I’ve just got back from watching The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as Lady Thatcher. Streep is beyond good and is close to perfection in her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. She is worthy of an Oscar for Best Actress, which undoubtedly she will get later this year.
If you want to go to and see The Iron Lady for an accurate biopic of Thatcher’s time as Britain’s first and only female prime minister then you will be disappointed. But it is still an excellent production which is basically an emotional love story between her and Denis Thatcher, mostly through hallucinations which the writers perceive is one of Lady Thatcher’s dementia symptoms. It is very sad in places and reminds us all to enjoy our lives before old age catches up with us.
The political aspects of The Iron Lady are scenes of very good acting but show the writers’ poor grasp of history. It constantly comes across as a bunch of Americans producing a film about our country but showing they have not bothered to do their research but instead have relied on their own world view.
The worst inaccuracy is when the film shows a scene where Mrs Thatcher is being affected by the stench from the rubbish piling up in Central London under a Conservative Government in the mid 1970s. This episode of course happened in 1978 under a Labour government as a result of the ruinous economic policies under prime minister James Callaghan and became known as the Winter of Discontent, which saw Margaret Thatcher win a vote of no confidence against Callaghan and her sweep to power in 1979.
Other scenes which are fiction are when she is portrayed as a half-hysterical over emotional woman in Cabinet berating Geoffrey Howe for poor preparation. Undoubtedly, she was tough on her colleagues and had very strong points of view but Mrs Thatcher did not rise to the top of the Conservative Party and become the twentieth century’s longest serving British Prime Minister by not knowing how to communicate appropriately. This scene is a fallacy.
There were a lot of absences in the film, mainly Lady Thatcher’s achievements. The gaps were filled with repeated scenes of protesters smashing on the prime minister’s limo window and marches against the necessary cuts to salvage the country after Labour practically bankrupted the nation in the late 1970s (ring a bell?).
Missing from the film were Mrs Thatcher’s three election victories and the economic recovery of the 1980s which expanded the middle class and brought a higher standard of living to millions of ordinary people up and down the land.
Terrorism is a running theme in the film, firstly with the Mumbai hotel attack in 2008 as a background in the early scenes and then, twice, The Grand Hotel bombing in Brighton. The scene of Margaret Thatcher writing her conference speech in her suite at The Grand (a rare accuracy) and then the bomb exploding is stirring: the way she reacted immediately afterwards showed inner steel, which of course is stronger even than iron.
Despite the producers paying more attention to the dissent and protest against Thatcher, they still could not hide what I admire so greatly about this great lady. There is a scene where the Cabinet is discussing taxation and how Margaret Thatcher equated taxes (low taxes) as people giving something back to the country they wish to live in and that she had no time for the work-shy who wanted something for nothing – i.e. “just let the Government deal with that” attitude. Her cabinet ministers are worrying about people being asked to contribute and Margaret Thatcher sums it up succinctly when she says she had to work hard to earn success, it wasn’t just given to her like the men in grey suits sat beside her were used to – and therefore she didn’t feel guilty about the ordinary man having to work hard and pay their taxes. It’s as if she was the only Conservative in the room.
Socialists love to deride Thatcher as a hater of the ordinary person when in fact she WAS an ordinary person who, through hard work, rose to the pinnacle of power in this country. Her belief in striving hard to succeed rippled through the UK in the 1980s and led to a revolution in our economy: one reliant on the small businesses not on a Socialist’s dream of large State-controlled industry. Unfortunately, from 1997, Gordon Brown worked hard to take us back to a large state through the expansion of millions of non-jobs in the public sector. And this led inevitably to economic decline once again which the Coalition are today trying to fix. As George Osborne said: “Labour have done it again!”.
The Iron Lady is a film I would recommend you see as a piece of fictional entertainment, as that what it mainly is. However, the political philosophy of Thatcher spoken by Meryl Streep is true and is the reason why Britain became Great Britain again under her premiership.