Chris Patten at The New Statesman:
Benjamin Disraeli, Margaret Thatcher’s 19th-century predecessor as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, hinted that he preferred biographies to history books on the grounds that biography is “life without theory”. At the risk of provoking unrest among any surviving members of the Primrose League, I am not sure that this is correct. There is plenty of theory about biography, above all the question of whether there are great leaders who shape history or whether such figures are simply history’s foundlings, at most listening out, as Bismarck said, for “the rustle of God’s cloak”.
That this question comes immediately to the fore on reading the second volume of Charles Moore’s superb biography of Margaret Thatcher – covering the period of her pomp, from the aftermath of the Falklands campaign in 1982 to her third election victory in 1987 – reflects how she was the most partisan and domineering British prime minister in the period since the Second World War. You can avoid having a view on most people and things (even, unless you are Australian, on Marmite). But I know no one who does not have a view on Lady Thatcher, from those who in Ian McEwan’s phrase “liked disliking her”, some of them celebrating her death, to those for whom she has been a totemic focus of almost spiritual devotion and inspiration. The forceful expression of these judgements brings to mind the tripartite distinction of strong opinions offered by the authors of Yes Minister: “I am principled. You are an ideologue. He is a mindless fanatic.”