Thirty years ago, at 2.54 am on 12 October 1984, an IRA-planted bomb ripped through the Grand Hotel on the seafront at Brighton, designed to kill the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet. Conservative ministers, MPs, and activists were in Brighton for that year’s party conference and a timed explosive device had been placed under the bath in a room above the one in which Thatcher was staying. The explosion tore a fissure in the front of the hotel several stories high.
Five people were killed in what has been described as ‘the most audacious attack on a British government since the Gunpowder Plot’ and many others were injured. 1 With characteristic defiance the Prime Minister opened proceedings at the conference at 9.30 the next morning. Her speech later in the day referred to the events of the previous night:
‘The bomb attack on the Grand Hotel early this morning was first and foremost an inhuman, undiscriminating attempt to massacre innocent unsuspecting men and women staying in Brighton for our Conservative Conference. Our first thoughts must at once be for those who died and for those who are now in hospital recovering from their injuries. But the bomb attack clearly signified more than this. It was an attempt not only to disrupt and terminate our Conference; It was an attempt to cripple Her Majesty’s democratically-elected Government. That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now—shocked, but composed and determined—is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.’
- 1. Sir Anthony Berry (MP for Enfield and Southgate); Eric Taylor (North West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party); Lady Jeanne Shattock (wife of the South-West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party, Sir Gordon Shattock); Lady Muriel Maclean (wife of Sir Donald Maclean, the President of the Scottish Conservatives); and Roberta Wakeham (wife of Chief Whip John Wakeham) were killed. The injured included Norman Tebbit, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and his wife, Margaret, who suffered spinal injuries and has lived with paralysis since. ^