Another successful biographical drama from the BBC. After altering our perceptions of Harry H Corbett, Hughie Green and Mary Whitehouse in recent weeks, the monstrous Maggie got the treatment – and a fine, entertaining programme resulted.
What was good about it?
• Andrea Riseborough played the young, pre-parliament Thatcher in a manner that never disguised the fact that here was a monster in the making yet still had us rooting for her in a battle that took her toConservative party committee rooms throughout southern England. In a glorious battle of the sexes, she staunchly took on the dusty, nasty war-medalled old duffers who thought a mother’s place was in the home not the House.
• The unsubtle, but fun references to future events. “When will you ever go to the jungle?” Carol T was asked, while Mark T got lost in sand dunes and dreamed of adventure in Africa (“I wouldn’t cause any trouble”), and Maggie T promised as much milk as children could drink.
• Rory Kinnear and Samuel West battling it out to be the most repressed, uncommunicative man. Kinnear’s Dennis was self sacrificing and not unpleasant; West’s Edward Heath was slimy and bitter.
• “Were you planning on proposing marriage at some point?” was an fine example of Thatcher’s forthrightness. “You should be aware my answer would be ‘yes’. On the condition that you agree on one or two things…”
• Ted Heath being punctured after explaining a political party was like an orchestra struggling to reach harmony. “Is that why you prefer to be alone with your organ, Mr Heath?” a matronly type piped up.
• Writer Tony Saint didn’t hold back in his representation of the nasty party with characters such as a drink-sodden misoogynist and Geoffrey Palmer’s racist Sir John Crowder who had no hesitation in describing an opponent as a Jew-boy liberal and doing all in his power to stop Thatcher taking his place as Finchley’s MP (“If this harpie is adopted, it’ll frighten the horses, that sort of thing.”)
What was bad about it?
• We had to struggle at times to remember that this woman, however sweet and seductive and game for a conga-line-leading laugh in the 1950s would emerge later as a humourless and uncaring prime minister who was happy to ride roughshod over the working men she sought to woo by flashing a bit of bottom.