The day our man met Margaret Thatcher

Reporter Geoffrey Shryhane meets Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Reporter Geoffrey Shryhane meets Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

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WHEN Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Wigan’s Tidy Britain Group in 1990, her office made one thing very clear from the start.

“No interviews,” said the power-men in the Downing Street press office.

But she did one brief chat – with me after I brazenly slipped like greased-lighting through the security cordon.

One second I was in the crowd – the next I was looking her in the eyes saying: “Good afternoon, Prime Minister. I’m from the local payer. May I have a brief chat?”

“The local paper,” she said. “Yes, I like local papers.”

The meeting was a little surreal. First of all I’d not considered that Margaret Thatcher was a “big woman”. On this particularly Friday afternoon, she was performing ceremonies at for the Tidy Britain Group – whose HQ was in Wigan.

We at the Observer were only told of her visit at 5pm the previous day. There would be no crowds.

The lady who was not for turning turned up on time in a sleek blue suit, and one of those welcoming her was a Labour Mayor Coun Audrey Bennett. Two ladies at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Once I’d slipped through the cordon, I asked Mrs Thatcher if she’d seen much of Wigan as she’d driven to the Trencherfield Mill.

She peered down at me and said: “Yes and I want to say how well-kept the green verges are. Wiganers can be very proud.”

READ THE FULL STORY IN THIS WEEK’S WIGAN OBSERVER ...