Meryl Streep Shines As Margaret Thatcher - But How Accurate Is 'The Iron Lady'?

The Iron Lady

The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 15/12/2011 07:58 Updated: 13/02/2012 10:12

The Iron Lady is among us, with Meryl Streep's uncanny portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, both in her dotage and - through flashback - seen in her prime, earning accolades and inevitable Oscar-talk. But alongside the praise for the acting of Streep and co-star Jim Broadbent are mutterings that the film casts a Hollywood glow over one of the most dividing eras of recent political history. So just how accurate is this film? HuffPostUK Political Editor Chris Wimpress casts his eye over five pieces of dramatic licence:

Earlier this week at a private screening for Tory politicians, a producer made a statement to the audience beforehand, saying the film isn't designed to be a factual depiction of her life. It is a loosely-based piece of fiction, they claimed.

They were heading off the inevitable howls from political types. First of all there's the hat. Tories who were around in the seventies - and there's enough of them - insist Thatcher never, ever wore one in the Commons.

The opening of the film - in which a demented elderly Thatcher stumbles through the streets of London - could never happen. All former PMs have extensive security and the arrangements for Thatcher in particular mean the idea of her being jostled by randoms in the way the film suggests is the height of artifice.

The much-trailed imagery of protesters slamming their fists on the window of Thatcher's car as PM during unrest over the much-reviled poll tax never happened. Politicians rarely get so close to such hot zones, and never did. This was one of several scenes which tried to paint a "little England" picture to appeal to an American audience.

The Airey Neave scene is entirely fabricated. Neave, Thatcher's Northern Ireland spokesman during her time in opposition, was killed by a bomb planted by the Irish National Liberation Army. The film shows Thatcher saying goodbye to Neave, one of her favourite political colleagues, only minutes before. In fact, she was not remotely near the car-bombing and found out about it hours later.

Even in her dotage, Thatcher doesn't live her days in isolation. She has a busy agenda and, though there's no denying she has dementia, sources close to Lady T insist she remains lucid, frequently pointedly so.

FILM REVIEW: So there's five pieces of dramatic licence for you - click here for five reasons it's a stonking good piece of big screen drama

The Iron Lady is an ultimately sympathetic gloss on Thatcher, painting her opponents as either idiotic or self-serving. As a piece of Tory propaganda, it's something money can't buy, and the issues around striking and Europe have resurfaced at a weirdly opportune moment to chime in with the film's release.

Tories will take the glaring inaccuracies with a pinch of salt, because as a reminder of working class Tory principles, they're getting a massive freebie in this film.

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