Nov 162011

When I first heard that Margaret Thatcher was to receive the Hollywood treatment, my stomach filled with feelings of despair and helplessness about what was surely to come.

Would the film, starring Meryl Streep, look at the huge and costly effects of her premiership on the quality of life of people in Britain? Would it examine the morality of her extreme right-wing, anti-working class agenda? Or on the other hand would it just show her and the battles she had with other politicians to become Prime Minister. Would it show her as a brave, courageous woman fighting discrimination and the male elite or would it show her as someone who was firmly part of the ruling-class elite, perhaps indeed that ruling class elite’s greatest ever champion and someone who cared little for millions upon millions of working class women?

If the reviews are correct (such as this one) then it seems my fears have been realised. Perhaps the title, “The Iron Lady” made it inevitable that it was going to portray Thatcher in such an admiring way. I would have gone for the title of “Thatcher: Milk Snatcher”.

Thatcher it seems is still in popular in parts of British society. But she’s far more popular in America. The devastating effects of her programme on the British people aren’t of as much interest overseas as they are in Britain. In America and elsewhere, she was seen chiefly as a female leader, an ally of Reagan and a fearsome and courageous leader.

She was the first woman to become Prime Minister and as Prime Minister she did nothing for women. She was a green grocer’s daughter who rose to the top of society, and she did her best to ensure that the people who came after couldn’t do the same.

She made Britain a worse place and the lives of millions of people harder. It is a pity that the film doesn’t think that this is worth addressing. But why would it?

Most political coverage is a bit like sports coverage. Sports coverage looks primarily at the players and the tactics of the teams rather than how the game is affecting the crowd. But when political coverage treats politicians like players it does us all a great disservice.

The effects of the political ‘game’ on the ‘crowd’ matters a heck of a lot more than the effect of a football game on the crowd watching. Different sports teams don’t (with some exceptions!) have differing levels of morality. And usually the results of a sports match aren’t a matter of life and death for people.

The peaceful protest of the Occupy Wall Street Movement at Zuccotti Park was violently terminated just a few days ago. Yet how much political coverage doesn’t feature this story and the all connected issues involved? Far too much. Instead they have superficial coverage of candidates for the Republican nomination. Such coverage can be about candidates performances in the polls for example, but what all these stories have in common is this; they do not look at the issues. They treat politics as a clash of personalities and as a game when they should be looking at how people will be richer or poorer or better or worse off as a result of the agendas of the politicians and how those agendas often differ from what the majority of society believes.

So you can look see the story of Margaret Thatcher as how a woman rose to the top. You can look at her battles with Heseltine and Howe. Or can see her rise as an internal battle in the establishment and instead look at how she made millions of people’s lives harder, at how she stood up for the interests of the rich and how she battered the poor. You could even look at how many of our current economic problems started with Reagan and Thatcher and the rise of the hard-right/free-market fundamentalists as the dominant political ideology of the western world.

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