chancellor?

Bernard Ingham

I think he did, yeah.

FCO official

[Quietly] I don’t know, I’m sorry. [13.16]

Journalist

Does the Prime Minister have any intention of speaking to Mr Heseltine to congratulate him on his result? [Laughter]

Bernard Ingham

[Pause, probably for effect]. No. [Laughter] You are being very provocative. I am being very restrained. [tape at 13.34]

Journalist

Could I just ask again whether you had any indication throughout the day that the result might be this close. You say that it came as a disappointment, but was there any indication from the party managers during the day that it may be this close?

Bernard Ingham

No. No, I stick with the word disappointed. The Prime Minister said that and I can’t go beyond that. [Pause] Ok, you have got lots to write.

Journalist

What time would you like to see us?

Bernard Ingham

Well, I wouldn’t like to see you at all, actually [laughter], but if I have to, I think the earliest we ought to, that makes sense is about 12.30, yep.

Journalist

Here?

Bernard Ingham

Well, here, yeah yeah.

Journalist

Thank you very much.

[tape at 14.13]

Second briefing - beginning about 1.10am local time

Bernard Ingham

Are you ready? Well, the Prime Minister has just returned with the Foreign Secretary, from this great event at Versailles, where she sat between, I think at dinner, Mr Martens of Belgium and the President of Bulgaria. [some laughter] She sat next to Mr Gonzalez at the ballet, which she actually managed to get to in time. And they had soup, lobster, chicken foie gras, cheese nougat glacé, Montrachet 85, Churchâteau Margaux 78 and champagne 83. How’s that? [Laughter]

Journalist

[inaudible question - who pays?]

Bernard Ingham

No, the French pay for all. [tape at 15.00] Um, and she has returned. She is having a drink now with … [pause, some laughter]. Well, hang on a minute - I mean, this barracking I get here - with the Foreign Secretary [groans from journalists, ’boo’, then laughter] Have you lot been to Versailles too? [laughter; inaudible remark] Eh? Ah, well, there you are. Well, that’s it. And she’s now turning to the debate of no confidence, I mean, she will have to do a statement tomorrow afternoon which she wants to return for early, to prepare, and then there is the debate of no confidence looming and therefore she is turning her mind to the preparation of that speech.

Journalist

[question inaudible]

Bernard Ingham

Well, I mean, she is going to sign the, er - slightly earlier than she had intended because she is going to make a statement

Journalists

[Questions unclear]

Bernard Ingham

No I can’t. We will have to do it tomorrow. We haven’t yet finalised the detail, but we will. I mean as soon as we can, we will give it to you.

Journalist

You said earlier that [inaudible]

Journalist

Bernard, has she said - has she had any more telephone calls?

Bernard Ingham

No. She has come straight back and she is straight into planning the speech for the censure debate.

Journalist

You said earlier that she had had a lot of consultations before the decision tonight? Could you tell us who she consulted?

Bernard Ingham

No, I can’t, no. But I mean the important point is that we prepare for every eventuality before it occurs. It is a sign of good government.

Journalist

Presumably that was party officials though rather than, uh, Private Office? She would have spoken to people like Kenneth Baker?

Bernard Ingham

Oh, well I am talking about politicians, you know, members of the government [last words inaudible]

Journalist

[Question inaudible]

Bernard Ingham

I am not aware of that, no.

Journalist

Bernard, do you think she will take a greater part in this …

Bernard Ingham

Where are you?

Other Journalist

I’m at the back

Bernard Ingham

Ah, sorry.

Journalist

Bernard, do you think she will take a greater part campaigning in the second ballot than she did in the first, and make it more of a personal campaign?

Bernard Ingham

I have no idea. I mean this is a matter for the party, not for me. I don’t know how they will deal with that. All that I can - I mean I am simply making myself available as a matter of convenience to say that she is quite clearly determined to fight [tape at 18.00] as she indicated earlier.

Journalist

Are you in a position to say, Bernard, whether the consultations she had beforehand were on whether she should fight in the event of a second ballot, or step down, or simply how to fight on?

Bernard Ingham

No. She promised people - she promised the people that she was working with, and who were working for her, that she would go to a second ballot, and that was it. And she is fulfilling her promise.

Journalist

So it was never, should I - she did not consult on that?

Bernard Ingham

No.

Journalist

Are you in a position to say yet whether or who her nominees in the second ballot will be?

Bernard Ingham

No, I’m not. No.

Journalist

Can you - hello? - can you tell us if Mr Hurd is definitely not going to stand?

Bernard Ingham

Mr Hurd gave the Prime Minister has full support, so I understand has the Chancellor.

Journalist

Well, the Chancellor has declared he will not stand. [19.00]

Bernard Ingham

Well, I’m sorry, I have spoken to them, bearing in mind that you are up to no good. I have spoken to the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Secretary indicated to me that he had indeed declared his full support for the Prime Minister.

Journalist

That’s a different thing.

Bernard Ingham

No, well …

Journalist

That’s a holding card.

Bernard Ingham

No, I don’t believe it, but never mind.

Journalist

[inaudible till microphone reaches him] … he has not said - Mr Hurd has not said that he will not

Bernard Ingham

He has declared his full support for the Prime Minister.

Journalist

But he has not said that he will not.

Bernard Ingham

He declared his full support.

Journalist

As I recall, the nominations for the first ballot came almost at once, didn’t they? We were told immediately that Mr Hurd and Mr Major would be nominating her. Why the delay this time?

