Margaret Thatcher’s last letter as PM was fond tribute to press secretary

By Sam Russell, PA

Margaret Thatcher’s final letter as prime minister was a heartfelt thank you to a loyal member of her staff, while in contrast she sent stock replies to some political colleagues who wrote to her after her resignation.

Bernard Ingham spent 11 years as Mrs Thatcher’s chief press secretary, from 1979 to 1990, and was knighted in her 1990 resignation honours list.

In a letter dated November 28 1990, Thatcher wrote: “Dear Bernard. My last act as prime minister must be to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for 11 years of loyal and trusty service and companionship.”

She continued: “As I look back on my years as prime minister, I shall always remember you as the man who stood by me through thick and thin.

“I fear the strain on you and your family must have been very great: but you never complained and were always there when needed.

“So it is with great admiration and heart-felt thanks that Denis (Thatcher’s husband) and I say goodbye to you and to No. 10 – for the two are almost inseparable in our minds – and wish you and Nancy (Ingham’s wife) every happiness.”

Mrs Thatcher signed off the letter by handwriting “with warmest regards from all the family, Margaret”, with Denis Thatcher also signing his name.

Bernard Ingham leaves Lady Thatcher’s funeral (Chris Jackson/PA)

Charles Powell, a foreign policy adviser to Mrs Thatcher, wrote her a letter on her resignation.

He said that she “showed a level of greatness which will not be matched in Britain’s politics again”.

There is no sign of her reply.

Many of Mrs Thatcher’s political colleagues also wrote meaningfully to her on her resignation, including the MP Ken Clarke.

He wrote: “It has been a privilege to have served in the government of a truly great prime minister.

“I will always be grateful to you and loyal in defence of your achievements.”

Margaret Thatcher with cabinet members including Ken Clarke (PA)

His letter has “stock” written at the top of it, and he was sent a template reply beginning “Thank you so much for your kind and generous message”.

Chris Collins, from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, said Mr Ingham was Thatcher’s longest-serving member of staff and described her letter to him as “moving”.

“I can sense this tremendous emotion as the staff breaks up too and it’s so difficult for her and for them,” he said.

“Everybody loved her, around her.

“It’s such a contrast between her very difficult relationship with colleagues and her very warm, almost loving relationships with many long-lasting staff members.

“They are the family.

“There really is this sort of feel.”