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Thatcher wanted to join Indian Civil Service

Lord Swraj Paul, who knew Margaret Thatcher very well, speaks to Vijay Dutt. He said: “In my view, the kind of conviction she had, whatever job she would have taken, she would have done it with determination and to the best of her ability”.

world Updated: Apr 30, 2008 03:57 IST
Vijay Dutt

She proved to be an Iron Lady, as Prime Minister and became a great friend of Indira Gandhi.

But had Margaret Thatcher’s wish to join the Indian Civil Service, as she revealed in an interview way back in 1985, been fulfilled, would she have been an administrator with the welfare of India in her heart, is a question of some interest.

Lord Swraj Paul, who knew Thatcher very well, told HT “In my view, the kind of conviction she had, whatever job she would have taken, she would have done it with determination and to the best of her ability.”

Thatcher did wish to serve India to her best ability. She told Dr Miriam Stoppard, in an interview on Yorkshire Television, “I had an ambition as a child. I told you all the missionaries used to come and people used to come from India. … I wanted to be a part of the Indian Civil Service, because our Civil Service was the best in the world.”

In the extracts of the recently released interview by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, she added, “Now, we were brought up learning that Britain was the best in the world because she had standards of honesty and integrity and law. The best in the world and the Indian Civil Service was a part of our Civil Service and it was the best in the world and it was to do things for the Indians and it was to help them.”

She said to her father, “I think, Daddy, if I manage to get to university” — if, it was a fantastic privilege in those days, a fantastic privilege — “If I manage to get to university, I think I'd like to go in the Indian Civil Service, because I will be able to do something for them!” “I remember my father saying — this was before the War — “I do not think there will be one by the time you are grown up.” Prophetic words.

“Dr Stoppard, wasn’t that prophetic? But you see he was well in…don’t you find you give your own children Dubellip; try to give your own children what you have not had. For us, it was rather a sin — to enjoy yourself by entertainment.

“Do you see what I mean? Life was not to enjoy yourself. Life was to work and do things. My father had not had an education because as I told you, he had to go out early, but he was the best-read man I ever knew… My father gave me all the education in the world, really self-education.” Her father proved right in his prophecy, but instead of being an ICS, Thatcher went on to becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. One of the most remembered and regarded British Prime Minister of modern times.

Would she have been better for India as a member of the ICS or was she better as the Prime Minister? Lord Paul said, "Its difficult to guess…its hypothetical. But she was positive towards India and admired Mrs Gandhi very much.”