Archive for April, 2013

11th Apr 2013

Thatcher’s Media Persona

 

Yesterday I was interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds about the death of Margaret Thatcher. The word I used to define her was ‘divisive’. More than any other politician in the contemporary era, she divided public opinion. You either liked her or most certainly did not. In this part of the country, for instance, she decimated coal-mining communities to the south of Leeds and into South Yorkshire; and yet the nouveau rich who benefited from privatisation and the freeing up of stocks and shares thought Mrs Thatcher was the best thing since sliced bread.

Her media persona was equally divisive, but in a different way. Her early years as leader of the Conservative Party and then Prime Minister were quite different from the presidential style of politics she performed later. At first she appeared almost timid and felt insecure enough to hire a voice coach to deepen the pitch of her delivery.

The Falklands Conflict was the game-changer. In fact, Thatcher would have almost certainly lost the 1983 General Election had it not been for the patriotic fervour that she whipped up during Britain’s defeat of Argentina. Thanks to the Falklands, she won a second term in office and bought the time to hone that Iron Lady public image that came to define her later years. Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and New Labour became fine architects of political marketing and spin, of that there is no doubt: but Thatcher was the pioneering media-savvy PM.

The final question I was asked: why do you think so many young people are taking to the streets to celebrate the death of a former Prime Minister of whom they have no memory? I may claim to be an expert on some aspects of British (youth) culture, but even I had to plead ignorance on this issue. Social media technologies like Facebook allow for fast and efficient organisation of events in our interconnected world, unquestionably, but the personal motivations that drive individuals to participate in forms of protest that they know little or nothing about are truly baffling.

This blog also appears at the Leeds Met Media Centre: http://mediacentre.leedsmet.ac.uk/media-and-popular-culture-expert-dr-dan-laughey-reflects-on-the-death-of-margaret-thatcher/

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