The Iron Lady: Movie of Thatcher years divides opinion

Meryl Streep as Mrs Thatcher Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher - the film is set to provoke strong feelings

Margaret Thatcher: the mere mention of her name still provokes strong feelings.

Now the Iron Lady is back... not to the dominate the world stage, but the big screen.

Hollywood star Meryl Streep sprinkles a touch of cinema magic on one of our most iconic and controversial political leaders, and the events that dominated her premiership.

But not everyone will be rushing to see The Iron Lady.

Inside a community centre at Arkwright in the former East Midlands coalfield, I showed selected scenes from the movie to some ex-Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire coal miners.

They didn't need a movie to shape their memories of Margaret Thatcher.

Their experience of the year long pit strike almost 30 years ago is still too raw.

'Divisive' figure

Start Quote

I don't know whether it's a science fiction film or a horror movie”

End Quote John Dunn Striking miner

"I don't know whether it's a science fiction film or a horror movie. It's certainly not a documentary," said former Derbyshire striking miner John Dunn.

Another former striking miner 'Snowy Bradley' winced when he saw Mrs Thatcher, as portrayed by Meryl Streep.

"The film seems to romanticise Thatcher and the events of those days.

"She was divisive and destroyed so many communities and jobs," he told me.

From Arkwright, it's 50 miles south to Margaret Thatcher's home town of Grantham in South Lincolnshire.

Start Quote

She gave us back our sense of pride”

End Quote Susie Wallington Conservative Women's Organisation

It seems a world away.

I also set up a screening of scenes from the movie for women members of the Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association.

They've no doubt that Margaret Thatcher rescued the country from long term decline.

Susie Wallington, chairman of the local Conservative Women's Organisation, can't wait to see the movie in full.

"Just think where this country would be today without Margaret. We were the joke of Europe before she became Prime Minister.

"She gave us back our sense of pride," she said.

Patriotism and pride

Jacky Smith, vice president of the constituency's Conservative Association, says Mrs Thatcher's story deserves to be seen on the big screen.

"She changed so much. But above all, she brought back a sense of patriotism and made us proud of our country again. I hope the film also tells that story," she said.

Meryl Street as Margaret Thatcher in the film The Iron Lady Meryl Street as Margaret Thatcher in the film The Iron Lady

It's 21 years since Mrs Thatcher was forced out of Downing Street.

For many young people, the Iron Lady is a political figure from the past.

So will they want to see the movie?

"The politics won't get me to watch this movie, but Meryl Streep certainly will," said 23-year-old Rachel Barrett.

Margaret Thatcher dominated British politics, handbagged her opponents, defeated foreign generals and helped shape a new world vision.

That almost reads like a movie script scenario.

Now we're getting the silver screen's take on the Iron Lady.

Will we get the complete picture?

We'll all find out when The Iron Lady goes on general release in the UK next month.

In the meantime here's Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover in Derbyshire, reflecting on the making of the film and his memories of the Thatcher era.

Dennis Skinner on the Iron Lady

John Hess Article written by John Hess John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Dennis Skinner says she destroyed the Ship Building Industry: No, the Far East built efficient yards & the associated steel industry grew alongside. Britain did not have the infrastructure to compete.Many European industries disappeared as the Far East rapidly grew.
    Today, China is displacing Japan & Korea as it too grows.
    Skinner & Co. probably blame Thatcher for that too. It's a Labour trait.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    To #4: Correct. The USA also shut its pits, to preserve a power source for if/when the oil runs out. By then the means to make it cheap & clean may be around.
    And had Thatcher failed: The Sick Man of Europe would be long Dead.
    Another Cuba at best. The medicine was awful but necessary.
    However,I also agree with #5.
    As for Blair & Co.:what was the difference? They just emptied the tills is all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Growing up in a mining community i saw it from both sides, the mines were uneconomical and the NUM was spoiling for a fight; Thatcher was up for a fight on ideological grounds. Unstoppable force and immovable object.
    Scargill Vs Thatcher, and thank god she didnt loose. I've seen what mayhem a union controlled government does growing up in the early 70's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It was bad enough living through it the first time. I have zero inclination to relive the experience vicariously, Streep or no Streep.

    I rather liked the Jennifer Saunders version though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    No never liked Thatcher from the word go. I argued with my in-laws she was evil incarnate. She helped the city ,the south and sold our assets but in the North she destroyed whole communities. Some which will never recover and are still suffering her loathing of the working class. Her spawn are in government today and we will see another generation in the north lost

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Thatcher took a bankrupt UK economy that the previous administration had bled dry and she turned it round; if she had more money available or if the Unions had worked with her it would have been an easier path. Lets hope Cameron has half her abilities, and lets hope the Unions have learnt from there failures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    She presided over the destruction of manufacturing in this country. Her Government was run purely on ideological lines. She lauded the individual over community and society and fanned the flames of personal and corporate greed that has been the cornerstone of our society ever since. The Labour Party had a chance to change this - to their eternal shame they carried the legacy on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I can't say I like the woman, she isn't popular in the North East. I agree coal mining will come to an end and that isn't the argument that anyone has with Thatcher. It was the way in which they dealt with the closures. There where no credible plans to replace the lost jobs or educational plans to get those coming out of education into other forms of employment. That was the problem in NE England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.


    I don't believe for one moment that Thatcher's reasons for closing pits was due to ecological reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover, took part in the film in the House of Commons scenes. He represents many former miners.

    The reasons for the closure of the pits were largely technical and geological. Most coal-fired power stations will have to close in 2015, if they have not installed flue gas desulphurisation. The smoke from coal-fired power stations killed wildlife in Norwegian fjords.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Ironic that the film is to be released in the midst another cold winter of discontent.

    It will be intriguing and a must to watch, if only to assess the political angle of the narrative, a balanced view will certainly be a near impossibility to achieve

    Great leaders are not everyones cup of tea.

    I hope Ms Streep gives Mrs Thatcher the merest shred of humanity in this film that she deserves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    With Meryl Streep set to play Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, take the 90-second Thatcher survey & decide if you're likely to make the effort to go and see the film.

    Click on the link below to take the survey:

    or if you prefer Facebook
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]



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