Margaret Thatcher – the Long Walk to Finchley (BBC4)
You don’t have to look very hard for signs that the Tories are going to romp home in the next general election. There was another one on TV this week: a drama showing Margaret Thatcher as an achingly sexy young woman who made fantastic speeches and whose hard-won victory, after numerous setbacks, in gaining the Tory candidacy for the Finchley seat had you weeping tears of joy.
Imagine the BBC commissioning something like that ten years ago. Or even two years ago. It just wouldn’t have happened. The Thatcher brand was so badly contaminated you simply weren’t allowed to admit that this was the woman who rescued us from the economic Dark Ages and made our country great once more. All you were really permitted was the Spitting Image caricature with the man’s suit, the deep voice and the handbag.
As a natural Tory, with lots of friends and nodding acquaintances about to become PM, chancellor, education minister, and so on, I suppose I should be delighted by this. But actually it has made me quite despondent. Partly, it’s that Gore Vidal thing: ‘Whenever a friend succeeds a little something in me dies.’ Partly, also, it’s because I’ve never been much use at parlaying friendship into career advantage.
I was reminded of this the other day when I bumped into Boris at The Spectator’s 150th anniversary bash. I told him how pleased I was he’d become mayor and made some lame joke about not knowing much about policing but that nonetheless I’d surely make a better fist of it than Ian Blair, and Bozza didn’t even grace me with an ‘I know you not, old man.’ He cut me dead. And I thought, ‘Bloody hell.