Under the thirty-year rule, newly-released Cabinet Papers from 1984 reveal for the first time new details about the government’s assessment of what became known as the ‘Thatchergate tapes’: the hoax tape collage of conversations between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan produced by Crass.
Until investigative journalists were able to identify Crass as the source of the fake, security services in the US, UK and Europe attempted to assess the provenance and credibility of the recorded conversation – which ranged over issues such as the Falklands War, the accelerating European nuclear arms race, UK-US relations and more besides. Although the agencies were able to confirm fairly quickly that the tape was a fake, the political issues highlighted through the fabricated conversation between the two leaders (in a dialogue that managed to be grotesque, alarming and deeply subversive at the same time) did reverberate in the media and political circles; and were again thrust into the spotlight when Crass’s authorship was confirmed.
Papers released include the anonymous ‘press release’ sent out to the media by Crass with copies of the tape; security service assessments; correspondence between civil servant offices; transcripts of the recording; documents matching fragments from the tape to their source recordings; and more besides.
The released papers do not contain any dramatic game-changing revelations about the government’s response to the Thatchergate tapes, but do provide a lot of interesting detail on the state’s efforts to make sense of the recording; and do show (notwithstanding the possible existence of more significant redacted official documents) that the amateur home-recording was certainly not dismissed out-of-hand by state authorities, who were clearly keen to restrict the supply of the ‘oxygen of publicity’ to it.
>>> Download the documents from the National Archive site (link now returns a 404 error)
EDIT – 23 December 2014: The free preview of the file has now been withdrawn from the National Archives site. There is now a standard catalogue entry for the file, which shows as being available to freely consult on the premises of the National Archives; or through paid-for digital download (£3.30). There is a preview image browse facility, but the scans are “intentionally distorted”, so as not to make the contents freely downloadable.
Penny Rimbaud was interviewed on UK Confidential on BBC Radio Four (3 January 2014) about the released papers.