Cover the best of enemies
The tempestuous years of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. An insider’s account of the rivalries and battles that eventually brought down the Conservative government.
The Best of Enemies is the political diaries of Norman Fowler, one of the most significant politicians of the late twentieth century. Covering the entire Thatcher/Major era – from the former’s election in 1979 to the latter’s defeat in 1997 – during which time Fowler held prominent positions in the Cabinet. As Transport Secretary he was responsible for making seat belts compulsory and later, as Health Secretary, he worked to draw public attention to the dangers of Aids. He was Chairman of the party from 1992–94.

His diaries observe both Prime Ministers, and their Cabinet colleagues, at close quarters and Fowler brings his training as a journalist to bear on them. The diaries are full of insights and anecdotes and they resonate powerfully with the situation facing the Conservative Party today, including industrial strife, waning authority and a Labour Party looking like a government in waiting.

The entries raise other issues that remain unresolved. They range from the effect that a minister’s private sexual conduct should have on their career to whether an entirely ‘hands-off’ approach to industrial strategy is in the national interest.

Fowler’s diaries provide a ringside seat to the struggles of their time. These are not the diaries of an ex-minister seeking to justify their own record. They are the story of how two Prime Ministers rose and fell and caused their party to split apart, told by someone who was there.


‘‘An important insight into the Thatcher and Major years that saw great success and lasting reforms. They were brought to an end by internal strife and party battles. A book by someone who lived through it all.’’

Kenneth Clarke, Lord Clarke of Nottingham, Former Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer

“I really enjoyed this – highly perceptive, outspoken when it was needed, very readable.’’

George Young, Lord Young of Cookham. Former Leader of the House of Commons

‘‘Norman Fowler was a close witness to a crucial period in the history of the modern Conservative Party. His diaries are an essential study for anyone seeking an intelligent insider’s perspective on the events of the Thatcher and Major years.’’

Simon Heffer, historian, author and columnist

‘‘Norman Fowler paints a vivid picture of the prejudice and ignorance that stood in the way of politicians making progress in the early years of the Aids epidemic. He continues to this day to be an inspirational campaigner against the stigma faced by people living with and at risk of HIV across the world.’’

Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of The United Nations

“Fowler comes across as a balanced man in an age when the Conservative Party is becoming dangerously short of them.”

Robin Oakley, Literary Review

“A fascinating read … Fowler adds his own reflections before each chapter making him a historian of his own experience.”

Gordon Rayner, Sunday Telegraph Magazine

“Ambitious young politicans have much to learn from these diaries.”

The House

“Well written and honest.”

John Rentoul, The Independent
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  • Hardback, 592 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785908156
  • 14 November 2023
  • £25.00
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  • ISBN: 9781785908439
  • 14 November 2023
  • £19.99
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