Radio Plays - Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher has died aged 87.

During the 1970s Britain was in the grip of powerful trade union leaders whose stated intent was to destroy capitalism, epitomised by Arthur Scargill, the leader of the National Uniion of Mineworkers.

There was a constant stream of strikes and disputes, and this had a predictable effect on the UK economy. It was on the verge of collapse. Most people knew someone affected by 'restrictive practices or 'demarcation disputes' or by being in a 'closed shop'.

The UK miners' strike was a major industrial dispute affecting the supply of the nation's coal. From 1983-1985 Margaret Thatcher planned and fought a fierce campaign against Arthur Scargill and eventually broke the stranglehold he had on Britain's energy supply.

She gave support to British newspapers in their battles with print unions who were refusing to introduce computer technology. She made 'flying pickets' illegal. She oversaw the negotiations for Zimbabwe's independence which left the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa vulnerable. She commissioned the Calcutt Inquiry in the 80s, and let the Press get on with setting up a new system of self-regulation, free of state interference. She believed in the justice and morality of a free press, a free society and the evils of communism. She supported Lech Walesa and Solidarity, and Poles remember her with gratitude as someone who hastened the day when their country became a democratic nation.

On her death, Radio 4's Mark Steel, ex-member of the Socialist Workers' Party, tweeted 'What a terrible shame - that it wasn't 87 years earlier'.

Not sure if remarks like that pass for humour, even in these enlightened times. I remember the Socialist Workers from my student days. They could be found walking around the marketplace when the sun was out, carrying heaps of pamphlets which no-one wanted to read.

Consider this quote from Winston Churchill, who had a way of summing up the views of the silent majority....

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."

As for radio drama: Margaret Thatcher appeared as a character in several radio plays, the most memorable of which are the top two in the list below:


The Duel by Michael Samuels, a superb play about the dispute between Government and Unions, which almost destroyed Britain's economy; miners went on strike in protest at pit closures, stayed out without a ballot, and supported Scargill right until the end. Ultimately he was defeated by the better tactics of his opponent. This was a wonderful piece of drama; David Threlfall played Scargill and Patricia Hodge was Margaret Thatcher; Jeremy Howe and Isobel Eaton directed.

    BBC publicity: The fight between the Prime Minister and the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers is one of the defining battles of Twentieth Century Britain. At stake were two totally different views of society.

The Falklands Play, by Ian Curteis. The story of how Margaret Thatcher's government went to war with Argentina, which was first broadcast on both Radio 4 and BBC 4, 20 years after the event, for political reasons ... Mrs. Thatcher banned it.
    It is now nearly twenty years since our conflict with Argentina, and fifteen years after they pulled the plug, the BBC broadcast The Falklands Play, by Ian Curteis (R4, 1430, 6 Apr 02). A quality production, good dialogue (close to the truth?) and a vivid portrayal of our ex Prime Minister, along with the mediocrity of some of her ministers, whose names we have forgotten. Mrs. Thatcher was accused afterwards in the House of fighting an unnecessary war, and her reply is worth quoting: " Tragic this war may have been, but may I point out to the Right Honourable gentleman that he would not enjoy the freedom of speech which he puts to such excellent use unless people had been prepared to fight for it". Patricia Hodge played Mrs. Thatcher, and there was a strong supporting cast, including John Standing, Patrick Godfrey and Clive Merrison. The producer was Jeremy Howe. (ND review, Apr 02)

How are you feeling, Alf? (R4, 8 Jun 09) - A play about the last days of the Callaghan government and the beginning of the Labour Party's years in the wilderness under the shadow of Mrs. Thatcher. The main character in the play is 'Alf', an elderly MP in poor health who is almost too ill to attend the House for crucial votes. With Geraldine McEwen, Julia Ford, Laura Mowat, Robert Lonsdale, Philip Jackson, Janice Aqua, Jonathan Tafler. Producer Claire Grove. Afternoon play, 45m.

(20-03-1999; 9:35pm R3) Grosse Fuge / Portraits In Absentia - A special double bill to conclude the series of newly commissioned experiments in creative radio; a tapestry woven from public speeches given by speakers including Winston Churchill, JFK, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Jesse Jackson and Brian Keenan. 9:55pm: Composer Jocelyn Pook weaves musical portraits of people whose voices resonate in her memory and in her life.

Michael Dobbs spent years as one of Margaret Thatcher's chief advisors. Now a writer, his story "A FAMILY AFFAIR" (1430, 28 Nov 09) covered the last days of Mrs. T's term as Prime Minister, seen from the perspective of her husband and children. In November 1990 she made the decision to resign, after much dissent in the ranks of the Conservative Party and a leadership ballot in which she just missed the requuired majority. The play was an interesting portrait of a family worrying about a wife and mother, and showed how much Mrs. Thatcher owed to her redoubtable husband, Dennis. Clare Higgins took the lead, and Stephen Moore was Dennis Thatcher; Benjamin Whitrow played his friend Bill Deedes. John Taylor produced and Roland Jacquarello directed.


(05-03 to 09-04-1996) House Of Cards (Michael Dobbs, adap/dir Neville Teller)
Francis Urquhart is the chief whip of the Conservative party. When Margaret Thatcher resigns as leader, he remains neutral and after a general election where the conservatives are returned with a reduced majority, he fully expects the new Prime Minister, Henry Collingridge, to give him his just reward: a senior Cabinet post. When he's informed that he is to stay in his current position, he devises a plot to unseat Collingridge and ensure his own election as party leader which would make his Prime Minister. Daniel Massey - Francis Urquhart, Amanda Root - Mattie Storin, Anton Lesser - John Krajewski, Geoffrey Whitehead - Henry Collingridge, Colin Confry - Roger O'Neill, Dennis Hawthorne - Maurice Metcalfe, David Timson - Greville Preston, Roger May - Frank, Keith Drinkell - Charles Collingridge. (6 x 30m)

ND, 10 Apr 13

Most of the above recordings known to exist in VRPCC collections

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