Shopping With Maggie Thatcher
I can't stop thinking about the time I met Margaret Thatcher. It may be because our former Prime Minister seems to be cropping up on a lot of recent radio and television programmes. If you go to our History Zone, for example you can hear Alan Cochrane present The Sermon on the Mound, meanwhile I Met...Mrs Thatcher gets an airing during the break from Scotland at Ten.
There was also the recent BBC TV programme, the Long Road to Finchley.
My encounter with Maggie happened when she came to open the St Enoch Shopping Centre in Glasgow. I was a young radio reporter and had been primed to ask her about the poll tax protests. To do that I had to join the media throng who had been told to gather on a particular landing with the promise that the PM would pause to answer a few questions and pose for the cameras.
Well, we watched from a distance as she ambled in and out of shops, followed by a gaggle of minders, bodyguards and senior Tory politicians. Then, almost as if she was surprised to see us, she turned her head towards the press pack and walked towards us. I switched on my tape recorder and pushed my microphone towards her. Alas the reporter from ITN asked the first question and it, too, was about the poll tax. He seemed happy enough with the answer and just as Maggie seemed as if she was about to walk away, I found my voice.
"Do you think you're welcome in Glasgow, Prime Minister?"
She gave me a steely look but returned to my microphone to answer
"Well I certainly felt welcome last night, " she said and then explained how she had been at a dinner for the Tory faithful. Again she began to drift away...
"But what about the opinion polls, Prime Minister?"
She couldn't resist coming back to me to tell me that the U.K. opinion polls were looking good for the Tories. Satisfied, she began to walk on.
"But not in Scotland, Prime Minister?"
Again she came back to my microphone. And so it went on. It was almost as if she couldn't bear not having the last word...or maybe it was because she felt she had a good answer for every question I threw at her. In the end I had about five minutes of material on tape and, when she finally moved away, the other reporters gathered around me and asked me to play back the interview so that they could take notes. Much of my interview made it into the newspapers the next day.
I remember one veteran agency reporter congratulating me and, when I went home that night, it was that I felt most chuffed about.
As for Mrs Thatcher, well, given the number of recent programmes about her, maybe she is getting the last word after all.