Tristram Hunt: Review of Gillian Shephard's "The Real Iron Lady: Working with Margaret Thatcher"

tags: Tristram Hunt, Gillian Shephard, Margaret Thatcher, The Real Iron Lady



Tristram Hunt is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

"I voted quickly and went over to stand at the exit from the No Lobby. Mrs T as usual was the last one out. She timed her exit so that colleagues wishing to lobby her could do so. 'Shall I follow you, Prime Minister?' I asked. 'People usually do,' was the reply."

So Labour MP Frank Field describes one of his regular tete-a-tete's with Margaret Thatcher at the apogee of her pomp and prime. This is a book about those glory days of Gloriana. Crafted as a response to Meryl Streep's portrayal of the former prime minister as a dotty old pensioner in The Iron Lady, it is a set of reminiscences to remind us of Thatcher as a world-historic figure. As such, it is part of the beatification of the blessed Margaret as Britain's finest postwar premier and, when the sad hour arrives, a leader worthy of a state funeral.

Unfortunately, former Conservative education secretary Gillian Shephard does her cause few favours with this poorly constructed work. It is clumsily written, shoddily edited, and often embarrassingly reverential. Within Shephard's collection of accounts of working with Thatcher – as provided by former advisers, ministers, and journalists – there do lurk some gems. But the best way to read this book is as a marked critique of the David Cameron premiership. What Tory grandee Baroness Shephard suggests is that everything the heroic Mrs T was in office, the callow Old Etonian is not....



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