The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady has received it’s share of criticism. The political left don’t like the idea of Margaret Thatcher being portrayed without fangs and a cape. Their view of Thatcher is of a monster, cackling over the destruction of jobs, whilst tucking into a plate of working-class-baby stew. The right, on the other hand can’t bear the thought of Saint Margaret of Thatcher (peace be upon her) being portrayed as a frail old woman with declining mental faculties.

This movie is NOT about Thatcher’s political legacy, rather about her reminiscing and struggling to come to terms with the death of her Husband. It is a touching and poignant portrayal of an old Lady’s slow descent into befuddlement. She is not however presented as a dotty old lady. The moments when she pulls herself together, and answers questions with clarity despite having apparently lost the plot a few moments earlier, is a quite stunning piece of acting. You get a feeling that Lady T may not have lost the inner steel which propelled her to no. 10. I will be absolutely staggered if There isn’t a ‘Best Actress’ Oscar for the performance.

But as I am a political anorak, and this blog is mainly read by political anoraks, I’ll deal with the politics. She is portrayed as firm, resolute and courageous, which will piss lefties off. The miner’s strike (which is along with unemployment, represents the sum total of her time in office according the the Labour view of history) is glossed over, as were the preparations (stockpiling coal, undersea cables to France etc…) which were not mentioned. The Falklands conflict gets a more thorough treatment. Her dismissal of the ‘Haig Shuttle’ was believable. The controversy over the sinking of the General Belgrano was avoided, by the rare cinematographic technique of being factually correct.

However those looking for a Hagiography are likely to be disappointed. Resolution is positive quality when she was right, however, she was wrong (or at least hugely at odds with the public, which to a democratic politician is the same thing) over the poll tax. Here, her resolute stance appears neatly to the viewer as pig-headedness. The scene in which she delivers a savage dressing down of Geoffrey Howe in cabinet was brilliantly acted, and Streep’s performance offered a hint of derangement. You can certainly see why her colleagues thought the time had come for her to go. Of course the issue that sent Howe out of the cabinet was her refusal to commit to a timetable for European Monetary Union. How’s that decision worked out, Geoffrey?

Ultimately, though the film deals with loss, decline, grief and family. And here, I think the critics of the film have a point. These are intensely personal issues. Lady Thatcher and sir Dennis were extraordinarily close, and he was hugely important to her. Given that the main protagonist is still alive, perhaps this film could have decently waited for a few years, until after the great lady’s state funeral.

2 replies
  1. Umbongo
    Umbongo says:

    "perhaps this film could have decently waited for a few years"

    Indeed it could. However, a more immediately fascinating and currently relevant film could be made concerning the mental illness of Gordon Brown. IMHO – and that of others – his private and semi-public behaviour when PM points inexorably to such a diagnosis as does his current extreme reluctance to appear in public unless such appearances are stage-managed.

    Of course, such a film will not be made; first because many of those who connived in hiding Mr Brown's illness while in office are still very much in politics and secondly exposing the limitations of a Labour politician is beyond the pale of the politically correctniks who influence much of the output of the UK film industry.


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