Maggie's Militant Tendency

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Maggie's Militant Tendency was an episode of the BBC current affairs programme Panorama, which was broadcast on 30 January 1984. [1] The programme, which was based on an official investigation by the Conservative Party, detailed infiltration of the Tory party by right-wing extremists and provoked a furious reaction from the Tory right-wing.

The chairman of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Ralph Harris, raised around £100,000 for the right-wing Conservative MP Neil Hamilton to bring a libel action against the BBC. Lord Harris said: 'I remember at the time Neil came to me and raised the question of financing the libel action. I managed to raise around £100,000, enabling Neil at the time to go after the BBC.' [2] A major donor to the fund was the right-wing financier Sir James Goldsmith. [3] The case came to the High Court in October 1986 and the BBC subsequently settled. [4] According to the BBC Director-General Alasdair Milne the BBC settled because he was instructed to by the Governors, costing the BBC £50,000 in damages and £250,000 in costs. [5] This was followed by a Commons motion signed by 100 Tory MPs calling on the DG to resign. [6]


  1. BFI Film & TV Database, Maggie's Militant Tendency
  2. quoted in Kim Sengupta, 'The Hamilton Affair: The cost - Right-wing donors united by their loathing of Fayed', Independent, 22 December 1999
  3. Patricia Wynn Davies, 'The Cash-for-Questions Affair: The miners' grandson who found a niche in the right', Independent, 21 October 1994; p.3
  4. Tom O'Malley, Closedown? (Pluto Press, 1994), p.61
  5. Knives are out for the BBC bosses, Independent, 9 January 2006
  6. Tom O'Malley, Closedown? (Pluto Press, 1994), p.61