CAMDEN New Journal books editor Illtyd Harrington could fairly be described as one of Margaret Thatcher’s bete noirs. The two quarrelled muchly until she wound up the Greater London Council, of which Illtyd used to chair.
Many years later they set upon each other by chance in an amusing sliding doors lift scene in Venice of all places.
In 2005, Illtyd was on holiday in Italy and visiting the city’s municipal museum. He pressed a button to call a lift and when it came and the doors opened, there the Baroness was, staring back at him. Unfazed – it takes a lot to faze Illtyd – he said: “You look awfully like Lady Thatcher”. To which she replied: “I am”. The doors closed. Illtyd then called for another lift but the doors opened again.
“Oh, it’s you again, is it?”, Lady Thatcher said.
Illtyd: “I assume you’re here for the socialist May Day festival?
Thatcher: “I certainly am not.”
The doors closed again – and I think their conversation through an opening and shutting lift door in Venice may have been the last time he saw her. Their battles had been a heavy part of London’s political story in the 1980s.