Monday, February 06, 2012

The Iron Lady


Saw 'Iron Lady' yesterday.  Wonderful acting by Meryl Streep.  She won the Academy Award for Best Actress within the first 15 or 20 minutes of the film.

I think the movie exaggerated both the amount of street violence in Britain during her years in power and the amount of internal resistance she encountered in her cabinet and among the Tory MP's.   There is no disputing that she was defeated for leadership of her own party while a sitting prime minister, but it was after 11 years in office, when she had become the longest serving prime minister in modern times..

It was also unfair to suggest, as the moviemaker does, that her sinking of the Argentine cruiser the 'General Belgrano' was an act of murder because it was sailing away from the Falklands.  Had the Belgrano turned and sunk a British ship, taking British sailors to the bottom instead of the Belgrano and its crew of Argentine sailors, how could she have justified it to Britain and to the parents of the sailors?  It is also strongly implied that the subsequent sinking of the destroyer HMS Sheffield was in reprisal for the sinking of the Belgrano.  

According to Wikipedia, subsequent interviews of the commanders involved showed that the Belgrano was not returning to port, only moving to another position to await orders.  Similarly, those responsible for the attack on the Sheffield said they did it because the two countries were at war, and not in reprisal for the Belgrano.  Which makes the accusation against Thatcher both unfair and dishonest

Since this information has been public record for a long time, one has to wonder what the purpose of rehashing 1982 press speculation, much less treating it as true, could be in the making of a 2012 movie.

The movie went out of its way to suggest that Thatcher was horribly unpopular and that no one agreed with her.     But what it actually succeeded in showing was that Thatcher was unpopular with London street protesters and with her rivals for leadership of the Tory party.  In fact, she was elected leader of the Tory party by its MP's in 1975, and then, as leader of the Tories and as prime minister, won the general election of 1979, that of 1983, and that of 1987.  The historical record is quite different than the story presented in the movie.

The dialogue at the cabinet meeting which led to the Tory rebellion against her, on the other hand, has to have been carefully researched.  I am comfortable that with some twenty or so observers in the room all interviewed separately, as well as an official note-taker, the dialogue in the movie was probably word-for-word what was said that day.

The movie is told in flashback from Margaret Thatcher's current life and thus also tells a story about a recent episode in her life.  As a very old lady she accomplished something personal that took great force of character and courage.

The Right Honorable, The Baroness Thatcher, Lady Thatcher LG OM PC (The brand of her vacuum cleaner, her mantra, and her computer?) is 86 years old and lives in London.  Her husband, the late Denis Thatcher, died in 2003.

No comments:

Post a Comment