Bernard Ingham

Well, we are in Paris, it is late at night, they have been to the ballet, they have been to Versailles. What do you want, blood? [tape at 20.00] [Laughter]

Same Journalist

You are sure that those will be her nominees?

Bernard Ingham

I don’t know who will be her nominees. What she has done is, she has declared her intention to fight the second round, and as I understand the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor have declared their full support.

Same Journalist

When do you expect to know though?

Bernard Ingham

I don’t know.

Same Journalist

Sorry to pursue this, but it is very important.

Bernard Ingham

Well, it may well be to you, it isn’t to me.

Same Journalist

Well, no, but it will be important to the MPs won’t it? These are the two most substantial figures in the party after herself.

Bernard Ingham

What is important to the MPs is that they know that she is going to stand. [Inaudible question] Well, all right.

Peter Allen, ITN

Bernard, you said she had contingency plans for any result which actually occurred. I just wondered - was a bare majority always going to be enough for her to say “yes, I will carry on?”

Bernard Ingham

Yeah. You win by the rules. That is what she said before she started, before somebody else started. [21.00]

Journalist

If for example things should go awry, would you write a history of what has occurred eleven years.

Bernard Ingham

That is a totally hypothetical question and we do not allow such hypothetical questions on my, um …

Same Journalist

But would it be - would it not be full of wit and humour?

Bernard Ingham

Wit and humour - I am full of wit and humour.

Same Journalist

Exactly. That is why I asked the question. I mean, we would love to read what you had to write about the last eleven years. [Laughter]

Bernard Ingham

You encourage me. [Loud laughter]

Same Journalist

Indeed, indeed. [Laughter]

Bernard Ingham

Will you buy it? [Laughter, Ingham joining]

Same Journalist

Probably.

Bernard Ingham

Well, there you are. Yeah, at least we got one. [Laughter]

Journalist

For the sake of saving what was a good headline, did she actually get there in time for the start of the ballet.

Bernard Ingham

Well, that was my understanding, yeah. Yeah.

Same Journalist

She wasn’t late at all? [tape at 22.00]

Bernard Ingham

Not late for the ball, dear boy, no. [Laughter, inaudible words also] Ruined it, but never mind. [Pause] Well, you’ve all enjoyed yourselves, so have I. Is that all right? [Inaudible words] Tomorrow is tomorrow. I mean …

Journalist

Will there be another briefing tomorrow?

Bernard Ingham

I would hope not. I think I work too hard actually and …

Journalist

Has the Prime Minister said anything more about the result?

Bernard Ingham

No, no.

Journalist

… to her companions, you know, or anybody else?

Bernard Ingham

Not that I’m aware of.

Journalist

Is she happy tonight?

Bernard Ingham

She is disappointed.

Journalist

No more?

Bernard Ingham

Nope. [22.48]

Journalist

No less?

Bernard Ingham

Nope.

Journalist

[Inaudible then mic arrives] Did any of her counterparts at the dinner say anything to her?

Bernard Ingham

I don’t know. I didn’t ask, quite frankly. I mean, I think that is a matter for them.

Female Journalist

[Words inaudible; given the mic] … I thought I didn’t need it. [Laughter]

Bernard Ingham

You don’t.

Same Journalist

… Not at this time of night. [Laughter] Even though you are saying the Prime Minister wants to get back to London to prepare for her …

Bernard Ingham

Well, she has a statement to make.

Same Journalist

Yes, of course. But there was the suggestion that there would be a press conference …

Bernard Ingham

Ah no, we are abandoning it. Quite … quite bluntly, I am abandoning it.

Same Journalist

Why?

Bernard Ingham

Because I don’t think she should do it. She should go back and look after the House.

Same Journalist

But did Mrs. Thatcher - as you’ve made clear and she herself made clear this evening - wants to come out fighting [sic]?

Bernard Ingham

Well, what makes you think she won’t?

Same Journalist

The press conference …

Bernard Ingham

Oh, for heaven’s sake. We don’t fight you lot. No. I mean, I do that. [Loud laughter] [tape at 24.00]

Journalist

What are the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary discussing? Are they talking about the …

Bernard Ingham

No, they are talking about the speech for the debate.

Same Journalist

On Thursday?

Bernard Ingham

Yeah.

Same Journalist

And tomorrow’s statement?

Bernard Ingham

No, not really. I mean I think tomorrow’s statement is much more straightforward. I mean, you know, that is more or less written now, bearing in mind the events.

Same Journalist

Kinnock presumably will open for Labour, she will speak for the Government.

Bernard Ingham

Yeah.

Same Journalist

Will she wind up?

Bernard Ingham

I doubt it, but I can’t tell you who will wind up at this stage.

Journalist

It is already half past one, or getting on for half past one local time, twenty past one. How late do you expect her to be up?

Bernard Ingham

Oh, not much longer now.

Journalist

The debate on no confidence will be Thursday?

Bernard Ingham

I think so, mm. Although has it been announced in London? What I’m not clear about. I think it is. [tape at 25.00]

Journalist

[Question inaudible] Does that debate …

Bernard Ingham

No. For heaven’s sake, when you’ve done eleven and a half years, I mean you are a pretty seasoned campaigner. Battle-hardened I think is the word. You know.

Journalist

[Question inaudible; some laughter]

Bernard Ingham

That was the last question on my mind, if I may say so. [General laughter, Ingham joining] Ok. You have had enough, go on.

Journalist

Nothing more for tomorrow …

Bernard Ingham

No, I mean the events will … [tape ends]