Margaret Thatcher met disgraced US President Richard Nixon despite advisers urging her not to. The relationship echoes Theresa May’s determination to meet Donald Trump in the face of widespread opposition.
Thatcher met with Nixon in 1982 despite warnings two years earlier that it would stir controversy both at home and in the US. The note of caution came in 1980, a year after Thatcher became PM and six years after Nixon was forced to resign in the Watergate Scandal.
After consultation with the UK’s ambassador in Washington, Foreign Office official Malcolm Adams wrote: “The ambassador pointed out that Mr Nixon is as much out of touch in the US as he is controversial and he doubts whether the Prime Minister would learn much from him. In the US, more might be read into a call at No 10 than was intended.
“To judge from our experience when soundings were taken before Mr Nixon’s last visit to Britain the US administration would not presume to advise us how to respond; but the ambassador considers that they, and senior Republicans, would be surprised, and unhelpfully so, if the Prime Minister received him.”
Is history repeating itself? Maggie acted in the same way as Britain’s current leader, Theresa May, who continues to resist widespread calls to cancel Donald Trump’s visit to the UK.
May, who was the first leader to meet Trump when he was sworn in as 45th president of the US in January, invited the Republican leader to the UK straight after his inauguration.
However, the news was met with mass protests and a petition signed by 1.8 million people calling for the visit to be cancelled, amid concerns it would be an “embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”
The much-delayed trip will now take place at the end of February and with much less pomp than previously planned. It has been downgraded from an official state visit to a ‘working’ visit, meaning the president will not meet the Queen or be invited to address Parliament.
The UK-US ‘special relationship’ has recently souring following May’s criticism of Trump’s sharing of Islamophobic videos from the Twitter page of far-right party Britain First.