One of Sir Mark Thatcher’s friends once told him he was ‘born guilty’. Many, including the two authors of this book, would contend that he has done his best to live up to his billing. Apparently, in moments of persecution, he has taken to quoting this observation about himself in the most rueful of tones. If he can bring himself to read this book he will feel far more persecuted by the end of it.
The authors are unquestionably experienced investigative journalists, with various scalps to their name. They are suited to their subject remarkably well, in that their style and approach are almost as unattractive as they claim their subject to be. Their work reads like an extended Sunday-newspaper article, incisive and detailed, certainly, but long-winded, charm-free, humourless, self-righteous and dripping in malevolence. But then, Sir Mark does seem to have a knack of bringing out the worst in people. Beyond doubt, the charge-sheet against him is pretty comprehensive. His late father, apparently, thought he was a ‘wrong ’un’, who made his pile doing ‘favours for Arabs’. His sister can’t stand him. There is endless evidence adduced of his rudeness, stupidity, pomposity, boorishness, greed and insecurity. Indeed, Sir Mark is portrayed as a monster so unrelievedly in these pages it is remarkable that he was not in prison or an asylum long ago.
The book begins and ends with his little local difficulty with the South African criminal-justice system over the failed coup in Equatorial Guinea, and one senses the authorial amazement that he is not already chewing biltong in a cell in Cape Town. Indeed, there is also a soup
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated November 12, 2005