Margaret Thatcher:  The Long Walk to Finchley (2008)

 

 

 

Director:     Nial MacCormick.

Starring:     Andrea Riseborough (Margaret Thatcher), Philip Jackson (Alfred Roberts), Michael Gould (John Miller), Jonathan Aris (Stanley Soward), Rory Kinnear (Denis Thatcher), Samuel West (Ted Heath), Lydia Leonard (Joyce), Marcia Warren (Old Dear), Michael Cochrane (Sir Waldron Smithers), Sylvestra Le Touzel (Patricia Hornsby-Smith), Christian Rodska (Lieutenant Colonel Digby), Robert Whitelock (Bert).

coming from Finchley, she became Britain's first female prime minister (1979-1990)

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

A hiring prospective employer, Colchester Plastics Limited, tells Margaret Roberts that they want to offer the job of research chemist to her.  The human resources person says that they like to know a person's avocations so they might match them up with firm employees with similar interests.  She thinks for awhile and then says she's interested in politics.  "That's all."

When Margaret leaves the company for the day, she kisses her father Alfred and then goes into the Dartford Conservative Association.  Margaret tells her alderman father that she doesn't think she can speak before the group.  Dad says that's nonsense, Margaret has always been a good public speaker.   She learned that from him.  He also tells her to remember that politics is about people.  Look the person you're talking to straight in the eyes and they'll remember Margaret for that.  Margaret holds her head high as she goes into the room of mostly men.  They clap for her.

Margaret has a chance to fill the position because no one wanted to even apply to run.  Dartford is a labor area by a 20,000 majority.  It will be an uphill battle for her. 

Margaret gives her speech and she is raring to campaign.  She is so enthusiastic and determined to win.  She says:  "People will say it's an uphill battle.  But with your help, I don't just believe that it can be done, I know that it can be done."  This impresses the group and she's in. 

After the speech, a Mr. Denis Thatcher, a business manager and keen Conservative. is introduced to Margaret and her father.  Denis and Margaret find themselves alone together and she asks him what kind of company does he manage?.  It's a paint and preservatives company.  Denis wants to spend more time with her but she says she has to go because she has to catch a certain train that is the only one that can make the necessary connection to another train.  Denis has a good idea.  He offers to drive her home in his jaguar.  Dad tells his daughter to be careful of this man, but Margaret is not worried.  She goes in the jaguar while dad puts on his coat.  Dad overhears Denis' boss say that it's nice to see Denis interested in going out with women again, that is, after his divorce.  Dad's not happy to hear the news of the divorce. 

Denis doesn't really want to hear about the plastics job Margaret has.  She changes the subject to say she thinks she should move out of where she lives, Colchester, and move closer to Dartford.  If she wants to win the election, she has to spend all her extra time in Dartford.  Denis asks, surely Margaret doesn't think she has a change of winning.  Margaret says, of course, she's going to win the election.  Denis says to himself:  "Blimey."

Denis arrives at the destination in Colchester.  He asks her if perhaps they could go out to a dinner and the theater?  Margaret hesitates a while, but then says that might be rather fun.  Denis says:  "Smashing."  They say goodnight.  Denis says about Margaret:  "Force of bloody nature."

Margaret gets frustrated with her chemical research.  She is trying to pump air into ice cream to make it go further.  She says:  "I don't want to be remembered as the woman who enhanced vegetable fats for the children of Britain to eat on their summer holidays."

She is much more interested in political work.  She gives a speech to a lady's club luncheon.  As Margaret is finishing up, a man comes into the luncheon room.  The president of the club introduces Mr. Edward Heath.  Margaret should know this man, at least by sight, as he has been close watching her political career from the start.  He always seems to be where Margaret is.  Mr. Heath is the candidate for the lady's club.  Mr. Heath has been watching Margaret with skepticism.  He tells her that a political party is very much like an orchestra.  In an orchestra each person plays his appropriate role.  If there is someone or someones who play their instruments too loudly, the effect detracts from the whole, the harmony is off.  In other words, Margaret is a bit too filled with confidence and brass and will come to hurt the Conservative party. 

Margaret receives good press that says the young lady is making a big hit with the Dartford Tories.  She now gets a lot more dance in her step. 

The Conservative party spokesperson wants to win the seat for Bexley.  He wants whoever is the candidate for Dartford to also help win the seat for Bexley.  He asks:  "Are you prepared to fight for Bexley?"  Margaret says:  "Oh yes, absolutely!"  Ted Heath is the candidate for Bexley and now he will have Margaret working to help him.  She will also be helping Patricia win in Chislehurst.  [The three seats are southeast of London and adjacent to east other, north east of Chistlehurst is Bexley and slightly north of east from Bexley is Dartford.] 

