The Iron Lady: Movie of Thatcher years divides opinion

  • 9 December 2011
  • From the section England
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Meryl Streep as Mrs Thatcher Image copyright Other
Image caption 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

"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.

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.

Image copyright Other
Image caption 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.