Ah Planet Janet, how I will miss you when The Australian‘s paywall comes down and you disappear behind it forever. This week, Planet’s angry at the new Margaret Thatcher’s film The Iron Lady in which Meryl Streep plays the Tory supremo in her prime (Beth Ditto plays her youthful self). Planet thinks it’s a lefty trick.
She writes: “It’s a shame the director of The Iron Lady did not feel compelled to depict the reality of Thatcher’s legacy. Instead, the movie falls back on shallowness, showing newspaper headlines decrying ‘Profits, profits, profits’ and ‘Maggie’s millionaires’.” Before going on: “After stale state-owned industries were privatised, customer service and efficiencies soared and, yes, so did profits …”
How terrible. The film showed that Thatcher raised profits (she didn’t, but that’s another story). They also fail to show what Thatcher did on the IR front: “Thatcher outlawed secondary pickets and the closed shop rules and introduced compulsory ballots, which remain. Even after more than a decade of Labour rule, Thatcher’s reforms largely remain intact … You won’t learn that from the movie.” But surely any lefty movie worth its salt would have shown that Thatcher permanently limited the Right to organise?
All very curious, but let’s make this a teachable moment — about the cult of Thatcher, which has always flown in the face of the statistics. When she came to power, unemployment was 4.5% and inflation 10%. When she left, unemployment was … 6%, and inflation 8%. Public sector 1970-80: 43%; 1980-1990: 44%. Meanwhile, manufacturing output had fallen by 14%, and the gap had been filled by banking and services. Meanwhile Germany and other northern European economies invested in education and manufacturing.
That’s why they can weather the storm more effectively (even with the drag of a banking system exposed to Greek, etc, risk), while the UK trembles every time the euro wobbles — it is now an utterly dependent economy. Thatcher, contrary to the myth, put the UK in Europe by signing up to the Single European Act (1986) — the crucial point at which the EEC was put on the road to being the EU.
Indeed, if the film were a lefty conspiracy, it would show the real truth — the Thatcher period was the first “superbubble” we have lived in for the past three decades. It has now burst, leaving everyone wondering why anyone believed that a multisector economy should be turned into a debt-driven service monoculture. Indeed, it’s not lefty filmmakers who repudiated Thatcher — it was David Cameron, who did everything but abseil coal-fired power stations to portray himself as the anti-Thatcher. Wise move as it turned out — now that he has reverted to type, Labour — a discredited party with a muppet leader — is polling 38 to the Tories’ 35. After 18 months.
Perhaps Planet should write him an angry letter. Or, for her other ire — at the portrayal of Thatcher as a cold mother, ignoring her children to pursue her careers — write one to daughter Carol Thatcher, from whose memoir such details come.