For the Sake of a Shower: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
The bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton on the eve of the 1984 Conservative Party Conference failed in its primary objective of killing the Prime Minister of the day, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. Despite destroying her bathroom, killing five people and injuring many others including the wife of the prominent Minister Norman Tebbit, the rest of her hotel suit remained largely intact and both she and her husband Denis were unharmed by the incident. In a statement soon after the news broke, the IRA issued a statement stating “Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always”.
For the sake of a late night shower, it could have been very different.
BRIGHTON: An explosion at the Grand Hotel in Brighton has claimed the lives of six people, amongst them the Prime Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. The Prime Minister, who was due to address the Conservative Party conference this morning, was killed in an explosion that ripped through her hotel bathroom in the early hours of this morning. The Irish Republican Army has already claimed responsibility for the attack, which is seen as a reprisal for the Government policy towards Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister’s successor will be decided upon at an emergency meeting of Conservative MPs later this afternoon.
THE PRIME MINISTER IS DEAD
Tributes to Mrs. Thatcher have rapidly been given by the American President Ronald Reagan, the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Neil Kinnock, Soviet Premier…”
-From The Times 12th October 1984
“Ding Dong the Bitch is Dead”
-Quote attributed to anonymous member of the NUM
“The lady is dead.
I heard the news after Jane woke me in a fluster this morning; the bastards got her at her most vulnerable. I went downstairs to see the carnage of the hotel, the TV footage was almost obscene in how vivid it was. Tebbit, (indestructible as always) was in tears, stomping around the ruins in his dressing gown. That smug toad Heseltine was talking to the camera. C***, I’d bet he was praying for this moment. How can we manage with him as leader? He must be stopped.
Can’t write much, too upset.
I’ll rip the Paddies to shreds when I get them. This will never turn into their own sordid little Tet Offensive”
-Alan Clark: Diaries
“Thatcher’s assassination left a problematic constitutional problem to overcome during the frenzied hours following the bombing. Under the terms of simple convention, the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Whitelaw became Prime Minister, despite a long held belief that a member of the House of Lords could not gain that position. However, his statement in the early hours of October 12th announcing his refusal to stand for the emergency leadership election soon relegated the problem to little more than a small historical anomaly. Despite Whitelaw’s declared intention not to be considered de facto Prime Minister, under the rules of the Conservative Party at the time, he is still considered to have held the shortest tenure of any Prime Minister in history, although technically, he can only be dubbed to have been acting in that position.
Nevertheless, given the extraordinary events of the previous night, the conclave that met to choose a new leader of the Conservative Party ensured an election that would be anything other than normal. Firstly, only a fraction of the PCP was in Brighton at the time, most had intended to arrive during the next day or so. As a result, many prominent Ministers called for a simple show of hands to choose an interim leader. Given the nature of the assassination, many expected the right-wing of the party to elect a new leader with Norman Tebbit and Sir Keith Joseph seen as consensus candidates of the right. However, Acting Prime Minister Whitelaw, in perhaps the most crucial decision of his brief leadership, choose to delay the election until the early evening, by which time, the majority of the Conservative Parliamentary Party had arrived in Brighton.
The first ballot, carried out in the Brighton Conference Centre resulted in a three-way spit between the Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine, the Trade and Industry Secretary Norman Tebbit and the Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe.
Howe dropped out after the first ballot, leaving a two horse race between Heseltine and Tebbit. Heseltine ultimately gained a slim 19 vote victory over his rival and as such became Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party.”
-From “The 1984 Conservative Leadership Election”
“Those that feel that their cause will be aided by terror and violence should be very much mistaken. Britain has lost a great woman today, and I will never be the Prime Minister she was. Nevertheless, my message to the IRA is very clear, you will never win and I can only pledge that you will pay for this atrocity with far more than your lives”
-Speech by then Prime Minister Michael Heseltine to Tory Party Conference: 13th October 1984
“And now the blood truly begins to flow”
-Enoch Powell MP