With still about a month until its American release, controversy is beginning to swirl around the new Harvey Weinstein produced Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady. That a Hollywood film about the life of one of the 20th Century’s great conservatives might play fast and loose with the facts should certainly come as no surprise. Andrew Roberts, in a review today at the Daily, notes more than few inaccuracies:
No one would have cursed at a suburban Conservative black-tie dinner in 1959 with ladies present. Denis did not call Margaret “insufferable” when she decided to stand against Ted Heath for the leadership of the Tory party, he actively encouraged her to. She was not present at the assassination of her supporter Airey Neave by Irish terrorists. She would never have read the distinctly lowbrow novels of left-winger Ken Follett.
Sir Geoffrey Howe, her chancellor of the exchequer, didn’t say that Britain couldn’t afford to fight the Falklands War, and wouldn’t have lasted long in his job if he had. The same goes for the foreign secretary Francis Pym, who did not oppose the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser the General Belgrano. British politicians “stand” for office, they don’t “run.” The poll tax raised money for local, not national government. John Major didn’t tell her she’d lose the leadership vote, that was Kenneth Clarke. Her staff never called her “Margaret,” always “Lady Thatcher” or “Lady T,” and she certainly never did the washing up in her retirement; instead she raised tens of millions of pounds for the superb work the Thatcher Foundation has done encouraging individual enterprise in former Communist countries.
Conflating, eliding, inventing, fabricating—again, in a Hollywood movie vying for box office returns and Oscar nominations—these things are hardly surprising. But as Roberts notes, in The Iron Lady, “the anti-Thatcher case is continually made more eloquently than the pro-Thatcher one, [which] seems intended to make the viewer doubt whether she was genuinely a great leader,” a fact which raises something of an existential dilemma for the film: “If she wasn’t, why go to the movie at all?”
Whole review here.