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Margaret Thatcher’s Briefing on Punk for a 1987 Interview Is Pure Gold

"The 'PUNK' era which hit the music world between 1976-1978 was a very basic musical style"—an official document, which misspells the word "synthesizers."
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB

The only thing worse than politicians trying to be "down with the kids" (other than the phrase "down with the kids") is rightwing Tories trying to do it. They are, as we know, robots who were apparently programmed for human existence with only the inside of a John Lewis for reference, and so all and any attempts they make at engaging with youth are always, always horrendous.

With this in mind: recently the Margaret Thatcher Foundation released her personal papers from 1987, and in there is quite a doozy. She was interviewed for the legendary British pop magazine Smash Hits in March of that year, and because she obviously didn't have a fucking clue about ordinary people, let alone the mag's audience of teens, she asked for a briefing on the topics she might be asked to address.


When said briefing begins with the phrase "It is worth mentioning that a degree of teenage rebellion is part of growing up" you know you're in for it (Thatcher, who hatched fully-formed from an egg, was of course never young), and it only really gets worse from there. "You may not enjoy the interview," writes advisor Christine Wall. "Mr Hibbert [Tom Hibbert, Smash Hits deputy editor at the time] may ask superficial questions which betray a lack of understanding. The challenge of the interview will be for you to demonstrate that just because you are not part of the pop scene, you are still in touch with youngsters and understand their needs." Thatcher is also counselled to be "confident and relaxed," which, when you don't have a soul, is actually probably quite easy.

In an addendum later on, Wall writes that the Prime Minister "asked for some examples of contemporary and past popular music," giving her information on The Beatles, big band hits, musicals, and current popular music. Best of all, however, is a section on punk ("PUNK"):

The "PUNK" era which hit the music world between 1976-1978 was a very basic musical style featuring a strange bunch of anti-establishment acts, most famous of which were THE SEX PISTOLS with songs such as GOD SAVE THE QUEEN and ANARCHY IN THE UK. Other PUNK acts such as THE CLASH and THE DAMNED were popular for a while but when the SEX PISTOLS split up in 1978 the style died out, to be replaced by the current technological musical era featuring computers, synthesisors [sic] and videos.

What I especially like about this is that it's kind of suggested that Thatcher would be able to regurgitate this and then start chatting about synths like some lad in second year of uni down the pub. Unfortunately in the interview she wasn't actually given this opportunity, and instead got to chat all about how "Cliff Richard has done wonders." Christ. Quite enough of this, now, I think.

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