In 1987 was studying at university in London when Margaret Thatcher was re-elected for her third term as Prime Minister. I recall heading down to No 10 Downing Street with a group of friends who were staunch Tory supporters keen to celebrate the win.
Being an American I was neither Labour nor Tory – but I was interested in the UK process of government and I thought the experience would be interesting. The University I had attended was extremely left wing – so you can imagine my friends were a minority among the people I knew.
When we arrived at No 10 there were hundreds of people chanting jubilantly, “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, In, In, In” – I was surprised at the outpouring of support – particularly as I had been encircled for the most part by lefties who not only disliked Margaret Thatcher, they vehemently hated her.
I wonder if many of those people reflect back on that time and realise in the cold light of day what a strong leader she was and the influence that had on the UK’s standing in international political circles. She was dubbed the “Iron Lady” by the Soviet Union in 1976, she defeated the Argentineans in the Falklands war in 1983 and survived an assassination attempt in 1984.
Understandably, any actress stepping up to play her in the upcoming film about her life would have to have some serious fire power. In my view there was only ever one choice and Meryl Streep, after her rendition of Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada, has not only perfected icy cold, she is one of a few actresses capable of credibly carrying off an accent change.
Speaking about the selection of Meryl Streep, Iron Lady Director Phyllida Lloyd said, “my first thought was you need a superstar to play Margaret Thatcher because Margaret Thatcher was a superstar. She had this extraordinary charisma and ability to charm absolutely anybody. But it was potentially a slightly chilly role, so I felt it was important that the actor playing her had warmth.”
Its true, even in The Devil Wear’s Prada Meryl Streep was able to credibly convey the two sides of Anna Wintour.
I have to admit, I’m excited to see this movie – mainly because I love watching strong female characters making it in a man’s world (who doesn’t love Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennyson in Prime Suspect) and I would like to think that movies like this serve as an inspiration for women who aspire to be leaders.
Elected to the Prime Ministerial three times, Margaret Thatcher became the longest serving Prime Minister in UK history and I know of no leader since then (male or female) who demonstrated her true grit. She was, a woman who smashed through the barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world.
As a mother of two, there is no doubt that her story is not just one of power, but of the price that is paid for power.