Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In sickness and in health...

This by Danny Finkelstein reminds of a story about Margaret Thatcher.

In Sickness and in Power is written by the former Foreign Secretary and doctor David Owen. The relationship between health and ability to govern has long been an interest of his. I recall him returning from the funeral of the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. He didn't think the new leadership would last long. He had shaken hands with Konstantin Chernenko and, on hearing him wheeze, thought he was suffering from emphysema. Just 13 months later that disease did indeed kill Chernenko.
On attending Andropov's funeral Thatcher asked an assistant to buy her a warm hat, as it was in Moscow in winter and bloody freezing. Assistant returned with a fine, warm but extremely expensive tall fur hat in the true Russian style. Thatcher was a bit put out, seeing as how this was hardly a long-term practical purchase. After the funeral, however, she apologised to the assistant saying that, now she had met Chernyenko she regarded the hat as an investment rather than a one off. Sure enough, a year later...

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