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Thatcher meeting branded 'bland'

Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet meetings were "miserably disappointing" committees of "unctuous self-satisfaction", according to the account of the then leader of the House of Commons.

John Biffen, also the former Lord Privy Seal, gave a damning briefing of a particular "absolutely awful" meeting to the press in 1984, drawing the ire of Number 10 and the House of Lords.

Describing the round-table discussion on February 9 1984, he reportedly said: "Cabinet this morning had been one of the most bland, miserable, disappointing meetings" he had ever been at.

"It was absolutely awful; there was no lively debate, just unctuous self-satisfaction.

"The opposition voices in the Cabinet were muted."

The remarks, which were published by the National Archives today, were first reported to Lord Whitelaw, the then deputy prime minister and leader of the House of Lords, who is believed to have spoken to Mr Biffen in the following days.

It was then reported to Mrs Thatcher via her personal secretary Robin Butler, who wrote: "Prime Minister, I think you should see this and may like to have a word with Lord Whitelaw on Monday morning.

Her short but ominous reply, hand-written on the note containing Mr Biffen's attack on Cabinet, reads: "Agreed. MT."

According to official minutes, the meeting in question included a congratulations to Harold Macmillan, prime minister from 1957 to 1963, "on the attainment of his 90th birthday", and a discussion on agricultural policy.

Opponents of Mrs Thatcher criticised her for filling Cabinet with "yes men", who would rubber-stamp her policies with little opposition.

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