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The Iron Lady Private Film Viewing

Event date: 9 January

Last Updated: Thursday, January 12th, 2012

On the evening of Monday 9th January ConservativeIntelligence teamed up with Prudential and Women2Win to host a private screening of the Iron Lady.    Afterwards Eve Pollard chaired a panel discussion about the film. On the panel were Virginia Bottomley, Charles Moore, Norman Tebbit and John Whittingdale.

John Whittingdale was visibly distressed by the film’s depiction of Margaret Thatcher as an old, frail lady suffering from dementia. I wouldn’t let my children go to it, he said. Although it had not been the left-wing rant he feared the film had not contained any reference to the big themes of her governments including the reformation of the economy, privatisation or the sale of council houses. The focus on Airey Neave was, he thought, bizarre. Greater influences including Bernard Ingham, Keith Joseph and Norman Tebbit were not even mentioned. Mr Whittingdale also regretted that the film didn’t capture Mrs Thatcher’s kindness to the staff who worked for her. He did, nonetheless, pay tribute to Meryl Streep’s performance. All of Lady T’s expressions, mannerisms, and even her style of walk had been captured perfectly.

Lord Tebbit was much more critical. The film had been more boring than waiting for his car battery to recharge, he joked. No one should imagine that this film provided any insight into the character of Margaret Thatcher. He wondered if it had been written by an anti-feminist who portrayed the longest serving Prime Minister of the last century as a woman who used hysteria to win arguments. In reality, he said, she did not scream or shout to prevail with colleagues. She began every Cabinet with the facts. You could, he said, have a stand up row with Margaret Thatcher and survive both as a minister and as a friend. She always submitted to rationality in a discussion, not the emotion.

Virginia Bottomley and Charles Moore were much more positive. For Baroness Bottomley the film was an accurate and powerful reminder of the man’s world that Margaret Thatcher had to fight hard to prosper in. A world of patronising comments; exclusion from enormously important clubs and networks; and where selection meetings were as interested in the political views of your husband as your own.

For Moore, Lady Thatcher’s official biographer, the film shouldn’t be seen as a detailed historical record of this period in British politics. It had, for him, an operatic quality and it captured that most important of Lady Thatcher’s qualities – strength. Tax drivers on every continent, Charles Moore noted, talk to him about her resolution in the face of great odds. No one who watches this film will leave without the strongest sense that this old woman, now suffering horribly from dementia, really once was Britain’s Iron Lady; stronger and more determined than any man of her day.

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