British diplomats warned that Ronald Reagan lacked the “mental vitality” to be an effective US President, say papers made public today under the 30-year rule.
Officials were not impressed by Reagan's “egregious errors” during his successful 1980 election campaign, such as suggesting America should respond to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by imposing a new blockade on Cuba.
The papers released by the National Archives show the British ambassador Sir Nicholas Henderson questioned whether the 69-year-old former Hollywood actor was really up to the job.
“Ronald Reagan believes there are simple (not to be confused with easy) answers to complex problems,” he wrote.
“The main worry about him, however, is not just age but whether he possesses the mental vitality and political vision necessary to cope with the acute and changing problems, national and international, of governing this vast, and in some ways ungovernable, country.”
But Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was to form a famously close political alliance with Reagan, was more optimistic.
One official noted: “She thought Mr Reagan would prove himself to be a man of peace. He would give a strong lead.”
Elsewhere in the newly released files Mrs Thatcher angrily rounded on the Governor of the Bank of England, accusing him of |undermining her economic strategy.
The extraordinary account of her “stormy” showdown with Governor Gordon Richardson is contained in the papers.
The files also show how Thatcher's Conservative Government secretly considered charging patients for visiting their GP and scrapping inflation-linked rises for pensioners amid fears her controversial monetarist policies were heading for “failure”.
Ultimately, however, the cabinet baulked at such drastic remedies, fearing the result would be “social unrest”.