For many years, I worked at the House of Commons in a number of capacities. I was originally based in an office in 2 The Abbey Gardens and later in No.5 Millbank. It was in the first of these that I was consulted (in the preceding week) by the new PPS to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Major, about how it would be sensible to vote in the first ballot for the Tory Party's leadership due to be held on Tuesday, 20th November, 1990 so that Major might enter the contest at the next stage. I told him that, to achieve that aim, he should vote for Michael Heseltine in the first ballot. Whether he did so or not, I cannot say. However, the following morning (Wednesday, 21st November) when I got to my desk in Abbey Gardens, I received two messages from Ministers, one from Gillian Shephard and a second from Robert Atkins, urging John Major to stand. I went across to the House and reached his PPS's office next to the Chancellor's in the corridor behind the Speaker's chair just before 9.45 a.m. where I duly reported these messages. While I was there, Rob Hayward and Sir Terence Higgins arrived as did Norman Lamont shortly thereafter. I particularly remember Norman Lamont saying of the Prime Minister, "She's finished." John Major telephoned twice during the half hour or so that I was present to ask what was going on and giving instructions that no canvassing was to be done on his behalf. That did not deter those present from starting to do just that. Heseltine's supporters were doing so as were those of Douglas Hurd. They were not going to be slow off the mark on behalf of John Major. Unfortunately, I then had to return to my desk. All I can say is that the accounts in Anthony Seldon's biography of John Major and, indeed, in the latter's autobiography are not quite correct although whether my testimony will ever be noticed seems rather doubtful.It is perfectly possible that Bright went on a freelance operation and felt he was serving his boss well by doing so. But there has always been a suspicion that John Major didn't quite act in the whiter than white manner which has hitherto been accepted by historians of the time. Perhaps we shall never know.
Two other bits of Thatcher related news. The video channel Veoh.com has the complete Downing Street Years series and also Tory, Tory Tory on a channel called Tory TV.
Secondly, filming of a new drama of Margaret Thatcher's final days in power has started. Ian McDiarmid, James Fox and Robert Hardy star. The actors, together with Philip Jackson and Kevin McNally, will appear in Margaret as the men "who loved her and those who betrayed her", the BBC said. The press release continues...
McDiarmid, Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars, will play Denis Thatcher; A Passage to India's Fox will portray foreign policy adviser Charles Powell and Hardy, best known for All Creatures Great and Small, will play deputy prime minister Willie Whitelaw.
The drama is being made by the production company behind the recent controversial BBC4 drama The Long Walk to Finchley and focuses on the events of 1990 when the former prime minister lost the backing of her cabinet and was forced to step down. It is being billed by the BBC as an "intimate portrayal of a woman on the brink of ruin". It was confirmed in April that Duncan, who appeared in HBO and BBC Two drama Rome, would portray Thatcher.
Jackson, who appeared in Poirot, will play Thatcher's chief press secretary, Bernard Ingham, while McNally, whose credits include Pirates of the Caribbean, will portray former minister Kenneth Clarke. The Commander's Oliver Cotton will appear as Thatcher's challenger Michael Heseltine.
Other cast members include John Sessions, whose credits include The Good Shepherd, as former foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe; Doctors' Michael Cochrane as MP Alan Clark; Michael Maloney, who starred in the movie Notes on a Scandal, as Thatcher's successor John Major; The Palace's Roy Marsden as firebrand MP Norman Tebbit; Casualty's Nigel Le Vaillant as Thatcher's Conservative predecessor Ted Heath and Rosemary Leach, who appeared in comedy My Family, as the Queen. The drama began filming in London last week.