the iron lady: not the war horse she’s cracked up to be

David Broder went to see The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep starring as Margaret Thatcher

After the adverts for the merits of cinema advertising, and the adverts for the cinema itself, came a trailer for War Horse. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, this is a film about a horse from a humble farm who is deployed for use in World War I, runs around a lot through battlefields as carnage rages all around him, and ultimately saves the day and warms all our hearts. This plot is more-or-less identical to about half of The Iron Lady, although seeing Maggie Thatcher rise from grocer’s daughter to Prime Minister and obstinately press ahead with austerity as rioting and mass unemployment wreak havoc on all around her… it’s just not as uplifting

Indeed, the message of The Iron Lady is rather curious. Structured as a series of flashbacks by the now seriously mentally ill Baroness Thatcher,  she repeatedly recalls people giving her saccharine nuggets of advice: ‘Be yourself’, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what to do’, ‘You can achieve anything’, and so on. Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol apparently considered the film a ‘Left-wing fantasy’; while they are wrong insofar as the film portrays its hero largely sympathetically, it is nonetheless a sort of liberal mystification of who Thatcher was: her fight against class and gender prejudice is pushed to the fore, and through her determination she manages to overcome these barriers and thus forces the establishment to accept her. Continue reading “the iron lady: not the war horse she’s cracked up to be”

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thatcher and liverpool – thirty years on

Adam Ford writes on revelations that the Thatcher government discussed a ‘managed decline’ of Liverpool.

Ah, the summer of 1981! The spectacle of a ‘fairytale’ royal wedding was a distraction for some as a Conservative PM led a ruling class offensive and unemployment skyrocketed, while riots shook the inner cities. ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’, some have commented today, as government documents from those days are released under the thirty year rule.

toxteth riots, 1981

Amongst revelations that the government lied about negotiations with the IRA during the hunger strikes and that Thatcher – shock! horror! – paid for her own Prime Ministerial ironing board, we are given a glimpse of the Thatcher cabinet’s reaction to rioting in London, Bristol and – in particular – Liverpool. It turns out that Thatcher played referee in a policy battle between then Chancellor Geoffrey Howe and then Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine. Continue reading “thatcher and liverpool – thirty years on”