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Absolute Power: Thatcher, Murdoch, the Meeting & the Memo
Written: January-February 2013
Published: 7th February 2013
In the early 1980s an international business man and a UK prime minister held a crucial meeting in secret, then denied it had taken place and spent the next 30 years allowing everyone to believe the untruth.
The business man was Rupert Murdoch. The prime minister was Margaret Thatcher. Despite maintaining the fiction that it hadn't happened, their meeting had long been suspected of having taken place. More than that, the suspicion was that, during the meeting, a deal had been done to allow Rupert Murdoch to bypass a referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) and proceed straight to buying The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers.
Already owning two other national newspapers - The Sun and the News of the World - Rupert Murdoch's bid for The Times would have greatly expanded his UK media holdings to a level where a referral would have been correct and proper. However the government had the power to wave it through, bypassing the MMC. To secure this outcome Rupert needed a meeting with the prime minister. He requested one, and within a few short weeks his bid to take over The Times without triggering a referral to the MMC was approved, after a Cabinet committee meeting in which Margaret Thatcher herself gave a steer to her Trade Secretary that the bid was to be exempted from a referral. All the other bidders for The Times were outmanoeuvred. The meeting of the prime minister and Murdoch was to remain known only inside No. 10:
"In line with your wishes, the attached has not gone outside No. 10,
and is, of course, to be treated 'Commercial - In Confidence'."
~ Press secretary Bernard Ingham's memo recording
Margaret Thatcher's meeting with Rupert Murdoch
That their meeting had indeed been held was confirmed only when a memo by the former prime minister's press secretary, Bernard Ingham, was released into the public domain after 30 years had passed. The release came at a time when the relationships between politicians, the media and the police were already under intense scrutiny - including as part of the Leveson Inquiry, part 1 of which has at the time of writing concluded and part 2 of which is yet to begin - amidst allegations of wrongdoing and corruption.
The deal allowed Rupert not only to enlarge his national and international business empire, but to introduce sweeping changes to the workforce in terms of unions, technology and location - changes, it later turned out, he'd talked about to Margaret Thatcher during their secret meeting.
This all had an echo in the recent relationship between Conservative politicians currently in government and Rupert Murdoch.
In mid-2010 Murdoch attempted a full takeover of BSkyB. Murdoch's company - News Corporation - already owned 39.1 per cent of BSkyB and wanted the remaining 60.9 per cent, i.e. full control of the business. Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat MP and member of the Coalition government, had jurisdiction over Murdoch's bid and had blocked it, but was exposed by an undercover filming sting as fighting a 'war on Mr Murdoch'.
The prime minister, David Cameron, then removed the jurisdiction from Cable, and gave it to a known Murdoch supporter and Conservative MP named Jeremy Hunt. Jeremy then, with the help of the media 'regulator' Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading, did a deal with News Corp to enable Murdoch's takeover bid to proceed without a referral to the Competition Commission, a body which had earlier replaced the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
Later, due to the 'phone hacking' revelations, the takeover bid was withdrawn, although there was scepticism amongst many that the withdrawal was strategic and likely to prove temporary.
Having established this background, let's look at the astrology.
The synastry: Margaret & Rupert's charts compared
First let's look at the birth charts of Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch separately, and after that we'll look at them together to see how they interlink. Here is Margaret's chart wheel:
Margaret Thatcher's birth chart
What I want to draw your eye to first are the planets in Libra: Mars, the Sun, and Mercury. They are located from 9 to 24 degrees.
Secondly, if you look at the polarity of Cancer-Capricorn you will find an opposition between Jupiter and Pluto, both at 14 degrees.
These three Signs - Cancer, Libra, Capricorn - are Cardinal Signs. In Margaret's chart the only Cardinal Sign without any planets in it is Aries.
In Margaret's chart the Jupiter-Pluto opposition across Capricorn-Cancer forms a T-square with the Sun-Mercury-Mars cluster in Libra. If there was a planet or planets in the middle of Aries it would be a Grand Cross.
Keep this in mind as we now turn to Rupert Murdoch's chart:
Rupert Murdoch's birth chart
Here we have Uranus and the Moon's north node in Aries, around 14 degrees.
We also have Jupiter, Pluto and Mars in Cancer, opposite Saturn in Capricorn. The planets in Cancer range from 10 to 27 degrees, and Saturn in Capricorn is at 21 degrees.
