It being the week for retreading the path of La Passionara of Privilege, and what with the 30th anniversary of her arrival in Downing Street not being broadcast by the BBC looming, here are a few short clips of when the irreconciliable worlds of Margaret Thatcher and popular culture collided.
1) Maggie does stand-up. Cecil and Ken seem to love it, Tom King is in hysterics, but someone else appears to be choking into a handkerchief and the second tier of people on the platform are clapping because everyone else is. It’s a shame you don’t have party conferences like this anymore, with everyone in rows on a giant dais below a huge cardboard logo. Thatcher sounds like she’s reading the agenda at a meeting of a local parish church council. The sequence ends with the cameraman attempting, and failing, to find somebody in the audience who is laughing through comprehension, not apprehension.
2) Another conference, earlier in the decade. It’s 9.10am and waiting for Maggie outside the lift doors is John Stapleton with a huge stick microphone. He ushers her and her party (including Denis, who almost gets caught in the lift) over to a small frontispiece saying ‘TV-am Blackpool’ and a birthday cake. “We shall have to have just a small slice”.
…but wait, because there’s a Cilla-esque look-at-a-monitor-over-there surprise: a live link-up with Eggcup Towers, where Carol is sitting on the sofa. Maggie talks about a cosmetic case in which “you can put shoes”. They swap memories about a cake made to resemble a roundabout (how would this have worked?), before Thatcher launches into a classic ramble. “Children don’t want fruit cakes for their birthday, they want sponge cakes, something quite light…” John tries to interrupt, but her eminence presses on. “They also like Twiglets…”
3) More TV-am, this time from the confines of the studio. Thatcher, who has a bad throat, croaks at her interviewer with the kind of well-spoken rage that went out of fashion c. 1994. “Do you think Mr Frost that I spend my days prowling round the pigeon holes of the Ministry of Defence? If you do, you must be bonkers…I’m sorry, what did you say?”
4) Britain is broken, and some kids want something done about it. This involves yelling during the 1980 Tory party conference. Maggie does her best headmistress – “Never mind, it’s wet outside, I expect they want to come in” – before giving the nod to a group of men to kick the hecklers in the teeth.
5) Finally, it’s lunchtime on 22nd November 1990, and just before some “mystery art lovers are revealed in Neighbours,” Philip Hayton has some important news. You could always tell when there was important news on the BBC in the Birt era, because rather than cut to the presenter after the titles, the camera went straight into a clip. Or rather, a freeze-framed clip that then jerked into life once the music had stopped. Phil sits at his desk in a really strange position and cues in William Waldegrave (“Are you still behind the prime minister Mr Waldegrave?” “Yes I am”) and some dreadfully-filmed footage of Heseltine being interviewed at an acorn-planting ceremony.