Margaret Thatcher’s Private Secretaries for Foreign Affairs, 1979–1984
Margaret Thatcher arrived at Downing Street in May 1979 as one of Britain's least experienced Prime Ministers in the field of foreign affairs. Thatcher's first two Private Secretaries for foreign affairs, Michael Alexander and John Coles, witnessed a staggering amount of diplomatic traffic, encompassing foreign affairs, defence, intelligence, trade and 'intermestic' issues such as Northern Ireland and the Falklands. Michael Alexander and Arthur John Coles had each spent two and a half years as Margaret Thatcher's Private Secretary for overseas affairs. As the British government prepared its longer-term strategy for East–West relations, Alexander found himself swamped in papers – mostly sent by the Foreign Office and the Centre for Policy Studies for the Prime Minister's viewing. John Coles succeeded Alexander as Private Secretary for foreign affairs in December 1981. During this time they had witnessed her transformation from a foreign policy novice into a highly respected international leader.