Here is a diagram showing these areas of the Zodiac. In each case it is the middle decanate of each of the Cardinal Signs. A decanate is a ten-degree segment of a Sign, there being three ten-degree segments in each sign: the first ten degrees, the second ten degrees, and the third ten degrees. Taken together, all four Cardinal Signs - Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn - form a Grand Cross, like this:
Which is what we have when we put Rupert Murdoch's and Margaret Thatcher's charts together. Rupert provides the missing arm of Margaret's T-square, turning the T-square into a Grand Cross. Or to look at it from the other side of the equation, Margaret Thatcher provides a framework for Rupert Murdoch's Uranus-node conjunction to slot into, a pre-existing dynamic to play a role in.
Now that we've got the technical foundation laid, I'll say something about what I think these placements and configurations mean.
Inner wheel: Margaret Thatcher's birth chart
Outer wheel: Rupert Murdoch's birth chart
Let's begin with the connections between Jupiter and Pluto, both within the two birth charts and between the two birth charts. These two planets are about wealth and power. They symbolise the desire to better a situation (Jupiter), and the desire to tear down something from the past and rebuild it in a new form (Pluto). Because they are in aspect, they combine these two motivations. Clearly there are destructive and constructive ways to express such combined drives.
In Margaret's chart Jupiter and Pluto are directly opposite one another, showing that there is a tension between what these two planets symbolise, and a need to come to terms with that tension. Margaret became famous for desiring to increase the United Kingdom's wealth through bringing profound changes in economics, finance, capitalism, labour and industry, however she provoked - and still provokes - both great admiration and great hatred for the changes she wrought and the way she went about introducing and enforcing them.
The opposition being in the Cancer-Capricorn polarity shows the tension between home and family on the one hand and business on the other. It also shows a fundamental tension between human feeling and disciplined ambition, which has been writ large in the country ever since what has become known as the Thatcher era.
In Rupert's chart Jupiter and Pluto are widely conjunct one another and placed in the Sign Cancer, symbolising the linking of wealth and power with kinship and family inheritance. One of the ways in which this is expressed in Rupert's life is through his family dynasty: his father was a newspaper entrepreneur and his children are part and parcel of his business empire.
If you halve the distance between Rupert's Jupiter and Pluto you arrive at what is called the Jupiter/Pluto midpoint. A technical word about midpoints: there are always two midpoints, the foremost being the one measured along the shortest arc of the circle, which in this case is at 14 degrees Cancer. The other midpoint is measured along the longest arc of the circle, and is always exactly 180 degrees from the foremost midpoint. Hence:-
Margaret Thatcher's Jupiter-Pluto opposition is on these midpoints. In fact, it's almost exactly on them:
But there is a further dimension to the pairing of Jupiter and Pluto, which is this: the ethics of power, and the morality of wealth. It is this which Margaret's opposition represents a struggle with, and that struggle was externalised into the entire United Kingdom during her leadership, and which in turn formed her legacy to the nation and its people. Because Rupert Murdoch played a role in it, as Margaret Thatcher played a role in the expansion of Rupert's influence and wealth, it is not surprising that it came back into the limelight during the 'phone hacking' scandal, and it is doubly interesting that it is happening near to Margaret's Saturn Return (transiting Saturn is now in Scorpio). Rupert's Uranus linking with Margaret's T-square symbolises their combined risk-taking, rule-breaking energy, the drive to act boldly, inventively and competitively, yet defiantly, shockingly and even autocratically.
Now let's look at the chart for their long-denied meeting in the early 1980s, and see how the positions of the planets at that time linked with the charts of Rupert and Margaret.
The meeting at Chequers
Below is the chart for the meeting of Margaret and Rupert at Chequers, which is the official country residence of the UK's prime ministers whilst they are in office. Chequers is located at Ellesborough, which is near Wendover and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. The meeting took place on the 4th of January 1981.
The chart is cast for 1pm. We know from Margaret Thatcher's published appointments diary that the meeting was scheduled for this time, although there is no record of the actual moment they met. Because of this uncertainty we need to be cautious about house cusps.
Chart for the meeting at Chequers of Rupert Murdoch & Margaret Thatcher
Scheduled for 1pm, 4th January 1981
Chequers, Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, UK
Longitude 0º W 46' 55'' - Latitude 51º N 44' 36''
Hopefully your eye has gone straight to the middle of the Cardinal Signs, where we can see that there is a Sun-Mercury conjunction in Capricorn and a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Libra. The Sun is at 14 degrees 03 minutes Capricorn so is in the same degree as Margaret Thatcher's Jupiter and on Rupert Murdoch's Jupiter/Pluto midpoint. It is also directly opposite Margaret's Pluto. Mercury represents deal-making and trading, and its presence close to the Sun in Capricorn emphasises these business activities.
