The (Dotty) Iron Lady

Notwithstanding the attraction of watching test cricket for days on end, we managed to prise ourselves away from the teev late yesterday to trot up to the local cinema to see Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady.

I call it Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady deliberately because without her very convincing performance, I would have absolutely hated the film.

I did actually quite hate it.  Embedding the story in the context of Margaret Thatcher’s declining and demented years was not only misleading, it was also intended to influence the viewer’s opinion of her achievements.

Sure, it was pretty amazing that the daughter of a grocer could lead the Conservative Party and become the Prime Minister for nearly 12 years – both were unparalleled achievements – but, hey, just check out what a nutty old bag she’s become.

She even talks to Dennis, even though Dennis is dead.  Hard to admire that.  And, as for Dennis, what an ineffectual handbag, prone to cracking corny jokes, he turns out to be …buck up, old girl, and all that.

Obviously, modern scriptwriters regard linear stories as so passé (gosh, it sounds as though I have undertaken screen studies – linear, such a fancy term for beginning, middle and end).  The Iron Lady jumps around from teenage-hood, courtship, motherhood, parliamentary career, key decisions made as PM.

But most of the film is taken up with MT shuffling around in her dotage, trying to buy a pint of milk and sort out Dennis’ clothes.  Not much interest there.  And then there is the hapless Carol doing … not much, actually.

There was passing reference to her political achievements in taking on the trade unions, closing down uneconomic coal mines, saying no to Europe (although this was seen as a negative at the time, and led to the resignation of Geoffrey Howe for this and other reasons), reining in government spending, encouraging home ownership and the successful retaking of the Falkland Islands.

But there was a misleading emphasis placed on the violence and riots associated with some of these reforms (which were in fact intermittent and mostly peace prevailed) – with lots of vivid footage replayed at various stages in the film.  By the same token, there was no reference to the real intellectual division in the UK that was a feature of the Thatcher years – and continues to this day.

The only bit of the film I did like was the portrayal of all those upper-class Tory twits whose instincts lead them to support compromise and inaction (witness the capitulation to the incredibly disruptive union movement by the Heath government).  What a pack of feckless fops.  By contrast, the few scenes in which Thatcher’s commitment to do what she regarded as right (including her alliance with Reagan) and with resolve comes as a relief within the general tedium of the film.

No doubt, she misjudged the issue of the poll tax and there is quite a lot of this in the film.  But the fact that she was able to turn around the UK economy – don’t forget the IMF had had to be called in the 1970s – which led to significant productivity gains and increases in per capita income is mentioned only in passing.

But Meryl Streep’s portrayal of MT in her prime (forget the old bat bit) is uncanny and convincing.  Quite amazing, really, to the point that it is easy to think you are watching the real MT.






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37 Responses to The (Dotty) Iron Lady

  1. fill the cup says:

    Incredible all the sexist terminology in this piece.

  2. daddy dave says:

    The sexist language is being used ironically – as a disparaging characterisation of the fim.
    e.g., “but, hey, just check out what a nutty old bag she’s become.”
    I doubt Judith was describing Thatcher in that way – she was sarcastically caricaturing the movie’s angle.

  3. ar says:

    You could always go somewhere safer.

  4. m0nty says:

    Judith is allowed to. 🙂

  5. Aqualung says:

    Sorry, fill the cup, but your sceen name makes me think of procedures in pathology.

    I assume you are sitting on a stool.

  6. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B. says:

    Took this movie in yesterday also, despite HIA (my sweet love) declaring at first he would not attend to see his beloved Thatcher’s achievements denigrated.

    We both came out concluding it was just a vehicle for Meryl Streep’s Oscar ambitions. Terribly shallow. Rather boring in its emphasis on the ageing process; yawnable. Dementia is sad, not a vehicle for retrospection. Dennis Thatcher badly served, but obviously a nice fellow regardless. Agree with you Judith that a ‘linear’ approach would have been more effective, would have allowed more real analysis of the economic situation, and would have shown development over time of Thatcher’s skills and ideas. Agree too that the real nature of the Tory Party old guard was that of ‘feckless fops’.

    It was all a bit like watching an Elizabeth R performance where you just knew it was not historically up to scratch. Cate Blanchett as ER, Meryl Streep as Thatcher – not a patch in storyline on The King’s Speech or The Queen, even though these were also subject to the interpretive lens.

