Confused about ‘Sexy’ Thatcher?! 10 facts about MT that might help. Part 1.
18th November 2020
This post is for anyone watching The Crown, a series in which Margaret Thatcher is played by Gillian Anderson. Anderson is, undoubtedly, extremely talented and glamorous, but this is leading to a phenomenon where viewers are feeling very confused and torn about ‘Sexy Thatcher’. Here to help are some facts that will remind you of the reality of the ‘Iron Lady’ (part 2 to follow).
She was not remarkable at school or college
Margaret Thatcher (then Roberts) had a rather undistinguished early life. Growing up as the daughter of a grocer in Grantham, Margaret spent most of her time working in the shop and attending church. She had very few friends but credited this experience with teaching her the values of ‘duty’ and ‘hard work’. Margaret went on to study chemistry at Somerville College where she spent her spare time organising the activities of the Conservative Club. She was quite unpopular. One of her contemporaries recalled the following about Margaret: ‘If I had been told that the first woman Prime Minister would be one of us, I would not have put Margaret among my first six guesses. This was because most of us found her boring and I think it did not occur to any of us in those heady days that anyone boring could possibly reach high places.
She read one book which determined her whole political outlook
While at Oxford, and against the backdrop of war against Hitler’s Germany, Margaret read a book which shaped her whole political outlook for the rest of her life. This was Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (1944). From this book Margaret came to believe that any form of state action or organised/collective activity within society had the potential to become fascistic. This was, in part, the reason why she believed the state should leave individuals to fend for themselves, come what may. Thatcher was not an intellectual or wide reader, she just took ideas from this book and then stuck to them doggedly and ruthlessly.
She stole milk from children
When she was Secretary of State for Education (1970-4) she made significant cuts to expenditure in schools, including the removal of free school milk for children aged 7-11. For this she was vilified as ‘Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher!’ Margaret later recognised that this measure had been a serious mistake, writing in her autobiography: ‘I learned a valuable lesson [from the experience]. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit’.
She was not a feminist
Margaret Thatcher never positioned herself as a feminist and did not see the fact that she was the first female Prime Minister as important. When asked whether her election victory was a victory for women, she replied that she had been successful because of ‘merit’ and stated that ‘it’s not a victory for women. It is a victory for someone in politics.’ Thatcher promoted very few women and did not focus policy on women’s or family issues. She continued to work and raise her twin children (one of whom, incidentally, is a convicted criminal) – and because she could manage it she believed other women ought to just get on with it too. Thatcher also had voice training to lower the pitch of her voice so that she would sound less feminine and more authoritative.
She did not believe in ‘society’
In a 1987 interview Thatcher said: ‘They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.’ Basically, she did not believe in state welfare and assistance for those in need. Because she worked hard (rarely sleeping more than 5 hours a day) and had been successful, she believed others were not trying hard enough and were poor because they were lazy.
Part 2 of this blog post to follow. Watch this space.