When I was old enought to vote, I voted for Thatcher, whether you prefaced her name with Mrs, Margaret, Maggie or another less savoury term. It was 1983, I was 20 years old and we had just ‘won’ the Falklands War. Spirits were temporarily high, or at least they were for a naive 20 year old, and the alternatives were Michael Foot’s Labour party or the emerging Social Democratic Party who were allied with the Liberals (The Alliance). Labour was too lame to mention and The Alliance were ‘too new’. But as time went on even those who voted for her began to have some doubts.
We had experienced the violent inner city riots of 1981, and then the miners’ strike of 1984 saw even more violence not only between the police and strikers, but between workers and families from the same pit villages and towns. It was a divisive piece of British history and you can’t help thinking that Mrs T loved every minute of it. A decade before, the whole country suffered power cuts caused by striking miners and most of the people had had enough. This was her revenge for that action and her sworn intention to smash the power of the unions. No matter what ideology you follow, if you do, and I don’t happen to follow a left or right wing mantra, when the leader and Government of the country is waging war on some of its people, that can’t be an enlightened thing. Thatcher thought she was Churchill, trouble was the unions were not the equivalent of the Nazi party and Arthur Scargill was not Mr Hitler.
So when it was that I heard about the release of ‘The Iron Lady’ I decided that I needed to see it and managed to view via an advanced screening. A film made about a living ‘legend’ (love her or hate her) is a rare thing. Normally these thing happen after the protagonist’s life on earth. Pre release hype and trailers suggested it was all going to be sabre rattling and gung ho attacks on conscripted Argentine troops. Some right wing commentators exclaimed theie sheer unbridled frenzy at the prospect of this homage to a true Brit. I suspect that when they seee the film, they will be somewhat disappointed.
Meryl Streep performance as the Iron Lady herself is nothing short of amazing. I can remember the Thatcher manner. That clipped middle class, slightly patronising drawl, those stone cold eyes that would cut through tungsten, the bouffant, the upmarket WI style battledress and an unflinching self-belief. Amazing. And equally amazing was her portrayl of Mrs T as an octogenarian suffering from Alzheimers, sometimes there, often not, but clearly wrestling with a sense of confusion about what she had actually achieved and whether her husband, Dennis, brilliantly played by Jim Broadbent, was there or not. He had actually died some years before and was a ghost masquerading as a fool in a wonderfully Shakespearian way.
Being ‘of the time’ I found the whole film thoroughly entertaining, but I suspect to those that did not live through her ‘reign’, those too young to remember, will find it pretty dull. Expect outcries from The Daily Mail at least. As many have said it was light on politics and heavy on her personal struggles against men, her children, the Conservative Party, the Common Market (now the EU), any foreign leader bar Ronald Reagan and General Pinochet, Unions, political foes, members of her own Cabinet, TV pundits, Socialists, Liberals, the world.
In the end she became the very image of the puppet that messrs Luck and Flaw had cast her in Spitting Image. The first woman leader of a Western nation left us with many legacies, less council houses, more people owning property (ie having mortgages and paying huge interest on their loans) less union power, a Poll Tax that came and went, a decimation of’ non performing’ state owned industries, a free market, foreign owned utility companies, a share holding middle class, few manufacturing industries, a de-regulated City of London, Yuppies, Harry Enfield’s Loadsa Money, power dressing, and the biggest division of the people in Britain since the English Civil War.
I told you that I voted for her. I did. I was 20 years old and had been brought up to feel ashamed of Britain in decay. By the time of the next election in 1987, which she won again with a landslide, I had given up bothering. The two party sysytem would never deliver national progression in my view and I certainly did not want her back. I did not vote again until 1997 and that was for (New) Labour. in 2010 I decided to go for the Lib Dems and look what happened. In the end though, comedy can always help one ascend the Slough of Despond. Enjoy these 2 clips if you get time
And don’t expect the same barrel of laughs within The Iron Lady. Love her or hate her, Mrs ‘there’s no such thing as society’ Thatcher definitely brought the extremist tendencies out in all of us British people. Not many do that. And thank god we don’t get lary too often, it only leads to tears and misery.