  7. Judith Sloan says:

    I can’t be sexist; I’m a woman 🙂

    Actually, I thought the young Dennis as portrayed in the film was quite dishy … am I allowed to say that?

  8. Winston Smith says:

    You’re allowed to say that, Judith. You’re a woman.

  9. C.L. says:

    It’s the only way the left could ‘win’ over Thatcher.

    She humiliated and destroyed them as a politician so they put the boot in cinematically when she’s old and frail.

    Paul Sheehan wacks them with the clue bat.

  10. Rafe says:

    Thanks Judith, sounds like a fair commentary from my reading of reviews. Far too much to expect a film that would do justice to Thatcher’s heroic achievements, or to be fair to Dennis who was a successful businessman in his own right.

  11. fill the cup says:

    Sorry, the piece is catty, sexist and ageist. Yep and women can be sexist.

  12. JC says:


    Go away. No one is interested in your stupid crap. Just leave.

  13. Frank says:

    Did the film make note of her science background (x-ray crystallography I think)?

  14. JC says:


    Go away. No one is interested in your stupid crap. leave.

  15. daddy dave says:

    Sorry, the piece is catty, sexist and ageist

    As I already explained, it’s not. The “sexist” lines are sarcastic.

    This might help.

  16. fill the cup says:

    Perception, is all. You see it differently. Deal with it.

  17. Gab says:

    I’ve only seen the trailers, however it doens’t look impressive. Seems to make Maggie out to be a bit loony and shallow. I’ll wait for the DVD.

  18. C.L. says:

    Phil is the person who wrote the following about a man who slaughtered a pregnant woman:

    An umistakable and glorious challenge, a globally hailed and celebrated declaration of the triumph of the human spirit, even from within the dark belly of the beast.

    Few things are more inspiring than this, ever.

    Malik Nidal Hasan. May you live in our memory and be honoured by billions and future generations forever.

  19. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B. says:

    I worry that the ‘feminist’ line gets a bit too much play in this movie and the economic differences get a bit too little. Foolish women voters could almost think that Julia G., like Margaret, is quite an achiever too, looking firm, sticking to ‘principles’ and deserving of a vote, whereas the truth is quite the opposite. You don’t vote on gender lines you vote on economic soundness and capacity to deliver it.

    One cheerful thing is that much of what Thatcher was castigated for in years gone by has now come to be what a lot of people think because it has been shown to be true: viz, unions stop business achievers and enterprises, the Euro was a bad idea, personal self-responsibility is worth asking for and getting, welfare is abhorrent and giving way to terrorists is a bad thing. On some of these indices Gillard now even tries to talk the talk, but she NEVER walks the walk. So Ladies, don’t be misled.

  20. Lazlo says:

    Yup we went along to TIL yesterday also (nothing else in the cinemas worth seeing), so still fresh in the mind.

    I was expecting a complete leftist rewrite of history. Instead the first impression was one of superficiality. The dominance of the concocted story of MT in dotage (accounting for about 50% of screen time by my reckoning) was boring. While there were indeed accurate accounts of MT’s principles on various matters, these were presented very briefly and without nuance – I guess that’s show business.

    However, while not a complete leftist airbrush, there were some sneaky re-inventions that cast MT in the PC narrative.

    1. During the miners’ strike of 1974 the streets of London are shown as being piled up with enormous piles of garbage. This did not happen. I was there at the time. It did happen 5 years later during the Winter of Discontent under a Labour Government. This scene is juxtaposed with a cabinet meeting where MT is portrayed as the only minister opposing Heath’s proposed capitulation to the unions. This didn’t happen either, but the message is that MT was stubbornly refusing to stop the breakdown of civilisation etc.

    2. During the recession of 1981-2 there are scenes of rioting in the streets and Labour parliamentarians accusing MT of causing a breakdown in order (see above also). Those scenes are from the Toxteth and Brixton riots. Only the looney left tries to associate these with MT. They were caused by a poisonous relationship between the black communities and police. It all happened again this year in Tottenham. MT wasn’t to blame for that either.

    3. During the Falklands war MT is portrayed as stubbornly and personally ordering the sinking of the Belgrano against the submissions of the majority of her advisors. There is no evidence for this portrayal. It was a decision of the War Cabinet. But it serves to present MT as a heartless killer.

