POLITICS

INTERVIEW: 'She Thought She Was The Prodigal Daughter' - Jeffrey Archer Remembers Margaret Thatcher

17/04/2013 09:58 BST | Updated 17/04/2013 11:37 BST

An athlete, an MP, a jailbird for perjury and a best-selling author, published in 97 countries, in more than 37 languages, with international sales passing 250 million copies - Jeffrey Archer's CV reads like a fantastical character from one of his novels.

HuffPost UK caught up with the author at the opening of the London Book Fair, where Archer announced the semi-finalists of the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge, sponsored by e-reading service Kobo.

Whilst talking on self-publishing, writing and literary agents, Archer also shared his memories of the late Margaret Thatcher - her climb to leadership and immortalisation in his upcoming novel.

As Archer arrived for interview, he was keen to see a copy of the Telegraph, featuring a photo of his wife, Mary Archer, with Margaret Thatcher, who was guest of honour at the Archers’ silver wedding celebrations in 1991.

Jeffrey Archer and his wife will be attending Thatcher's funeral this Wednesday.

Read our interview with Jeffrey Archer:

Tell us a memory about Margaret Thatcher.

I was in Japan with Margaret once and we were speaking at the University of Tokyo.

I said to her: "We have a problem here Prime Minister. The rule in Japan is that all the men ask the questions first [in a debate] and then the women are allowed to ask questions. You must say - man, woman, man, woman, man, woman, otherwise you'll never get a woman's question."

Margaret then took questions for an hour, going: woman, man, woman, man. The girls were so pleased, because the Japanese rule wouldn't normally allow that.

A female undergraduate at the university said to Margaret "I want to be Prime Minister of this country," Margaret replied "don't tell anyone."

I remember when Margaret become Leader of the Opposition, she never thought she'd become Leader, she wanted to be Shadow Chancellor.

I was a child, I was the baby of the team to make her Leader. I don't think she really believed it was going to happen.

When do you think we'll see another female Prime Minister?

Not in my lifetime, and not in yours. Ironically, I think the American family have woken up [to women in politics], they're a pretty slow lot.

They'll get Hilary Clinton and realise how good she is and then they'll wake up. She'll make a very good President.

You're attending Thatcher's funeral this Wednesday with your wife. It's reported that T.S. Eliot and Wordsworth poems will be printed on the Order of Service. Did Thatcher's love of literature include reading your novels?

T.S. Eliot and Wordsworth were her favourite poets. Margaret read all my books. She thought she was the Prodigal Daughter [Archer's novel published in 1982 about an ambitious young woman seeking to become the US President]. "It's me, isn't it Jeffrey," she said.

Margaret Thatcher has never featured in my books, just mentioned.

Will Thatcher feature in any of your upcoming novels?

Yes, I'm writing a five-part series called the Clifton Chronicles [chronicling a period between 1920 and 2020], my latest novel Best Kept Secret is the third in the series.

In the series I've featured the Prime Ministers Harold Wilson, Harold Macmillan, Winston Churchill. I will get onto Thatcher's era in the fifth book.

In your Clifton Chronicles book series you discuss the quirks and rituals of Westminster, such as the tradition of knocking on the door of the Chamber of the House of Lords on the stroke of Big Ben's chime. From your experience as an MP, what's the funniest quirk you know of?

In the House of Commons there's a red line on the carpet in front of you when you're sitting down. You're not allowed to cross it. This is from tradition; as long as you stayed the behind the red line, swords weren't able to meet between the opposing parties. Those red lines are still there.

Politics and the Arts have overlapped this week, with the debate about whether the BBC should have played Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead. How do you think the BBC should have handled the situation?

There should never be any form of censorship, there should be courtesy and good manners, which we don't see enough of, which we certainly don't see at the BBC.

I think the BBC are trying to please the Left more than the Right - they have a proven record of doing so over the years. If you went to the BBC and asked the top 100 people how they voted, my bet is that 80 would vote Labour.

If you had the opportunity to address the funeral congregation this Wednesday, how would you sum up your experiences of working with Margaret Thatcher?

Total dedication and love of her country.

The Ceremonial Funeral Of Former British Prime Minister

The Ceremonial Funeral Of Former British Prime Minister