The Jupiter-Saturn conjunction is pivotal. Not only is it in the same degree as Margaret's Mars, it is square Rupert's Jupiter. Jupiter and Saturn as a pair are 'the Great Chronocrators', seen as having key relevance in the great changes of societies and the ushering in of new eras. They are also important business planets, representing the pillars of growth and stability which are so central to the economic model and industrial aims of capitalist systems. So this meeting came at an astrologically critical time for society as well as for Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch personally, since they were themselves both so attuned to pursuing their goals for 'wealth creation', and for altering business, industry and labour organisation.
The chart also contains a wide conjunction of Jupiter and Pluto, further echoing the birth charts of Rupert and Margaret. Rupert and Margaret both resonate to the Jupiter-Pluto pair because they were born at key moments in its cycle: the conjunction and the opposition.
You may have also noticed that Rupert's Moon is at 24 Sagittarius and Margaret's Mercury is in sextile to it, at nearly 24 degrees Libra. At the Chequers meeting the transiting Neptune-Pluto sextile was almost exactly at these same degrees. The sextile between Neptune and Pluto lasted many, many years and was, in fact, an epochal aspect, flavouring much of the 20th century. Rupert and Margaret expressed this through their personal thoughts (Mercury) and instincts (Moon), and their ideologies and trade deals (Moon and Mercury).
News International buys The Times & The Sunday Times
It wasn't long after the Chequers meeting that Rupert Murdoch's bid proved successful: the meeting in Buckinghamshire was on the 4th of January and the News International takeover of ownership took effect on the 12th-13th of February (see below). Inbetween those dates, it was reported on the 22nd of January that Rupert Murdoch had threatened to withdraw his bid if the takeover was to be referred to the MMC, and on the 26th of January the UK's government had arranged for there to be no referral to the MMC.
At the start of January when Rupert and Margaret met, Jupiter and Saturn weren't far from stopping and turning retrograde, so by the time Murdoch took ownership of the two newspapers - The Times, and The Sunday Times - the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction was still in the same degree.
Web sources differ in the date they give for the takeover - the BBC News web site states the 12th, whereas the NI Group web site states the 13th - therefore the chart for this moment has been calculated for midnight on the 13th as the midway point in the two 24-hour periods. Consequently in the chart that follows the place of the Moon and the house cusps ought not to be used.
Rupert Murdoch's News International takes over
The Times & The Sunday Times newspapers,
12th-13th February 1981, London, UK
Note that the Neptune-Pluto sextile is almost exact, and that Neptune is half-way between the Sun and Pluto. Neptune is on the nearer midpoint of Sun/Pluto and is in sextile to them both, whilst a trine is being formed by the Sun and Pluto. The Sun is also square Uranus, and at some point during these two days the Moon briefly made the Sun-Uranus square into a T-square. If you look at the position of Venus and compare it to Rupert's chart, you'll see that he had just experienced his Venus Return. A Venus Return is when transiting Venus returns to the same place it occupies at a person's birth. This is apt symbolism for Rupert purchasing something deeply valuable and coveted.
The release of the memo
Fast-forward to the start of 2012 and the Murdoch family dynasty is in trouble, with the reputation of Rupert's business empire taking a severe knocking. Then the memo is released, proving that the prime minister met Rupert at a critical moment in his takeover attempt. Here is the chart for the release of the memo, calculated for 6am in the absence of more precise information:
Chart for the release of the memo
17th March 2012, Cambridge, UK
The most obvious transit is Pluto's - at 9 degrees of a Cardinal Sign, transiting Pluto is in square to the 1981 Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, directly opposite Rupert's Jupiter, closely square to Margaret's Mars, approaching aspects with her natal Jupiter and Pluto, and so on.
It is also interesting to a note a resonance throughout the charts with the 24-28 degree area of the Cardinal Signs:
Inner wheel: Inception chart for The Universal Daily Register
Outer wheel: Chart for its change of name to The Times
Note too that in the chart for the founding of The Universal Daily Register - which is what the newspaper began as in 1785, before changing its name in 1788 to 'The Times' - the middle of the Cardinal Signs is also emphasised, particularly by the almost-exact square of Uranus and Neptune at 14 degrees 31 minutes Cancer and 14 degrees 33 minutes Libra respectively.
Now we come to the final charts in this article.
Power & corruption: John Dalberg-Acton's insight
The theme of this article has been the seeking of power and the reluctance of those who seek to increase their power to agree or accept that their power should be limited. This topic of ethics and increase of power is linked with the Jupiter-Pluto cycle, and its complement can be found in the Saturn-Pluto cycle.
The Saturn-Pluto pair symbolises the corruption of power, and therefore the need to be cautious in relation to power - who gets it, how much of it they have, and how it can be limited effectively.