Margaret works with her election team.  Dennis is just sitting around reading the newspaper and when he hears Heath's name he says to himself:  "I'm sick to death of Ted Heath in bloody Bexley!"   Margaret tells her crew that she wants to cover every constituency.  To get into the working men's club, she works as a bartender.  With her good looks, she's a hit with them.  Denis is there too with his newspaper.  She seems to be a natural as a campaigner. At one luncheon she leads the conga line. 

Some of the men are offended by Margaret's natural ways.  One fellow says she's making a mockery of the entire political process.  Ted Heath is certainly a bit worried by the success of the young lady.  She campaigns with him and he looks so out-of-place with her popular style.  Margaret gets a lot of publicity.  One reporter says:  "This is one angel who goes where other Tories fear to tread.  Up and at 'em, Maggie!"

Margaret loses once again and her eyes fill with tears.  Her top staff member and Denis try to cheer her up, but that's some tough job.  And she feels worse when she hears that Ted won his race and is going to the House of Commons.  Denis says she can run again soon, but Margaret asks where?  She says she is:  "Stuck here in the bloody socialist republic of Dartford."

Margaret keeps on fighting and giving speeches.  Her constant work puts a bit of strain on the marriage.  Denis will be going on holiday by himself. 

Margaret and Patricia talk together at a fund raiser.  Patricia notices that Margaret is really studying Ted Heath.  She says that Ted is very shy.  And he doesn't seem much interested in women.  Margaret asks if he is homosexual, but Patricia won't go that far.  She only says that his mother loves to pamper her golden boy.  She then goes up to Ted and asks him to dance.  Patricia feigns she twisted her ankle and has Margaret dance with Ted.  At first, Ted is very stiff with her, but she tells him to lead and she will follow.  Soon everyone is watching the two of them dance together. Her charm offensive seems to be working. 

They go outside to drink and talk.  Margaret seems to be going in for a kiss, but Ted walks away from her saying that they shall never speak of this again.  Margaret fells a bit humiliated and back in her room, she cries. 

Denis comes back from France all the more committed to the idea of loving Margaret.  When they get back together, they are both very happy to see each other.  Margaret gets right to the point:  "Were you planning on proposing marriage at some point?" And, if he were, then her answer would be yes.  But she has two conditions.  He must not mind her studying for the bar.  And he must be completely behind her in becoming a Member of Parliament.   Denis agrees to the conditions and then pulls out the engagement ring.  And the date of the wedding?  That will be after her run for the next election. 

The couple go to visit with Margaret's parents.  Dad says that Margaret is going to marry whoever she wants to marry and he will not stand in her way.  So, Denis has the father's approval, if you can call it that. 

Margaret loses another election.  But now, at least, Atlee is out and Churchill returns to #10 Downing Street. [Atlee from 1945 to 1951 and Churchill 1951 to 1955.]

Margaret and Denis get married and are on their honeymoon, but Margaret keeps worrying about getting back to work.

Margaret's application to run for a seat in Canterbury is turned down.  And she is pregnant and sick with morning sickness.  She is not all that excited about having the baby.

Margaret takes her bar exam.  She screams when giving birth.  She has twins, a boy and a girl.  Margaret says two children, one of each sex  --  her job of reproducing is over. 

The couple hire a nanny for the children.  Margaret tells her husband that there's some excellent news in the newspaper on page 5.  Sir Waldron Smithers has died at age 74. That means there's a vacancy in Orpington.  She says she expects to win this election. But poor Margaret is not accepted to run for the Orpington seat.  A politician tells her that Sir Waldron had a definite preference for who he wanted to succeed him.  He kept mentioning something about the conga line.

Margaret gets disappointed and writes that she doesn't see herself as having a future political career for many years.  Anthony Eden becomes the Conservative Prime Minister, 1955-1957.  Margaret becomes an avid gardener. 

One day Denis tells Margaret that he thinks she should go back into politics.  In gratitude, Margaret grabs him so hard that she hurts his shoulder.

In Beckenham, Margaret gets thrown a bit by a question from a woman, who asks her how will her twins cope with an absentee mother?  She goes on to say that many women and men believe that the woman's place is in the home and not the House. 

Denis is told that Margaret doesn't stand much of a chance to win in Beckenam.  They just had a female serving in their seat and now they want another man there. 

Another application for a seat is turned down.  Margaret says that it's all so unfair.  After all, she is better than many of the candidates by a wide margin.  She thought anything could be achieved on merit,but now she sees she's wrong.  No matter how hard she tries, she winds up strangled by the bloody old school tie!  "Damn their establishment!  Damn the lot of them!"

