Margaret Thatcher, Meryl Streep, & The Iron Lady: Fact vs. Fiction
Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs and Margaret Thatcher biographer John Blundell talks about the accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and about his view on how she was portrayed in the movie "The Iron Lady."
(see video at the bottom of the article)
Gentlemen, shall we join the ladies!
John Blundell :
My name is John Blundell, I have known Margaret Thatcher for 40 years, and in fact although I was never on her payroll, I interacted with her in every job she ever had. And I'm the author of Margaret Thatcher: a Portrait of the Iron Lady. When I first heard of this movie, and the fact that Meryl Streep that was to play Margaret, I immediately was a little worried because of the Meryl Streep's own ideas and polices and so on that are very distinctly not Thatcherite. But I must admit to being pleasantly surprised. I think overall Margaret comes out of this process with her reputation enhanced and, of course, Meryl Streep's reputation hugely enhanced, as she gets under Margaret's skin in incredible fashion.
It's all very well to talk about changing my voice, Mr Reece, but for some of my colleagues to imagine me as their leader would be like imagining, I don't know, being led into battle by their chambermaid.
John Blundell :
Margaret Thatcher is very important historical figure, some would say one of the top 2-3 preministers of the last couple of hundred years. British economy was ranked 19th out of 22 in the OECD countries. The union were running riot, and we were heading south. The nationalized industries were losing gargantuan amounts of money, requiring huge subsidies everywhere every year and going downhill. She sorted out the unions. She cut marginal tax rates hugely. She got control of the budget. She started privatizing and denationalizing, and we saw huge improvements. She made the country walk tall again. And fundamentally changed the attitude of people toward a free merket based economy. She changed it all. And she started the process that brought the peace to Northern Ireland, and with Ronald Reagan and the Pope helped tie down that war without a shot being fired and destroyed the evil empire. It's astonishing list, when you sit down and make a list of what she achieved is astonishing.
The thing is that it was a pity that Ronald Reagan didn't appear. He appears just once, dancing with her. But there was no actor with the speaking part. The main American politician to interacted with Margaret is Al Haig at the time of the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands.
...with all due respect when one has been to war....
With all due respect sir, I have done battle every single day of my life, and many men have underestimated me before. This lot seem bound to do the same but they will rue the day.
Now, shall I be mother? Tea, Al, how do you take your tea? Black or white?
John Blundell :
Main criticism has been that it is unfair to make a movie about somebody with dementia when they are still alive. I was initially quite taken with that idea, but after giving it some thought I thought well, she put herself out there in public life. When you go out there in public life, the rules about what you can say and what can be said about you change. It is not as if she was a private individual. The dementia is portraid quite sensitively, it's not like she's permanently thinking that her husband is still alive or what have you. She has her lucid moments. There's a fantastic scene when Margaret is with her doctor. And the doctor is then asking her questions about her mental health, and she is clearly lying. She knows she's lying, she's too-lucid at that particular moment. And the doctor's phone begins to ring.
But I do so appreciate your kind concern. Oh, do please answer that. It might be someone who needs you.
That was classic Thatcher. Whoever wrote that almost deserves an Oscar for just that line.
I think people who opposed her are beginning to change their tune a little bit. Just as movie went on, Streep began to respect Thatcher more and more. Respect her qualities, not her policies or her philosophy. Her courage her persistence, her dedication.
Did you like her?
I am in awe of what she did. The policies you can argue with, but to sit in the hot seat, I can't even imagine having that steadfastness...
There is looking back at the Thatcher era and saying: well, she did it. She cut taxes, she balanced the budget, she sorted out all these problems, - great long list of problems. Why can't we learn from that era and get somebody who will do same job for us today?