Sir John Swan, George H.W Bush On Thatcher

April 9, 2013

Stressing the importance of the Western allies to stay “in close touch in these times of dramatic change in Europe”, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met with US President George H.W. Bush at a Bermuda “Big Two” summit conference in April, 1990 to discuss the ongoing implosion of the Soviet Union.

Baroness Thatcher, who served as Britain’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, died yesterday [Apr.8] in London following a stroke. She was 87.

The Bermuda conference was held against a geopolitical backdrop of unprecedented upheaval in the crumbling Soviet empire.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s twin policies of perestroika and glasnost had introduced liberal reforms to the former USSR and its East Bloc allies in the late 1980s and led to a series of popular uprisings against de facto Soviet rule in Moscow’s East European satellite states. The Soviet Union would ultimately collapse in 1991 following another year of turmoil.

During the flight from Washington DC to Bermuda, President Bush — who had succeeded the British Prime Minister’s longtime ally Ronald Reagan as US President in 1989 — told reporters on Air Force One that Mrs. Thatcher had “a clear view of the reality of the world.”

The Good Friday Bermuda summit was marked by pomp and pageantry — both world leaders reviewed a Bermuda Regiment honour guard at Government House, the site of the meeting.

And both Mrs. Thatcher and President Bush took time off from their talks to participate in a kite-flying competition in front of Government House with Bermudian schoolchildren [seen below] — an inspired photo opportunity which sent images of the local Easter tradition around the world.

Bermuda Summit

“Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn of Baroness Thatcher’s passing, and extend our heartfelt condolences to her children and loved ones,” the former US President said in a statement yesterday. “Margaret was, to be sure, one of the 20th Century’s fiercest advocates of freedom and free markets — a leader of rare character who carried high the banner of her convictions, and whose principles in the end helped shape a better, freer world.

“The personal grief we Bushes feel is compounded by the knowledge that America has lost one of the staunchest allies we have ever known; and yet we have confidence that her sterling record of accomplishment will inspire future generations. May God bless the memory of Margaret Thatcher.”

Sir John Swan — who served as Bermuda’s Premier from 1982 to 1995 — had personally encouraged the British and American leaders to resuscitate the local “Big Two” talks.

Beginning in the 1950s Bermuda had been the scene of semi-regular summit meetings between US Presidents and British leaders as they pursued the post-World War Two Anglo-American “Special Relationship” but the tradition had fallen into abeyance after the December, 1971 talks held by Richard Nixon and Edward Heath.

Sir John — who had become a friend of George H.W. Bush while he served as Ronald Reagan’s Vice-President between 1981 and 1988 — had suggested it was time to revive the custom of using Bermuda as a venue for “Big Two” summits given the island’s mid-Atlantic position and its longstanding historical and cultural ties to both countries.

Sir John Swan, President Reagan, Vice-President Bush & National Security Advisor Colin Powell in 1981 


Mrs. Thatcher — who in the 1980s had given Sir John leeway to negotiate the US-Bermuda tax treaty free of British diplomatic supervision — said that historic accord had laid the foundation for the island’s phenomenal success as an off-shore business domicile.

“My personal memories are that she was a woman of strong self-determination and very great intellectual capacity,” he said in a statement yesterday. ““She was a no-nonsense person, but one who had a heart and a head. She developed a warm affection for people who wanted to do right for their country.

“She bonded well with the Americans, which helped Bermuda a lot. I have nothing but praise for all aspects of what she offered us.”

In 2001 Baroness Thatcher returned to Bermuda as a guest of Sir John’s to address a meeting of local corporate and political leaders he organised at the Fourways Inn in Paget.

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  1. Former Bermuda Governor On Thatcher’s Legacy | | April 9, 2013
  1. No longer a member says:

    Sir John, I never voted for you people back then, but looking back at what was done under the UBP government under your direction, we need to thank you for your hard work. I voted PLP and now regret what I helped to cause, please help this new party to bring Bermuda back to those better days.