Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher The Authorized Biography By Moore, Charles, 1956- Book - 2013-2019

This review deals only with the third volume of Moore’s biography. The book is the product of impressive research, the result of numerous interviews with Thatcher and people who knew her. The style is impeccable, clear, comprehensible and Moore has a marvelous sense of humour. The footnotes look intimidating at first, but they are actually very useful. Whenever a name of a significant person appears for the first time, Moore provides a mini-bio in a footnote. This saves space in the body of the text. These can be read or ignored by the reader according to their interests and their existing knowledge. It should really be standard practice in political and historical biographies.
Unfortunately, Moore is a journalist, not a professional historian or economist, and his impressive research seems to have depended too heavily on interviews with Thatcher and people around and not enough on readily available historical and economic literature. This was especially obvious in his discussion of Thatcher’s reaction to the breakup of Yugoslavia, when she was no longer PM. Unfortunately she viewed it as a repeat of the Falklands War, with Serbian president Slobodan Milošević in the role of General Galtieri. Moore’s account almost uncritically takes her side and is chock full of errors of fact and misrepresentations of events. He goes wrong right from the start, in identifying Serbia as the largest of Yugoslavia’s nations, not the largest of its republics. He would have done well to remember the old Yugoslav saying about their country having “seven neighbours, six republics, five nations” and so forth. The five nations were usually defined as Bosniaks (or Moslems), Croats, Macedonians, Serbs and Slovenes, although some people would replace the Bosniaks with Montenegrins. Because the boundaries of the republics so poorly matched where people of the different nationalities lived a breakup of Yugoslavia was bound to be fraught. The Serbs were the most populous nationality and also the nationality that had the largest share of its population living outside of the republic where most of its people lived. So if Milošević flirted with the idea of a Greater Serbia it was no wonder. At one time he and Croatian president Franjo Tudjman conspired to split Bosnia and Herzegovina between them, so Tudjman, whose name is never mentioned by Moore, was just as guilty of trying to create a Geater Croatia. It is not so surprising if you go back to the five nations; the existence of a Bosniak nation, like the existence of a Montenegrin nation, was contested.
As noted in my paper “Twenty Years of Inflation Targeting at the Bank of England” the first proposal for an inflation targeting regime was actually proposed in a Chevening paper in December 1989. If this proposal had been announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer John Major’s March budget, the UK would have shared the honour with New Zealand of having the first inflation-targeting bank in the world. In my paper, I judged that this was not a politically realistic policy. I’m not sure that was really true if one imagines policy had unfolded differently through the entire third term Thatcher was in office. There might have been an early end to Nigel Lawson’s exchange rate monetarism and a return to monetarist policies to fight inflation. This would have made joining the ERM a non-issue. The move to inflation targeting would not have seemed like such a bolt in the blue. Norman Lamont actually did set monitoring ranges for M0 and M3 in his March 1993 budget, so it did seem to people at the time to be more or less another variant on the old monetarist framework, which, in a sense it was. Whatever her mistakes in handling inflation in her third term, Thatcher deserves a lot of credit for promoting both John Major and Norman Lamont, the team that would bring in an inflation targeting regime for the UK less than two years after she left office.

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