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Thatcher ‘felt lucky to have survived Brighton bombing’, show reveals

The scene after The Grand Hotel In Brighton was bombed in 1984
The scene after The Grand Hotel In Brighton was bombed in 1984

By Jenna Gardiner

Margaret Thatcher's reaction to narrowly escaping death in the Brighton bombing will be detailed in a BBC series exploring her rise and fall.

The IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in 1984, killing five people and injuring over 30.

Personal assistant to Mrs Thatcher, Cynthia Crawford, reveals in the documentary that Thatcher felt she was lucky to have cheated death.

Recalling an incident that followed the atrocity, Mrs Crawford said: "Mr Thatcher had been out up Bond Street and he had bought her a new watch. She told me he said 'This is to tell you every minute counts'.

"I think deep down she knew she had been lucky that night, very lucky."

On the night of October 12, 1984, Mrs Thatcher was staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference.

She was in her suite with principal private secretary Robin Butler when the bomb detonated shortly before 3am.

The explosion ripped through the hotel, badly damaging Thatcher's bathroom but leaving the bedroom and sitting room unscathed.

Mr Butler said the Prime Minister's first thought was for her husband, Denis, who was asleep in the next room.

"She opened the door to the bedroom which was in darkness because Denis had been sleeping and you could hear the sounds of falling masonry which turned out to be her bathroom," he said.

"But she and Denis emerged within a few minutes.

"She didn't sort of panic and shake in any way."

The series also highlights Mrs Thatcher's resilience and immediate determination to get back to work at Downing Street, including her shock decision to continue with the Conservative Party conference the morning after the bomb.

In a chilling statement released hours after the attack, the IRA reiterated its threat.

It said: "Today we were unlucky but we only have to be lucky once, you will have to be lucky always, give Ireland peace and there will be no more war."

But Mr Butler told the documentary that the IRA had seriously misjudged Mrs Thatcher if they thought bombing would "daunt her or make her change her policy".

He explained: "I said to her 'you can't be serious this terrible thing has happened and some of your closest colleagues have been killed and badly injured, you're not just to go on with the party conference as if nothing has happened, are you?'

"And she said 'this is our opportunity to show that terrorism can't defeat democracy' and of course she was right."

The Brighton bomb is due to feature in the third episode of the series next Monday night.

Tonight's episode examines her struggles to cling to power as the economy collapses, riots break out and she is subverted by members of her Cabinet.

The next episode of Thatcher: A Very British Revolution airs this evening on BBC Two at 9pm

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