Saturday, January 14, 2012

Parties to the Farce?

The London Telegraph, which is, for the record, a Conservative-leaning newspaper, ran a rather interesting take on The Iron Lady this morning.  It was a piece by Arts Correspondent Roya Nikkhah in which she documented the opinions of several of the Conservative politicians who had played key roles as part of Thatcher’s Administration.  As might be guessed, the reaction ran the gamut from aggressively negative (“extremely distasteful” were the words of Michael (now Lord) Heseltine) to a decline to comment at all, as was the case with Thatcher’s successor (now Sir) John Major.

Clearly, no one directly associated with the Thatcher Administration wanted to see themselves depicted as actors in a farce (which, as I suggested yesterday, was one way to view the film), let alone portrayed by an actor best known for his arch sense of mockery (such as Richard E. Grant playing Heseltine).  Only Sir John Nott came right out to say that he was not looking forward to seeing himself portrayed.  Most of the venom, however, seems to have been directed at framing the narrative from the perspective of the dementia of Thatcher’s final years.  Admittedly, this is strong stuff;  but it also carries a strong sense of irony that Thatcher should come to the same end as her American counterpart Ronald Reagan, albeit with less immediate family support.

In his retelling of the story of Oedipus for the libretto of Igor Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” oratorio, Jean Cocteau referred to Oedipus falling from a great height after having been ensnared by a trap that was set before he was even born.  I do not think that either Reagan or Thatcher was brought down by some “trap of destiny;”  but they both ascended to a height from which a fall was inevitable.  Furthermore, enough oxen were gored in the course of that ascent that it should be no surprise that many felt little sympathy (and perhaps even some relief) when the fall occurred.

Nevertheless, those few left who take the trouble to read history know that history, as a discipline, is rarely kind to those about whom it tells its stories.  If one has ascended to a position from which one becomes an agent in those stories, then it is inevitable that at least some of those stories will be unsympathetic, if not downright cruel.  The best one can hope for is to die before the historians set to work;  and, in this case, it is hard to imagine that anyone would have financed the production of a film like The Iron Lady while Thatcher was still alive.

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