    4. The excocet missile attack on HMS Sheffield two days later, resulting in significant loss of life, is presented as being in retaliation for the Belgrano. Military hosilities, armed engagements and loss of life had commenced prior to the Belgrano. This portrayal is about as sensible as saying that Midway was in retaliation for Pearl Harbour. War had well and truely commenced. But the message here is that MT caused the loss of British lives because of her stubborn ‘decision’ regarding the Belgrano.

    5. The enormous turn-around in the British economy in the 80s, resulting in a substantial increase in the general standard of living, is glossed over in about 10 seconds with the tired old leftist meme of it only bringing benefit to the ignorant greedy chavs in the city.

    So, in conclusion, certainly a leftist re-invention of history, but it could have been worse. Of course, Meryl Streep is very good and I’m sure the whole thing is bound for Golden Globe and Oscar greatness (the movie industry leftists will love it).

  21. Gab says:

    Thanks for that analysis, Lazlo.

  22. Louis Hissink says:


    Thanks for the summary – I won’t waste my time watching it, (not that I was in the first place). Seems a little like Schindler’s List in accuracy – not.

    WHat I can’t work out is how the Left seem unable to understand that they lie when they rewrite history – to such an extent that one is forced to conclude that, as they are unaware, they must be simply stupid.

  23. Lazlo says:

    The Narrative is all that counts LH. The end justifies the means. Believe me. For my sins, I have been amongst them long ago.

  24. Louis Hissink says:


    Given that, this suggests that much of the documented historical record needs researching, based on the realisation that this revisionism started with Plato’s successors.

  25. Lazlo says:

    Agree completely BoaB. And what he doesn’t mention, with typical Brit reserve, is that the IRA murdered his wife in Brighton

  26. Viva says:

    We went to see the film yesterday as well (we should have asked for a Cat Group discount). I expected there would be only one or two scenes featuring the aged Thatcher – instead it formed the backbone of the narrative thereby effectively de-fanging the lioness. Perhaps that’s the only way the left can try to exorcise her power.

    Interestingly the Spectator reviewer has a positive take on the film.

  27. perturbed says:

    We appear to have a new (?? rebranded???) resident troll.

    Time they were expunged, ASAP.

  28. Jack Lee says:


    what a film yrs would have made judith. i can just see the scenes depicting rising productivity now. if you think about it, you’ll see that the only way to give thatcher some pathos – and therefore universal humanity – was to see her power through the prism of her current weakness. given economists’ obsession with division of labour, hasn’t it ocurred to you that they knew what they were doing in making a dynamic film? Yr version would have been a brit version of the libertarian-funded atlas-shrugged film, a commercial and artistic disaster. still im sure rafe and others can get a good conspiracy theory out of it

  29. Judith Sloan says:

    Yes, I noticed some of those inaccuracies, Lazlo. I was living in the UK (London) in the late 1970s and the great garbage strike occourred in 1978-79 under the appalling Callaghan government – ie. pre-Thatcher.

    I recall Leicester Square where the rubbish was piled up to just below the chins of the statures.

  30. Palmerston says:

    Lazio,Tebbit’s wife was not murdered by the IRA.

    She was disabled in the Brighton bombing, not killed.

  31. Chris M says:

    Demented hag eh? Other half is a sap-head? Sounds more like a film about Gillard and Brown. I certainly won’t be seeing it, that sorry soap opera plays every day in Australia.

  32. Lazlo says:

    Correct, Palmerston. Lesson: do not rely solely on memory, especially at that hour, when the truth is a click or two away.

  33. Viva says:

    “Never, however, would she sacrifice principle to tactics, nor go down a road she would witheringly describe as ‘too clever’.” – Norman Tebbitt on Thatcher. How different from the philosophy of our own ‘dear leader’.

  34. Rococo Liberal says:

    If you want a good film about Thatcher get this and realise that Patricia Hodge is far better as the Iron Lady than the over-hyped Streep:

  35. TimT says:

    Best review of the film was a friend on facebook’s throwaway line – ‘not a bad film about someone cleaning out their closets’.

  36. Pingback: The Iron Lady – a second opinion at Catallaxy Files

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