Related topics

Thatcher Remarks Renew France and Britain Rivalry

July 14, 1989 GMT

PARIS (AP) _ British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher set off fireworks of her own at the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the French revolution, saying the overthrow of the French monarchy was by no means the founding of the concept of human rights.

In an interview with the Paris daily Le Monde just prior to the summit, Mrs. Thatcher said the concept of human rights was enshrined far earlier than the revolution in the British Magna Carta of 1215 and in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The prime minister also mentioned ″our Glorious Revolution in 1688 when Parliament imposed its will on the monarchy.″

The response on both sides of the English Channel has been loud and angry with boos for Mrs. Thatcher as she arrived in Paris, criticism from French Premier Michel Rocard and claims from one opposition British politician that she’s ″gone mad.″

In a chilly interview to be screened on British television later today, France’s socialist Premier Michel Rocard reportedly attacks the British Conservative Party leader by referring to the ″current trend toward social cruelty in Britain.″

On Thursday, scattered booes mingled with applause, greeted Mrs. Thatcher when she arrived for the bicentennial celebrations. ″Sounds just like home,″ quipped a senior Thatcher aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Asked about the atmosphere between Mrs. Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand during the festivities, the spokesman said simply, ″Very good.″

Britain’s opposition socialist Labor Party, which has a strong lead over Mrs. Thatcher in domestic poll ratings, today accused her of making an ″eccentric spectacle″ of herself with her ″offensive″ comments about the French revolution.

″Such conduct is of course extremely offensive to the French people who are taking part in an historic national celebration,″ Labor’s foriegn affairs spokesman Gerald Kaufman said in a statement issued in London.

″It is even more worrying for the British people who are concerned for the serious problems this country faces after 10 years of Thatcherism and who now watch with incredulity as the British prime minister makes an eccentric spectacle of herself in front of the world,″ added Kaufman.

″I can only conclude that Mrs. Tahtcher sees herself as a 20th century Marie Antoinette who, faced with the justified complaint of the electorate she misrule, airily replies: ‘Let them eat pate’.″

Kaufman said he wondered if Mrs. Thatcher ″has gone mad. Her extraordinary behavior in Paris indicates that she would do well to seek urgent psychiatric help.″

Headlines in the British press proclaimed ″Booing Greets Thatcher in Paris feud,″ and ″The Storming of Maggie by Angry French,″ while the newspaper The Express suggested that tempest has sent ″relations between Britain and France plummeting to a new low.″

Mrs. Thatcher’s remarks underlined the long history of checkered relations between France and Britain, long time friends and rivals.

In fact, the very conservative leader of Britain’s Conservative Party was not alone in her assessment.

Norman Stone, a professor of modern history at Oxford University, wrote in today’s Daily Telegraph that Mrs. Thatcher ″to her very great credit, has taken a robust and British view of the French revolution, telling Le Monde how much superior our own tradition is to all of the waffle, sentimentality and mayhem that July 14 really symbolizes.″