POLITICS

Joe Biden: How Margaret Thatcher Convinced 'Anti-British' Senator To Support Falklands War (VIDEO)

12/04/2013 13:04 BST

Margaret Thatcher used her personal charm to persuade the powerful long-time chairman of the US senate foreign relations committee to drop his opposition to a pro-British policy during the Falklands War, Joe Biden has said.

The US vice president said North Carolina senator Jesse Helms' heart "melted" upon meeting the then-British prime minister who was able to change his mind.

Biden, who alternated as chairman of the influential committee with Helms during his own long service in the senate, was speaking after signing a book of condolences for Thatcher on Friday.

"In all the thirty-years I served with Jesse Helms, we came [to the senate] at the same time in 1972, I never saw anyone melt this man's heart," he said.

"She walked in, walked over and grabbed him by the lapels, she said: 'Jesse, I cant believe this, you're sympathetic to the Argentineans, I cant believe you'd do this to me Jesse'."

Biden added: "He ended up changing his position."

The vice president went on: "You think I am joking, I am not joking. He adored Margaret Thatcher.

"Everyone talks about her persuasive powers, with Jesse and the president [Ronald Regan] she was very, very persuasive, very effective, quite a lady."

Helms, who died aged 86 in 2008, was the only senator to back the Argentine junta against Britain during the Falklands.

He became a hate figure for many on the left in the United States, infamously described gay people as "weak, morally sick wretches" and said president Clinton "better have a bodyguard" after the White House advocated letting gay people serve in the military.

In 1997, Helms reportedly had an argument with Robin Cook, after the then-British foreign secretary said the US should pay it debt to the United Nations “in full and on time”.

Helms hit back: “We saved your bacon two times this century and when we need something, you don't give us a thing.”