Prank recording of ‘row’ with Reagan almost sparked incident

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
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A misjudged prank recording which appeared to show US president Ronald Reagan at odds with Margaret Thatcher almost sparked an international incident, confidential documents have revealed.

The tape, supposedly a recording of President Reagan and the then prime minister arguing over the progress of the Falklands War, was sent to a number of Dutch newspapers during the 1983 British general election.

Submitted anonymously, a transcript claimed the president urged Mrs Thatcher “to control yourself”, to which the Iron Lady responded: “We have to use violence (on Argentina). At this moment it is being used to punish them as quickly as possible.”

The staccato exchange allegedly began: “R: I urge you to control yourself. That’s absolutely necessary, for otherwise the area will be devastated.

“T: Listen, our goals are completely different.

“R: Why was the Belgrano destroyed? You gave the orders to do it. The Argentines were leaving at the time.”

The audio and attached letter were handed to the authorities and dismissed as a forgery.

Contemporary reports credited the work to punk-rock band Crass, but, according to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) documents released yesterday, the government feared more subversive forces were at play.

In one letter, sent by an FCO adviser to Mrs Thatcher, MI6 considered blaming the Soviet Union, Argentine secret services and left-wing radicals.