Those of us who grew up in the 1980s saw the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev (who comes from a village near the Russo-Ukrainian border, brought glasnost to the old USSR and must be absolutely devastated at what’s going on at the moment), Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa bestriding the world stage (I like that expression). Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and to some extent Helmut Kohl were also part of that.
Going back into history, you find, to name but a few, Churchill, Disraeli, Gladstone, Bismarck, Metternich, Louis XIV, Elizabeth I, Charles the Bold, Henry V, Saladin, William the Conqueror, Harald Hardrada, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great … on and on and on. Where are all the world leaders now?! That new German Chancellor’s so anonymous that I can only remember his name because it makes me think of the snowman in Frozen, and the rest of them aren’t much better. And how is banning Russian players from Wimbledon supposed to help anyone? Maybe that’s why everyone’s so into Zelenskyy, because he actually *has* got something about him.
Anyway. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were obviously both quite controversial figures at home, but this programme wasn’t about that; and I was impressed that the BBC, which often seems to forget that it’s supposed to be politically neutral, respected that – and focused on the relationship between the two, which was what it said on the tin.
We even got some Freudian-type stuff about how Ronald liked Maggie because strong women reminded him on his mother, and how Maggie liked Ronald because she was keen on glamorous, powerful men. That does rather make one wonder how she ended up with Denis, who was many things but certainly not glamorous, but never mind.
It’s rather frightening how dated the video shots from the ’80s and early ’90s look now, but I’m trying not to think about that. I’m still trying to process the fact that the Miami Open was won by someone who was born in 2003, and that the defeated finalist was someone whose dad I remember as a young teenage pro. And how on earth is Brooklyn Beckham old enough to get married, when surely it was only five minutes ago that he was an adorable toddler kicking a ball round the pitch at Old Trafford after we won the league in, er, the year 2000? Oh, and, speaking of the ’80s and early ’90s, remember the Berlin Wall coming in November 1989, Nelson Mandela being released from prison in February 1990, and those precious few months of thinking that we’d finally reached an age of peace? It all went kaput when Iraq invaded Kuwait in July 1990, before The Scorpions had even released “Wind of Change”, but it was nice whilst it lasted.
This first episode really was quite interesting, because there was so much about that personal bond and what helped them to form it, and how Mrs Thatcher (as she was then) coped with being a woman in a man’s world. I’m not sure that we needed quite so much psycho-analysis about the significance of her handbag, though. Why are people so obsessed with the Queen’s handbag and Maggie Thatcher’s handbag?! They should see the contents of mine – talk about everything but the kitchen sink.
I wish we could get back to a point where Anglo-American relations are as close as they were then, but we don’t seem to have had another pair of leaders who’ve got on so well. Blair and Clinton, to some extent, but both of them were very narcissistic and I don’t think that they worked together anything like as well as Thatcher and Reagan did.
Also, even with the Gulf Wars, there wasn’t the sense of the common enemy that there was in the days of the Cold War. I never really got the Cold War, TBH. OK, it was coming to an end by the time I was old enough to understand much about it, but I think it was because people were always talking about “the Russians”, rather than “the communists” of “the Soviets”. I like Russia. Not easy then and not easy at the moment, but all that Russians-as-baddies stuff has never worked for me. But it did for Thatcher and Reagan … until Gorbachev came along, and we’ll hear more about that next week.
A lot of this was about the issue of American nuclear weapons being based in Britain, and in Western Europe, and how Thatcher and Reagan worked very closely together on that, but we also saw them having their differences over trade issues, and over the lack of overt American support for Britain during the Falklands War.
All in all, I thought it was very well-presented. Too many BBC programmes these days take a very biased political viewpoint, and or try to make the issues of the past about the issues of today, like that ridiculous programme in 2017 which tried to make out that the Reformation was somehow linked to Brexit, or that Simon Schama programme which tried to link William Blake to Darth Vader. This one did what it was meant to do, and it did it rather well.