A Briton named John Dalberg-Acton coined the well-known (though slightly misquoted) phrase 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' It comes from a letter he wrote to a bishop and fellow historian named Mandell Creighton in 1887. He was not the only one to hold such a view - indeed there were others, and he himself was influenced by the beliefs of his mentor - however it is his wording that has been retained in our culture ever since:
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."
Despite this being his most famous way of stating it, it was an insight he returned to and phrased in various forms:
"Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power."
“Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.”
“Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited."
“The central idea of Machiavelli is that the state power is not bound by the moral law. The law is not above the state, but below it.”
We know the date and place of John's birth but not the time, so here is his chart calculated for midday and with the house cusps removed. Please be careful when considering the Moon's position as it could be up to 6 degrees either side of that shown; we cannot even be certain that it is in Capricorn.
Birth chart of John Dalberg-Acton
Irrespective of whether or not the Moon is in Capricorn, there is a cluster of planets in that Sign: the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Neptune, all of which place the focus on issues of authority, responsibility, accountability and judgement. It also means that Saturn - the ruler of Capricorn and Aquarius - is the 'dispositor' (a planet which has a say over and bearing on) of all those planets.
If we look at how Saturn is configured in this chart we see straight away that it is making a very close opposition with Pluto: Saturn is in Libra at 10 degrees 41 minutes and Pluto is in Aries at 10 degrees 47 minutes. Traditionally it is held that Saturn is exalted in Libra, so this is a Saturn which is more likely to keep a sensible check on Pluto's extremes, and a Saturn which is inclined to weigh the scales of justice.
Given what's been said above about the Jupiter-Pluto pairing, it's interesting that Jupiter has been conjunct Pluto and opposite Saturn but is separating from both of those aspects. At John's birth Saturn was applying to the opposition with Pluto but stopped before it became exact, then turned and went backwards through the Zodiac degrees. Something about this seems fitting for a person who had so much to say about limiting absolute power, absolute power being well symbolised by Pluto and Jupiter in Aries.
This next chart is for the date when Dalberg-Acton wrote his now-famous phrase about absolute power and corruption. Because the time of writing is unknown the chart has been reckoned for midday, hence the usual cautions about the Moon's position apply and the house cusps have been taken out of the diagram:
Chart for the day of writing of John Dalberg-Acton's letter
to Mandell Creighton - 4th April 1887, Aldenham, UK
And there is transiting Uranus - the malcontent, the stimulator, the creative inventor, the reformer, the agitator, the upsetter, the iconoclast, the utterer of striking thoughts - at 10 degrees 15 minutes Libra, almost exactly conjunct John's Saturn and opposite his Pluto.
At the time of writing this article transiting Pluto is still lingering around 10 degrees Capricorn, in square to John's natal Saturn-Pluto opposition and the position of transiting Uranus in April 1887. Transiting Uranus reaches the same degree of Aries later this year and next, which will place it directly opposite its 1887 position. With the UK's natal Sun at 10 degrees Capricorn and its Ascendant-Descendant axis near the same degrees of Libra-Aries, it seems to me to be a good time to revisit John Dalberg-Acton's insight, and benefit from it.
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Churchill College, Cambridge - archives centre - The Thatcher Papers
Bernard Ingham (Press Secretary) Memo - at the website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation
"Ingham minute for MT ("Note for the Record") ["Rupert Murdoch Lunch"]"
Margaret Thatcher's Engagement Diary (schedule/appointments data)
"1300 Lunch with Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Ingham +DT"
[Note: DT = Dennis Thatcher, Margaret's husband]
Leveson Inquiry - official website
Guardian newspaper article: 'Murdoch did meet Thatcher before Times takeover, memo reveals'
Guardian newspaper article: 'Evans on the Murdoch-Thatcher secret meeting: it was so squalid'
Guardian newspaper article: 'News Corp needs all of BSkyB'
Independent newspaper article: 'Hunt set to give go-ahead to BSkyB deal next week'
Telegraph newspaper article: 'Vince Cable: transcript of his meeting with reporters'
'News International 'bullied Liberal Democrats over BSkyB bid''
BBC News: 'News Corp withdraws bid for BSkyB'
BBC website: On This Day in 1981: 'Murdoch bids to take over Times'
"Rupert Murdoch was formally confirmed as the new owner of The Times and Sunday Times on 12 February 1981 after reaching agreement with the unions."
News International - official website - 'NI History'
"13th February 1981
Rupert Murdoch buys Times Newspapers Limited."
Acton Institute for the study of religion and liberty - bio of John Dalberg-Acton
The Online Library of Liberty - 'Acton on Moral Judgements in History'
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