1 Aug 2013

National Archives reveal government secrets from 1980s

As secret government papers released by the national archives shed fresh light on the 1980s, Channel 4 News asks for your memories of the decade.

The release of files from 1983 has provided a wealth of fascinating national secrets, including a script announcing world war III.

With Britain on the brink of annihilation at the hands of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union, a speech was prepared for the Queen who was to urge her “brave country” to stand firm as it faces up to the “madness of war”.

While the dangers were “greater by far than at any time in our long history”, she appeals to people to remember the qualities which saw them keep freedom alive through two world wars.

“As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be,” she declares. “May God bless you all.”

Fortunately, they were words the Queen never came to utter, and has probably never even seen.

Hague blackballed

Other documents reveal that William Hague’s first attempt to enter the world of politics was blackballed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The late Baroness Thatcher had been among those cheering the current foreign secretary when, as a 16-year-old schoolboy, he delivered a speech which took the Conservative party conference by storm in 1977.

However, she was rather less impressed when – as a 21-year-old Oxford graduate in 1983 – he tried to secure a prestigious posting as special adviser to the chancellor of the exchequer.

Papers released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show she angrily blocked the move, denouncing it as a “gimmick” and an “embarrassment” to her government.

She scrawled across the top of the letter in thick black ink: “No (triple underlined) – this is a gimmick and would be deeply resented by many who have financial-economic experience.”

Falklands laser

Baroness Thatcher was equally dismissive of the Greenham Common women’s peace camp, set up outside the Berkshire airbase following the decision to deploy US nuclear cruise missiles there.

Government papers reveal she branded the women an “eccentricity” whose activities had “been inflamed by the media”.

The papers also disclosed that the Thatcher government deployed a laser weapon to the Falklands which was designed to “dazzle” Argentine pilots during battle.

Despite being hurriedly and quietly developed, the weapon was never used in action, according to a 1983 document released by the National Archives.

Its existence is disclosed in a January 1983 letter, marked “Top Secret and UK Eyes A,” from the then newly-appointed defence secretary Michael Heseltine to Mrs Thatcher.

Your memories

On Thursday Channel 4 News will be ending the programme with music and archive footage of the most memorable moments the 1980s. What should we include? Please tell us what your most enduring memories of the 1980s on Twitter @Channel4News

Here is a selection of some of your suggestions so far:

@ProletarianDem Kinnock falling into the sea, Del Boy falling through the bar, the ‘RA & FPMR nearly bagging Thatcher and Pinochet

@Michael_F_Page Bloke standing in front of a column of tanks, Tiananmen Square, 1989.

@RogerB57 1980’s – The beauty & decadence of Brideshead Revisted on tv balanced by the actual Falklands War

@Marplesmarbles Berlin Wall coming down, Lockerbie,piper Alpha,Space Shuttle explosion, Royal Wedding 1981, New Romantics, Neil Kinnock speech

@CameronYardeJnr Yuppies, brick mobile phones, If You See Sid Tell Him, shoulder pads, Falklands, miner’s strikes US super soaps.

@dizzycurly riots, the Falklands, Brighton bomb, Live Aid, Reagan & Wall, Duran Duran, Queen, Depeche Mode, GunsNRoses

@MaryRoseMuseum Would it be cheeky of us to suggest the raising of the Mary Rose?

@LeapOfTruth Falklands / Miners Strike / Live Aid / Hillsborough. Specials – Ghost Town / Cars – Drive / Stone Roses – Fools Gold

@RoscoeK 1st time I saw Aha Take On Me video on Get Fresh with Gaz Top & Gilbert the Alien,& fell in love with Morton Harket