After the release of papers under the 20-year rule there has been much rehearsing of Margaret Thatcher’s initial opposition to German reunification until she was eventually edged into a more realistic stance.
If she was as hostile as it appears, she was staggeringly ill-advised – just as some historians are ill-informed on the same matter. This, for example, from the much lauded (and often rather good) Mark Mazower:
“The reunification of Germany … was as unforeseen as partition had been forty years before.”**
In fact, as soon as it became clear that Russia didn’t have the stomach to hold the ring in Eastern Europe any longer, the Deutsche Einheit was both inevitable, and well-signposted for anyone in the Tory senior echelons who needed to know and could be bothered to pay attention.
In 1985 (sic) I was amongst a group of Conservatives including several MPs, MEPs and soon-to-be MPs, who were invited by the CDU for a lengthy and highly educational visit to both West and East Germany. (There are many amusing stories from this trip but they are for another day.)
We ended up in Berlin where we converged with similar groups from right-of-centre parties across the West. Our CDU hosts – who included some Very Senior politicians – then told us the purpose of the outing. They wished us, as friends and allies, to be in no doubt that their over-riding political priority was reunification, however unlikely we might imagine it to be. We needed to know this because it was vital to understand their frame of mind, and how they would act when the time came.
This seemed deeply implausible to most of those assembled, and someone asked – OK, so when ?
Oh, we’ve no idea when, our hosts replied: but just please be aware that, when the time comes, we shan’t hesitate, or be found wanting.
So - unforeseen it was not. If any of the Tory MPs who attended this event didn’t brief Thatcher’s ministers; or if these in turn failed either to follow it up, or to apprise Herself, then they and she deserved all the unnecessary political grief her ignorant heel-dragging must have caused.
**Dark Continent, 1999 Chapt 11