Margaret Thatcher was actually awake, working on her speech to conference the following day, when an IRA bomb went off at the Grand Hotel in Brighton at 2.54am on 12 October 1984. The intention was to assassinate the prime minister and her government as they gathered for their party conference. Five people died, included the Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry; 34 others were injured.
Thatcher and her husband, Denis, escaped unhurt. Living up to her “Iron Lady” reputation, she gave an impromptu interview to the BBC at around 4am, as she was escorted from the building, in which she insisted that the conference would go ahead as usual. Marks & Spencer was persuaded to open early to allow those who had lost their clothes in the blast to get new ones, and the conference went ahead at 9.30am as scheduled.
She rewrote her speech and delivered an impassioned and heavily revised version on 12 October, the day before her 59th birthday. Her defiant delivery received a rapturous reception in the conference hall, and a poll that month found her personal approval rating up from 40 per cent to 50 per cent. The Tory lead over Labour grew from 1 per cent to 12 per cent.
Her defiant message was thus:
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 will fail.