Sandy Hollway is a former senior public servant and diplomat, and was CEO of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

From my time working for Prime Minister Bob Hawke as Chief of Staff and as the head of International Division in the Prime Minister's Department, two memories of Margaret Thatcher leap to mind.

The first was a dinner at Downing St where Mr Hawke had a difficult diplomatic line to walk in his after-dinner speech between courtesy and respect for Mrs Thatcher, on the one hand, and his well-known differences of view with her on important domestic and international issues on the other hand. 

I was seated next to British Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who turned to me and said 'You just watch how Margaret flirts with Bob', something which seemed to me highly unlikely. But, viewed from a distance, I must say that as the dinner progressed Kinnock looked to be fairly correct.

In any event, when the time came for speeches, Bob went a lot easier in his criticisms than Kinnock would have wished, and he had some fairly strong words to say to me. I guess he put it down to Mrs Thatcher's skilled tactical flirting. Personally, of course, I put it down to our Prime Minister's impeccable judgment of what was appropriate to the occasion.

The second memory is of the debate between these two formidable people over the issue of apartheid in South Africa through the series of Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings in this period. It was the big issue which dominated these forums for years, and one of the few on which the makeup of the Commonwealth gave it a role of real significance.

Hawke and Thatcher were the leading champions for two very different viewpoints about the role of sanctions and pressure in achieving change. It was a diplomatic rolling maul of an intensity and duration which I have not seen before or since, and I confess to sometimes wondering whether it was one which they each enjoyed: very tough, very blunt, very strongly felt on both sides, but never nasty. It may also be one of the clearest cases of Mrs Thatcher being on the wrong side of history.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.