Behind every successful politician campaigning to be Britain's Prime Minister, there is a woman. She is Bonnie Angelo, TIME's London bureau chief, who in recent weeks has seldom been more than a few steps behind Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Party leader whose triumph in England's election is the subject of this week's cover story. Angelo spent 20 years dogging U.S. politicians as a correspondent in Washington before moving to London last year, and has since trailed Thatcher from Newcastle to Gravesend. "Thatcher is not like any candidate I've ever seen," says Angelo. "She is Barry Goldwater played by Pat Nixona tough, uncompromising politician in a meticulously ladylike package."
When Angelo wanted to follow Prime Minister James Callaghan's Labor Party campaign for a while, she would trade places with TIME's men on the bus: veteran Correspondents Erik Amfitheatrof, Frank Melville and Arthur White. Amfitheatrof, who covered the 1976 Italian general election as a TIME correspondent in Rome and has reported on the sometimes unruly politics of Africa and the Mediterranean, was delighted to find this campaign unmistakably British. He recalls watching Callaghan at a whistlestop, a cup of tea in his hand, plunging into the crowd and politely imploring them: "Forgive me for having my lunch as I go along."
The civility of British elections is nothing new to Melville, who has covered six of them in his 20 years in London. This time he was struck by Thatcher's use of media events, photo opportunities and other elements of what he calls "American-style razzmatazz." "But I don't think it made an iota of difference to the result," he says. "She won on the issues and a widespread feeling that it was time for a change."
White, who returned to London last year after 27 years of TIME assignments in half a dozen capitals, found that British campaigns had hardly changed since he covered them for the Associated Press. White was with Foreign Secretary David Owen when that Labor candidate for a parliamentary seat in Plymouth, Devon, pumped constituents' hands on the historic quay where, on Sept. 6, 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World. Owen, reports White, drew fewer bystanders than did the nearby Mayflower memorial plaque. "After all," says White, "it's the tourist season here too."