With the acres of footage and newsprint currently documenting the life and times of a certain ex-prime minister, it seemed fitting to check whether the Sentinel with its fantastic ability of scooping interviews with major politicians had ever come face to face with Mrs Margaret Thatcher. It appears though that the picture shown here on the front page from September 1988 was not the result of an interview or encounter. Whilst efforts were made, the Sentinel reported in its 100th edition that she had declined the invitation, with the indication that she confined interviews almost entirely to “foreign newspapers”.
Wester Hailes is only 43 years old as a community and so much of its early and formative history is inevitably tied up with Mrs Thatcher’s ideology and her government’s policies during 1979-1990. In October last year we looked at the results of the Fowler review brought in during Mrs Thatcher’s leadership in 1986, and what the changes in the welfare reform system would mean to Wester Hailes when implemented. Whilst many of the government’s policies were well supported by some in society nationally, the effects in areas like Wester Hailes could be seen across the front pages of the Sentinel as the local situation was documented over the months and years. In April 1987 for example, the Sentinel led with the headline “Breadline Britain”, featuring several stories that demonstrated the rise in poverty within Wester Hailes.
Despite Mrs Thatcher’s reluctance to speak to a community newspaper, other politicians of the day were not so reticent and the Sentinel carried interviews with key national politicians including Neil Kinnock, David Steel, Norman Tebbit, Tony Benn, George Younger and David Owen. This editorial policy meant that local residents could read the views of national decision makers and just as importantly, it gave an opportunity to promote a positive view of the Wester Hailes community to people who may only have known about the area otherwise through more sensationalist press headlines.
Whilst we cannot bring you an exclusive Sentinel interview with Mrs Thatcher, we can feature two major politicians who were in parliament throughout her time in office. It would be fair to say they were at different ends of the political spectrum on most issues but this is probably fitting as whatever everyone’s views are on Mrs Thatcher, she certainly provoked debate.
The first interview is with Tam Dalyell in 1985 who had visited Wester Hailes to give a talk about his views on the Falklands War. The second interview is with Malcom Rifkind. Mr Rifkind gave several interviews to the Sentinel over the years. As we have just finished a series on the Wester Hailes Partnership, the featured interview is during 1988 when news of the new urban renewal plans was being launched.