Maggie always put the boot in

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British Prime Ministers like to visit their troops when they’re in the ‘field’. Who actually owns the ‘field’ doesn’t matter. It’s always a great photo opportunity. They don’t come any better than standing there in combat gear surrounded by the lads enjoying a morale boosting chat from their dear leader. Do you remember a picture of Margaret Thatcher driving a tank across Germany, or somewhere?

British Prime Ministers like to visit their troops when they’re in the ‘field’. Who actually owns the ‘field’ doesn’t matter. It’s always a great photo opportunity. They don’t come any better than standing there in combat gear surrounded by the lads enjoying a morale boosting chat from their dear leader. Do you remember a picture of Margaret Thatcher driving a tank across Germany, or somewhere?

Anyway, on a visit here at Christmas in 1982 the Iron Lady heard grumbles from the squaddies about the poor quality of their boots. Back home, the PM took up the issue with the MOD. In due course Mrs Thatcher received a reply. The complaints were “rather surprising” as not a single complaint had been received before the prime minister’s visit, wrote MOD official Jane Ridley.

Mrs Thatcher was furious. She scribbled at the top of the reply, “Seldom have I received a more unsatisfactory letter. A bureaucratic gem.” She added that she would show it to the co-author of the comedies, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minster. “Send the letter back. The answer won’t do,” wrote Mrs Thatcher.

“We haven’t had any other complaints,” is obviously a favoured defence in British military circles. It reminded me of a major responding to a complaint from a Derry resident that army radios were causing interference on his TV. “It’s strange that we haven’t had any other complaints,” said the major. “No it’s not,” said the Derry man, “I’m the only one with a licence!”