The Thatchergate Tapes

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In 1983 Crass produced a recording purporting to carry details of a secret telephone conversation between Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan. The conversation was produced by going through many hours of recordings of Thatcher and Reagan and splicing them together to make a plausible though low fi  personal phone conversation between Thatcher and Reagan discussing the the sinking of the Argentinian ship Belgrano and exocet missile strike on the British ship HMS Sheffield

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From The story of Crass                                                                                                    After they’d recorded ‘Sheep Farming’, with Eve’s sparkling imper- sonation of Thatcher, an idea took seed. “She sounded so much like Thatcher,” remarks Penny Rimbaud, “without even trying that hard. So the initial idea was that we should get an actor who sounds like Reagan.” Crass knew an American actor, John Sharian – perhaps best know for his role as the replacement robot in Red Dwarf – and per- suaded him to record a ‘dialogue’ with Eve as Thatcher.

Pete suggested he tried to do it as an edit. In those pre-digital days, this was a mammoth task of physically cutting and re-assembling tapes of speeches, word by word. “It was the most extraordinary piece of editing I’ve everseen,”remarksRimbaud,“but obviously the sort of stuff the KGB were up to all the time, because that’s what the Pentagon thought it was.

“The tape was done in absolute secrecy at Southern.We worked with one engineer – the tapes were taken to his house every night and stuck away. No-one knew about them . . . it was quite a dodgy thing to be doing really.”

When it was completed, Pete went off to Europe to distribute the tape in the most anonymous way possible and nothing more was heard.

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Letters released in 2014  by the National Archive on the Crass Regan – Thatcher tapes

Penny recalls in Vice magazine

THATCHERGATE
We wanted to come up with something which might get rid of Thatcher. It was just after the Falklands charade, when she was about to get re-elected. We were told something we knew could seriously dent the Thatcher Empire. Allegedly, the Navy had allowed HMS Sheffield to be blown out of the water by not informing them that an incoming Exocet missile had been picked up on the radar. The other three boats in the grouping were informed and took defensive action. Why? Because one of the ships was the Invincible and on board was Prince Andrew. Given that the information was classified, we decided the only way to make it public was to fake a telephone conversation between Thatcher and Reagan. We edited bits and pieces from speeches made by the two of them, creating a conversation which included all the details of the Sheffield. We then sent out tapes to all the major European newspapers, but nothing happened. Thatcher was re-elected, but then, six months down the line, the US State Department announced that they were in possession of KGB tapes “produced to destroy democracy as we know it”. It soon became obvious that it was our tape they were talking about. It was frightening. A bunch of anarchist jokers sparking off a world war? Anyway, the same KGB story eventually broke in the British press and it wasn’t long before The Observer got in touch with us, asking whether we knew anything about the tapes. It was unbelievable. The whole operation had been carried out in absolute secrecy, but somehow or other they’d managed to pin it onto us. After a gruelling day of negotiations, we agreed to admit responsibility if they would print the Sheffield details in their article, which, true to their word, they did. We did our best to expose the story but even now it’s an issue which has never really been given full and proper investigation.

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