I’ve just finished reading an extremely interesting book, “Reagan & Thatcher – The Difficult Relationship” by Richard Aldous. The protagonists are, surprise, surprise, Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, and Ronald Reagan, President of The United States between 1981 and 1989. Most of us have this idea in our heads, an image, a visual, a picture based on everything we read during the 1980’s, read, saw and heard, about not just ‘the’ but ‘their’ ‘Special Relationship’.
In ‘modern times’, what we know today as the ‘Special Relationship’ between Britain and the US started during, and thanks to, Franklyn Delano Roosevelt. When FDR became President of the US in 1933, the nation’s identity was, by and large, isolationist. The country, – and FDR, for that matter – in 1939, had no appetite for war but, by 1940/1, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR’s mindset was changing. After France fell, there was a large consensus of international opinion (eg Joseph Kennedy’s – he was, then, the US Ambassador in London) that Britain would fall, that Churchill wouldn’t be able to push the Germans back. FDR felt that he simply couldn’t allow the last major democratic country in Europe still ‘staniding’ to fall to fascist tyranny. Legislation was passed in the Senate to assist Britain, eg arming the island nation to the hilt (even though Britain was, to all intents and purposes, bankrupt) and, in 1941, when Japan attacked, the US entered the War. (For more on this, see Nigel Hamilton’s “AMERICAN CAESARS, Lives of the US Presidents – from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush” – it’s terrific – I’m reading it at present and I’ll blog on it when I’ve finished).
So, even before Thatcher and Reagan moved into No.10 and The White House respectively, a ‘special relationship’ existed but Thatcher’s and Reagan’s ‘special relationship’, THEIR ‘special relationship’, would add to the substance and weightiness of ‘The’ ‘Special Relationship’ which, in modern times, started in that Churchill/FDR era.
HOWEVER, as the title of the book alludes to, everything in the Reagan/Thatcher garden was not always rosy (to say the least!).
I don’t want to give any of the details away otherwise I’ll spoil it for those of you who have not read it but, and I don’t think this is saying too much (the book’s title says as much!), there were ‘difficulties’ at times. They didn’t agree on everything, they had different opinions and policies on some national and international matters and there were times when it ‘got personal’. In hindsight, I don’t suppose that that is surprising. Of course, they were not going to agree on everything and because they did enjoy, a lot of the time, such a close working and social/personal relationship, when one of them had to disagree with the other, there was always the risk that it could ‘get personal’. Richard Aldous’ account of the relationship between these two political giants is fascinating as it throws open the doors into their world and gives us a ‘private’, a ‘fly-on-the-wall’, look at the rollercoaster relationship not shown by the media and PR people at the time.
I’m going to leave it there but, regardless of your politics, I fully recommend this book. It puts some colour, context, detail, corrections and substance into our understanding of a relationship of such importance, not just in the 1980’s but to this day insofar as it pointed us in a direction and set in motion a train of events which lead directly to where, geopolitically, we are today.