Arts & Culture
Steely to the end – the fall of Britain’s ‘Iron Lady’
November 16, 2023
Charles Moore and Kate Ehrman performed The Fall of Margaret Thatcher in an event sponsored by Lycetts and introduced by Lit & Phil member and North East Times director John Duns
It could have been a useful history lesson for some and a reminder that Conservative Prime Ministers haven’t always flashed before us like ducks at a fairground shooting range.
But for most of us in the room, I’d guess, Charles Moore’s account of Margaret Thatcher’s fall in 1990 was a trip down memory lane.
Whatever you think of her – and for many in the North East it won’t be flattering – she helped to define the 1980s with all its noisy upheaval.
Charles Moore, former editor of The Spectator and the Sunday and Daily Telegraph, went on to write Mrs Thatcher’s authorised biography – three chunky volumes published after her death, as stipulated.
In so doing, he came to see the dramatic possibilities of her final days.
Not her final days on this planet – she was a diminished figure by then – but as a PM who seems to have taken her ‘Iron Lady’ nickname literally, as if she were built to last like The Angel of the North.
It was her ousting by figures within her own party (all men, of course… including the “vegetables” as her cabinet underlings were referred to in the famous Spitting Image restaurant skit) that inspired The Fall of Margaret Thatcher, the “half tragedy, half whodunnit” that Charles Moore enacted with Kate Ehrman.
He promised real dialogue, gleaned from diaries and official documents. Not like TV show The Crown; although The Crown, he admitted, boasted better production values.
At adjacent lecterns, the pair gave voice to the main players, Kate Ehrman a passable Mrs T and Charles Moore seeming to enjoy making John Major as flat and dull as a Fenland autumn.
Suffering from toothache, an unheroic kind of pain, Major emerged badly from the Moore “assassination” tale, offering support to his boss until it seemed he might profit more from withholding it.
- Charles Moore with Margaret Thatcher and, top of page, interviewing the former Prime Minister
In the end, of course, having tearfully agreed not to contest the second round of voting in a leadership ballot, the beleaguered Mrs T backed Major to keep the “divisive” Michael Heseltine at bay.
Although, as Charles Moore confided, she considered herself “undefeated” to her dying day.
Breaking off occasionally from his impersonating, the one-time political columnist offered context or flashed up a photo.
There was Maggie in the Commons with ferrous hair-do; inappropriately clad with the Queen at Balmoral; with personal assistant Crawfie; and with Brylcreemed “friend” Cecil Parkinson.
And there were the rogues (some of them) – author Jeffrey Archer; diarist Alan Clark, who said his affection for Mrs T would have stretched to a “snog” but no more; Europhile Ken Clarke resembling a prototype Thérèse Coffey, jovially brandishing glass and cigar; and an oily succession of whips and backroom boys.
“Who’s that?” we would be challenged from time to time. Tristan Garel-Jones anyone? Someone knew.
Despite Mrs Thatcher’s Marmite reputation, there was applause for an entertaining and illuminating foray into what is starting to seem like ancient history – a time before social media, when a powerful woman in politics was a rare novelty.
Review by David Whetstone