How Michael Win­ner helped direct PM in trib­ute role

Newly re­leased se­cret doc­u­ments re­veal an in­trigu­ing episode in Mrs Thatcher’s premier­ship

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY JEN­NIFER LIP­MAN

MICHAEL WIN­NER per­suaded Mar­garet Thatcher to un­veil a me­mo­rial for a vic­tim of terror against the wishes of her ad­vis­ers, confidential pa­pers re­leased this week by the Na­tional Ar­chives have re­vealed.

The Jewish film di­rec­tor wrote to the then Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice sev­eral times in late 1984 re­quest­ing that she un­veil the me­mo­rial to Yvonne Fletcher, the po­lice­woman mur­dered out­side the Libyan em­bassy the pre­vi­ous April.

Mr Win­ner had helped es­tab­lish the Po­liceMe­mo­ri­alTrust­to­honourherand other fallen po­lice­men and women.

The Death Wish di­rec­tor, who died in 2013, was ini­tially fobbed off by Mrs Thatcher’s pri­vate sec­re­tary David Bar­clay, prompt­ing him to write back that he had “read into this a prepa­ra­tion for a turn­ing down” and that he would be “deeply dis­ap­pointed if this was the case”.

Un­de­terred, he re­cruited a trus­tee of the Po­lice Me­mo­rial Trust to make his case; a let­ter to Mr Bar­clay pointed out the di­rec­tor’s promi­nence — “it oc­curs to me that you may not know of Mr Win­ner” — and em­pha­sised his reg­u­lar sup­port for the Con­ser­va­tives on the BBC’s ra­dio dis­cus­sion show Any Ques­tions.

Still with­out an an­swer six weeks later, Mr Win­ner wrote again, warn­ing: “We are con­tin­u­ally be­ing del­uged by

Mar­garet Thatcher with Michael Win­ner at the un­veil­ing of the Yvonne Fletcher me­mo­rial in Lon­don in 1985 the press ask­ing why this me­mo­rial is not go­ing up, and I am at a loss for words to ex­plain the de­lay.”

The po­lice and then Home Sec­re­tary Leon Brit­tan raised con­cerns about Mrs Thatcher’s ap­pear­ance at the un­veil­ing, cit­ing se­cu­rity fears about the IRA and the Libyans. But af­ter Mr Win­ner’s re­quest was brought to her at­ten­tion, she opted to at­tend. In a hand­writ­ten note she com­mented: “In view of the pres­sures on the po­lice I should not refuse to un­veil it.”

The me­mo­rial was even­tu­ally un­veiled in St James Square on Fe­bru­ary 1 1985 in the pres­ence of Mrs Thatcher and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

M r W i n n e r ’ s p e r s i s t e n c e d i d n o t s t o p a t t h e P r i me Min­is­ter. A let­ter from the file re­veals that Labour leader Neil Kin­nock was stuck in Athens be­fore the cer­e­mony, but Mr Win­ner per­son­ally ar­ranged for him to fly home in time “on a Qan­tas flight… that usu­ally takes no pas­sen­gers”.

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