Denis is very upset seeing his wife cry.  He comes over to her and tells her that she is going to have to change plans.  "You have to stop playing by their rules."  She has to do what Sir Francis Drake did fighting the Spanish Armada.  He turned his weakness, small but fast ships, into an advantage.  He says Margaret's weakness is that she is a woman, but she can use her sex to great advantage to confuse the men.  So Margaret changes her hair color to being a blond and improves her appearance with a hat and spiffy outfits.  She even changes her voice, making it a somewhat sultry voice.  She uses what she has to catch the attention of the men.  She wants a chance to run again.  It's just that she feels there is a prejudice against her.  She even cries when she says she is being discriminated against just because she's a woman. 

Now the "big, strong man" comes to the rescue of the fair maiden.  He tells her a secret.  A new seat is becoming available.  It's Finchley.  It's a Conservative seat, but is not being as efficiently manages as hoped for.  He adds that he thinks it's tailor-made for her.  She asks whose seat is it now?  Sir John Crowder. 

The problem is that Sir John Crowder is an older, old-fashioned man and he won't even consider the possibility of his seat being filled by a woman.  Heath overhears Crowder on the phone saying he won't hear of Thatcher taking his seat. 

Denis goes off for a trip to Africa.  Margaret says it's bad that her husband has to go for such long trips to Africa.  After all, it would look better to the Finchley crowd if he was with her. 

Margaret is introduced to Crowder.  He says:  "I know who she is."  He simply walks away from her.  Margaret holds her head high and goes into the interview with three judges of the office applicants.

Surprise for Margaret!   She's on the short list of three male candidates and one female candidate for Finchley.  The female secretary also has a helping hint for Margaret.  Get her husband back from Africa so he can be here within two weeks.

Crowder speaks to Heath.  He doesn't want a woman in the Finchley seat.  He wants Heath to make a few noises about Margaret.  Heath doesn't want to do it.  He says it could hurt his career.  Crowder is not pleased:  "She's a grocer's daughter, for Christ's sake!"  Let the woman in and the floodgates will be opened for any kind of person.  Heath now says he'll do it. 

Margaret gets the most votes, but there has to be a run-off with the man who got one vote less than her.  Margaret doesn't think she's going to win.  The female secretary gives her another suggestion.  Speak to her strength: politics.  She has to give another short speech before the final selection.  Crowder comes over to her to try to belittle her some more saying she should never have even applied.  And now Margaret really gives it to him.  She has studied his undistinguished career.  It has been a miserable career of doing almost nothing constructive as far as good legislation on important topics is concerned.  "What your 25 years in the House amounts to, if I may say so, is not a Parliamentary career, but an impersonation, a caricature of one"  Crowder is dumb-founded. 

Another woman helps Margaret.  She stands up and says that having heard Margaret speak, she is quite satisfied and the young woman has her vote.  Margaret becomes the Conservative candidate for the Finchley seat. 

Crowder balls out Heath for not stopping this woman from getting to run as a candidate.  Heath tells him that he did speak to those who could make some noise against Thatcher, but he told them to back her.  Crowder is again dumb-founded.  He tells Heath:  "You snake!"  He also says Heath will rue the day he ever helped that woman, because if she gets into the House, there will be no stopping her.  Heath says to himself that Crowder's probably right about that last part of his speech. 

Margaret wins the seat from Finchley.  Denis is very proud of his wife.  Margaret is very thankful about her election. 

Margaret goes into the House of Commons.  When Heath sees her, he hides behind a column.  He has a flashback to that embarrassing moment with her at the dance.  And now we find out that Margaret was not going in for a kiss, but rather she was asking him if he could give her a little help getting into Parliament.  She was only saying take me on your journey to power. 

Heath gathers his strength and starts walking down the hall.  He walks right past Margaret without saying a word to her.  You can see from the man's face that this was something very difficult for him to do.  Margaret is shocked that he said absolutely nothing to her. 

"With Denis at her side, Margaret Thatcher served as MP for Finchley for 33 years.  In 1975, she stood and defeated Edward Heath in an election for the leadership of the Conservative Party.  He never forgave her."

 

I never liked Margaret Thatcher nor Ronald Reagan.  Nevertheless, I really liked the movie.  I liked it because she fought against sexual prejudice and discrimination  She was a feminine pioneer in the world of politics and deserves the highest praise for that.  I'm a feminist and my natural sympathies goes to the underdog, which in this case was Margaret in the Conservative Party.  She was very ambitious, but most politicians who go all the way to the highest office are.  They could hardly win if they weren't ambitious, right?

Andrea Riseborough (as Margaret Thatcher) was terrific as the not-so iron lady.  I also really liked Rory Kinnear (as Denis Thatcher).  He supplied a bit of comic relief. 

 
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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