Friday 12th April
Amidst all the analysis of Thatcher which has so dominated the news there has been little discussion of the way the media played such a part in her success. Interest in her was first sparked because of her surprise victory in winning the Conservative leadership, if only as novelty value because she was a woman. And, nervous at first, she soon became adept at manipulating both her image and her message. At that time there was a natural deference towards women, a politeness which was not afforded by men to fellow men, and she was rarely contradicted or bullied by interviewees. In fact the only embarrassing moment in all her stage-managed television interviews was when an ordinary woman refused to be bullied by her (it was about the ship Admiral Belgrano sailing away from the Falklands when it was sunk) and stuck to her guns and made Thatcher look ridiculous. After that she was kept well away from ordinary people who were not intimidated by her.
Before her the media were hardly used by politicians. She was fortunate in having allies like Murdoch and the Mail and Telegraph who couldn’t believe their luck that a real Tory was back in power. Then there was Bernard Ingham, a recent convert to Thatcher who was belligerent and bullied television and any newspapers not falling into line with the Thatcher version. Ingham makes Alistair Campbell look like a poodle. And so the myth of Margaret was created.
At the time I thought she looked ridiculous on top of a tank with her scarf wrapped round her head, but Lord Bell her PR guru used this and more and more ludicrous images of her which many in the public lapped up.
Despite the folk memory of her massive popularity, even with a divided opposition she never won more than 43% of the vote, which was matched by Blair and beaten by the ‘unpopular’ John Major.
So much that is spoken of her is a myth, and now that she has died the myth will continue. Thank God she died two years before the election and not during it, where real damage might have resulted. Rest in peace, and please media – give us a little peace too.