Margaret Thatcher According to AFP

We noted earlier today that the French news agency AFP is hopelessly biased when it comes to coverage of the Middle East. Actually, AFP is hopelessly biased, period. Its “news” reports are even more full of liberal editorializing than those of the Associated Press. A case in point is this report, titled “Thatcher laid bare in secret 30-year-old files.”

If you had any doubt about what AFP thinks of England’s most successful post-war Prime Minister, the article’s opening paragraphs settle the question:

Shrill, publicity-seeking, demanding a good hairdresser: many of Margaret Thatcher’s traits were already shining through in 1978, a year before she entered Downing Street, archives released Tuesday show.

Thatcher, then leader of the opposition Conservative Party, is shown battling for a more public role in celebrations to mark 50 years since women got the vote in secret files only just made public.

What’s funny about the AFP’s take on the newly-released documents, other than their triviality, is that the facts, as described by AFP, support a conclusion exactly opposite from the one the news agency draws: Britain’s Labour government was petty and vindictive in trying to keep Mrs. Thatcher out of the limelight:

The then prime Minister James Callaghan initially wanted to stop Thatcher speaking alongside him at the opening of an exhibition to mark the date in July 1978.

But he was warned against this and told the Conservatives would use it to gain political capital.

“I am sure Mrs. Thatcher’s public appearances do as much harm to her party as yours do good to ours,” event organiser Lady Alma Birk, a government minister, told Callaghan in a May 1978 letter.

“If you appear together, the contrast between your reassuring authority and her shrillness would be striking.”

So the “shrillness” that AFP attributes to Thatcher actually was the characterization of a Labour minister. As it turned out, of course, Ms. Birk’s evaluation of Mrs. Thatcher’s effectiveness was far off the mark, as she slaughtered Callaghan the following year.

Even worse, as described by AFP, was the Labour Party’s effort to prevent Thatcher from having any association with the royal family:

There was another also thorny problem — how to make sure Thatcher was not allowed in to sit with Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret, in the royal box at a gala theatre show marking the anniversary.

In a briefing note to Callaghan the same month, his principal private secretary Ken Stowe warned Thatcher was going to get “a fair amount of the limelight” as Britain’s most famous female politician.

But this could be mitigated by keeping her out of the royal box, Stowe indicated.

“I think with a mixture of sweet reasonableness and low cunning, we should be able to fix it,” he added.

Another official noted on a separate document: “PM says Mrs. T on no account to get into royal box.” Thatcher eventually met the queen’s sister in an ante-room.

It is the Labour government, not Mrs. Thatcher, that comes off looking terrible in the documents as described by AFP; yet the “news” agency can see them only as an indictment of the Conservative Prime Minister: “Shrill, publicity-seeking, demanding a good hairdresser.” Sad, but typical of the absurd level of liberal bias that we see in our newspapers every day.

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