While on the campaign trail at a Kent funfair before the 1950 election, a 24-year-old Margaret Roberts, later to become Britain’s first female Prime Minister, stopped at a booth to meet a fortune teller.
The future Margaret Thatcher was told that she would be great, as great as Winston Churchill, and it was a comparison that would be drawn numerous times in the decades to come.
Indeed, she would be equated to him in a way no other Prime Minister had ever been, before and since, and like his own time in office, hers was to alter the face of British politics.
It would also see an obvious flowering of the unique bond between Britain and the US, with Margaret Thatcher and her opposite number in the White House, Ronald Reagan joined in their devotion to the victorious wartime leader.
‘Churchillian rhetoric’, the historian Richard Aldous wrote, became a constant and well-choreographed feature of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s shared public performance.
Ronald Reagan hung a poster of Winston Churchill in the White House and filled his administration with devotees of the great man.
Both the US president and Margaret Thatcher had lived through the Second World War.
When it started, she was a schoolgirl and he was already a Hollywood star, if not quite of the first rank.
As a youngster, she’d been a regular cinema-goer and probably remembered Ronald Reagan in Dark Victory, the Bette Davis weepie that had once been Winston Churchill’s rather bizarre choice to show to the typists and servants at 10 Downing Street.
After Ronald Reagan’s passing, the veteran English journalist Sir Harold Evans would claim that the bond between him and Margaret Thatcher was closer even than that of Winston Churchill and Roosevelt, but this was far from the case.
Although she liked Ronald Reagan personally and shared his free market and anti-Communist beliefs, Margaret Thatcher had no illusions about the man who declared, somewhat bafflingly, during his presidential inauguration address: ‘To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I’ve just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world’s strongest economy.’
Not long after, Margaret Thatcher and Lord Peter Carrington, her Foreign Secretary, were talking in Downing Street, when the conversation shifted to the new president. ‘Peter,’ she said, tapping the side of her head, ‘there’s nothing there.’
Relations between the two heirs of Churchill on either side of the Atlantic were soon to become seriously strained, and inside two years of sweeping to power in 1979, all was not well for Margaret Thatcher, with unemployment and civil unrest growing, while phalanxes of economists had criticised her fiscal policies, but exactly as it had happened for the then unpopular Winston Churchill 40 years before, events came quickly to her rescue.
And it seems that several people wish that these two political colossi were running things in the country now, but why would anyone miss the mass unemployment, the war over a tiny island, and the never-ending troubles in Northern Ireland, and I’m sure she would have made everyone get their jab whether they wanted to or not.
Although we could do with a politician of substantial character now, instead we have batty Boris Johnson over here in England and Jello Joe Biden who appears to be utterly clueless on where he puts his underpants most of the time.
But of course, Ronald Reagan was a rather good president. He sorted out the oil disaster and double-digit inflation caused by Jimmy Carter’s administration, he also built the US economy and ended the Cold War, so let’s hope that somewhere out there in the US there’s another person with Reagan’s intestinal determination that can save the US from the damage that’s been sown by former president’s – at the moment, all they have are half-pints in Congress.