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Monday, November 28, 2005

Thumping the Argies!

Through the good offices of Dave Weeden I have come across this fascinating story from the book "Rendezvous -- The psychoanalysis of François Mitterrand" by Ali Magoudi. Mr. Magoudi met the late French president up to twice a week in secrecy at his Paris practice from 1982 to 1984.

The book, to be published on Friday, is one of several on France's first Socialist president to mark the 10th anniversary of his death on January 8 1996. This episode about Mitterand's relationship with Margaret Thatcher is fascinating and not a little disturbing:

"Excuse me. I had a difference to settle with the Iron Lady. That Thatcher, what an impossible woman!" the president said as he arrived, more than 45 minutes late, on May 7 1982. "With her four nuclear submarines in the south Atlantic, she's threatening to unleash an atomic weapon against Argentina if I don't provide her with the secret codes that will make the missiles we sold the Argentinians deaf and blind." He reminded Magoudi that on May 4 an Exocet missile had struck HMS Sheffield. "To make matters worse, it was fired from a Super-Etendard jet," he said. "All the matériel was French!

"In words that the psychoanalyst has sworn to the publisher, Meren Sell, are genuine, the president continued: "She's livid. She blames me personally for this new Trafalgar ... I was obliged to give in. She's got them now, the codes.

"Mitterrand - who once described Thatcher as "the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe" -- went on: "One cannot win against the insular syndrome of an unbridled Englishwoman. Provoke a nuclear war for a few islands inhabited by three sheep as hairy as they are freezing! But it's a good job I gave way. Otherwise, I assure you, the Lady's metallic finger would have hit the button.

"France, he insisted, would have the last word. "I'll build a tunnel under the Channel. I'll succeed where Napoleon III failed. And do you know why she'll accept my tunnel? I'll flatter her shopkeeper's spirit. I'll tell her it won't cost the Crown a penny."

Whether you believe that Thatcher would have nuked the Argentinian capital is a matter of judgement. However it was certainly running through the minds of some Tory MPs at the time. There is a story that during a packed 1983 General Election eve-of-poll hustings in Welshpool the losing Tory MP, Delwyn Williams, publically stated that the Government should have nuked Buenes Aries. It is an urban myth in Montgomery that Delwyn Williams' ranting and rabid performance that night persuaded enough Labour voters to vote for Alex Carlile, the Liberal candidate, and cost the Tories the seat by 600 votes.
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