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Maggie Maggie Movie Out Out Out

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MERYL STREEP
AP

I bet Meryl Streep and the makers of The Mag In The Iron Mask or whatever it's called can't believe their luck. As people remember how Thatcher used to dominate European summits, comparisons with Friday's Cameron debacle will offer them acres of free publicity for January's Streep party (although my topical songwriter instincts would have preferred if the Iron Lady had been played by Teri Hatcher).

As the nation awaits next month's Hollywood version of her life, it gives us another chance to re-write that obituary which has been lying on every editor's desk since 22 November 1990, when the chorus 'Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out Out Out' was sung not by a bunch of pinko anarchists, but her best mates in the cabinet.

The great Billy Wilder had a sign on his desk saying 'What would Lubitsch do?' in honour of his all-time hero, silent movie director Ernst Lubitsch. Since 1990 every Tory leader has had 'What Would Maggie Do?' tattooed on their eyelids - some to copy, others to do the opposite.

I lived through the Thatcher years like millions of others, but remember them differently to everyone else. Love her or hate her - and there aren't many out there who say 'Margaret Thatcher? Hmm, she was, oohh, ppfffhhh, not fussed either way really' - it seems most have forgotten her great achievements. So here's a quick reminder:

MARGARET THATCHER DID MORE TO BRING BRITAIN CLOSER TO EUROPE THAN ANY OTHER BRITISH POLITICIAN BEFORE OR SINCE.

In 1987 she signed the Single European Act, which did so much to integrate Britain into Europe. She later claimed to have misread the small print, like a driver with third party fire and theft who's just wrapped the family Audi round a lamp-post and is now swearing down the phone to a First Direct call centre in Mumbai they were sure they signed up to fully comp. Yeah, we've all been there Mags.

But even if she failed to read the small print at that point, her other massive pro-European achievement cannot be attributed to anyone else: the lady may not have been for turning but she certainly was for tunnelling. The Channel Tunnel is her great legacy, and 50 years from now she will be remembered for bringing us closer to Europe, as sure as Cameron will for pulling us away again.

MARGARET THATCHER DID MORE TO PROMOTE OUR MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY THAN ANY OTHER BRITISH POLITICIAN BEFORE OR SINCE.

Margaret Thatcher never made a racist speech while she was Prime Minister. Shortly before the 1979 election she gave an interview in which she worried aloud about the country being 'swamped with immigrants'. But all that did was cause the collapse of the fascist National Front, as thousands of part-time racists returned to the Tory party.

Whilst in power she was famously colour blind, it didn't matter whether you were brown, white, or that blotchy porcine colour many British people go after two hours of sunshine, the only colour she was interested in was the green of your money.

MARGARET THATCHER DID MORE TO PROMOTE BENEFITS CULTURE THAN ANY OTHER BRITISH POLITICIAN BEFORE OR SINCE.

Margaret Thatcher invented 'benefits culture' in its modern form. She decided early on that 'unemployment is a price worth paying' for transferring the economy from industries where unions have some power, to services where they do not. As luck would have it, she had massive spare revenues from North Sea oil to pay for this policy.

For nearly 30 years I've made a living writing and performing comedy but I couldn't have got started without Margaret's help. I don't feel guilty about it, I think my generation of writers, musicians and performers have more than paid that money back in terms of what we have since produced.

Okay, not everything she did was perfect. The decision to give up on making things in exchange for becoming a finance and services economy kick-started the decades of easy debt that got us to where we are today. As did the decisions to de-regulate the banks and the city, the 'removal of red tape' trotted out by lazy politicians who should stick the stuff on their mouths before mentioning it again. And the selling off of council houses which led to a massive drop in house building and people living on the streets. And the poisonous attitude towards society, and people helping each other. And the deification of greed. And leaving the entire north of England to fend for itself. And the poll tax making her party completely unelectable in Scotland. And privatisation. And the fact that she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Philip Morris to teach kids across the Developing World to smoke. And her support of apartheid even after PW Botha had given up.

But apart from those few small matters, I say thank you Margaret, for Europe, multiculturalism and benefits. Today the fightback begins to retain them, and we shall invoke your name to make it happen.