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Anti-Thatcher tirade: The cast of “Boys From The Blackstuff’ with its writer, Alan Bleasdale (©Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Such is the richness of the documentation of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership that Charles Moore has been obliged to renounce his original intention of describing it in two volumes, and written three instead. Volume Two now deals with the central period, between 1983 and 1987, in both of which years she won smashing electoral victories, her party being returned with majorities of more than 100 seats. The book, of some 800 pages, is so full of facts, many of them new, as to pose problems for reviewers. I have decided, therefore, to deal chiefly with one aspect: Mrs Thatcher and the intellectuals, about which this volume is particularly instructive.

Intellectuals, whom I define as those who think ideas are more important than people, are notorious for getting politics wrong, nowhere more strikingly so than in the case of Mrs Thatcher. Ideas do not have votes, whereas people do. Intellectuals, under which heading I include pseudo-intellectuals, cultural bureaucrats and similar oddities, absolutely hated her, at no time more passionately than during and after the Falklands War, which naturally they were hoping she would lose.

Although the BBC reporters on the spot were (as usual) wonderfully objective, the bureaucrats in Broadcasting House were solidly hostile. I don’t think I ever made her so angry as once, partly as a tease, I said: “The trouble with you, Margaret, is that you are so pro-BBC.” “There’s nobody who hates the BBC more than I do,” she shouted.

The record shows she was right to do so. The BBC ran seven Falklands dramas, all of them anti-Thatcher. Another play, by Ian Curteis, was pro-Thatcher, but when the BBC realised this they cancelled it. The head of plays, Peter Goodchild, told Curteis he objected to scenes showing Mrs Thatcher writing letters of sympathy to the widows of dead servicemen. Instead he wanted a scene in which the Tories discussed the electoral advantages of war. Curteis refused, and the programme was scrapped. Michael Grade, controller of BBC One, claimed the play was not good enough. (It was eventually transmitted after her death as a “historical curiosity”.)

The list of BBC attacks on Thatcher is endless. One series, originally written under Callaghan, was transformed into an anti-Thatcher tirade as Boys from the Blackstuff. Another, a sitcom called The Young Ones, showed students at Scumbag College, and contained lines like “The bathroom’s free. Unlike the country under the Thatcherite junta.” Scripts of Doctor Who were also victims of BBC anti-Thatcher venom. Sylvester McCoy, who played the Doctor between 1987 and 1989, recalled: “Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered.” One script editor, asked what he wanted to achieve, replied: “I’d like to overthrow the government.” The subsidised theatre was likewise full of Thatcher-haters. One play, by Howard Brenton and Tony Howard, A Short Sharp Shock, shows Mrs Thatcher forcing her Employment Secretary, Jim Prior, to drink the sperm of the economist Milton Friedman from a Coca-Cola bottle. Another Brenton play compared Thatcher’s policy in Ulster to Roman tyranny, with plenty of rape thrown in. David Hare, another public-sector playwright, argued that “her crusade is exclusively on behalf of herself”. But voters, he added, would eventually tumble to her “promotion of greed . . . leaving nothing but the memory of a funny accent and an obscure sense of shame”. Dennis Potter saw her as “the most obviously repellent manifestation of the most obviously arrogant, dishonest, divisive and dangerous government since the war”.

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November 18th, 2015
6:11 PM
She was an icon keen to welcome and praise the People`s Pervert Jimmy Savile too.If she loved an argument it was with bins.

Graeme Haycroft
November 5th, 2015
7:11 AM
Thatcher was an icon

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