The BBC has been on Thatcher overdrive lately with play after drama after documentary on the Iron Lady. What struck me most about each of them was that the somewhat negative content they contained stood in stark contrast to the suprisingly positive conclusions they came to about her and her legacy. It almost felt like they were acknowledging that what she did was painful at the time but history has proved her right in doing it. It seems that the BBC and the country in general, as one commentator put it, has come to ‘love’ or at the least ‘admire’ Margaret Thatcher.
It is no secret that poll after poll places the Tory titan as the best PM by a mile which reinforces Marr’s idea that Britain has ‘come to terms with Margaret Thatcher’. Her impact on the British political landscape is evident by the fact that politicians, of all parties, deem her important enough to invite to tea and pose like schoolboys for a photo-op. Even the great moderniser of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, fawned at her feet praising her for the things she did in the 80’s and claiming to the chagrin of his own party that much of it was ‘neccessary’, his party’s unease was exaccerbated by the fact that the first invite to Downing Street was extended to Margaret Thatcher before any Labour grandees.
Another remarkable thing about Thatcher is he way she dominates the news like no former PM ever has or ever will. She left office 20 years ago yet she is in almost every news paper on a daily basis, some commentary is positive whilst some, predictibly from the left wing rags such as the Guardian, is negative. The re-evaluation of the Thatcher legacy continues in earnest and as it does, the full fruits become apparent and the old misconceptions of her and her legacy are finally being understood. One of the documentaries on Thatcher that I found most compelling was a repeat of Andrew Marr’s ‘History of Britain: Thatcher Revolution’ which was frank and objective rather than subjective or over emotive which has characterized previous attempts at evaulating the Thatcher legacy.
All previous attempts to document the Thatcher years have come out as either lovey-dovey Thatcherite propaganda which fail to explicitly acknowledge the pain that some of her policies caused or a left wing witch hunt which focuses solely on that hurt. As the Chairman has said on many occasions ‘The left cling to their demonisation of Thatcher like a child to a security blanket and ignore the country we are today because of her.’ Marr’ s analysis was refreshingly objective and impartial and focused explicitly on both the positive and negative aspects of the Thatcher years, giving precedence to neither but coming to a rounded conclusion of their impact.
I think he summed up the Thatcher years, and Thatcher herself, perfectly when he claimed that she was a woman who made many mistakes but did remarkable things. She could be harsh, she bullied people close to her and indeed people she never met to secure her position. However in 1979 she took a country which had lost faith in itself, a country so bad that the then sitting Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan famously said that were he a younger man he would emmigrate, and gave it what it thoroughly needed; a long and repeated handbagging. Because of this she left it stronger richer and more self confident.
Marr concluded to say that In many ways Thatcher still defines the country we live in today, New Labour is in all intents and purposes ‘Blue Labour’ and the Labour leadership openly acknowledge what she did was neccessary and follow her economic policies rigorously. We are none of us whatever our ages Harold Wilson’s ‘children’ or Heaths ‘children’ or John Majors or Tony Blairs. Ultimately we are all of us like it or not, rebel or not, the children of Margaret Thatcher and it is refreshing to see that old horror stories are being put to bed and the paradoxes of the Thatcher revolution are finally being understood.
I encourage as many people as possible to watch Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley, tonight BBC4 10pm, which has recived rave reviews from all sides of the political spectrum. Even veteran actor Sam West said “I’m a socialist and, like Ted Heath, no fan of Margaret Thatcher’s, but I was fascinated by this script because for the first time it made it possible for me to admire her. This drama crystallises her struggle and unites her friends and foes. In the end, much to my surprise, I found myself rooting for her!”