Having vanquished the Argentines last June and her domestic political opponents this June, the friends of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher seem eager to round out the month with yet another rousing triumph, a drive that may well be styled "the humanizing of Maggie."
Suddenly, the warm, even cuddly side of Thatcher is on display everywhere. Stacks of a quickie campaign diary by her journalist daughter, Carol, are on sale in bookstores. A Sunday newspaper published "exclusive" pictures of the prime minister, her shoes off and legs tucked under her, reading official papers in her study. (Thatcher's legs, according to her daughter's book, are "sexy.")
ABC's Barbara Walters was granted an interview, and excerpts about Thatcher's devotion to her husband, Denis, were featured in the British tabloids. A story about the program in The Daily Mail was packaged with another story about Princess Diana's trip to Canada under the headline "In Focus: Two of Britain's Outstanding Wives and Mothers."
Carol Thatcher's book is remarkable in a number of respects. It was off the presses within hours of Thatcher's landslide election victory earlier this month and priced at $5.50. For a paperback, it should prove a profitable enterprise for all concerned. The publishers say the number of copies printed and the number already sold are confidential, as is the amount Carol was paid for writing fetchingly about Mum, as Mrs. Thatcher is invariably called in the book.
Aside from listing what happened to the family in the campaign, the book is full of personal details. These are of the inoffensive sort that would, nonetheless, get a royal chambermaid in hot water were she to publish them in a memoir.
For instance, the prime minister, judging from her daughter's account, spends a not insignificant part of each day in the care and maintenance of her coiffure. In the course of the three-week campaign, Thatcher had at least one permament and several other visits from the hairdresser, regularly put her hair in curlers and carried various other hair-primping devices in a suitcase.
Also included in the bag, we learn, is a spare pair of pantyhose.
When not taking notes for her book, Carol was in charge of her mother's wardrobe. Thatcher has firm dress-for-success ideas about when a navy suit is expected, what clothes look best on television and what to wear on whistle stops where an overzealous protester might hurl an egg or tomato.
It may well be coincidental that all these softening touches to the Thatcher "Iron Lady" persona are appearing at once, but the careful marketing of the Thatcher campaign--which has been further highlighted by some post-election revelations about curtains and patriotic music--appears to argue that they are not. Thatcher's campaign was handled by, among others, Saatchi and Saatchi, Britain's top advertising agency, and Gordon Reece, a marketing executive who handles public relations for oil tycoon Armand Hammer.
These image makers evidently left little to chance. A BBC reporter discovered, for example, that the room where Thatcher held her daily press conferences had alternate sets of curtains. The aim, disclosed BBC's Michael Cockerell, was to be able to create different moods. Light blue was for the relaxed mood. Dark blue was for the resolute approach.
The morning Thatcher unveiled her campaign manifesto, strains of such stirring music as "Land of Hope and Glory" (better known to Americans as "Pomp and Circumstance") were piped into the ears of the waiting reporters the way that Muzak is piped into elevators.
The British have a tendency to attribute things that are politically or commercially crass to American influence. The "Marketing of Margaret," as the BBC subtitled an account of the campaign, was inevitably likened to the packaging of American presidential candidates. Fair enough.
But no presidential offspring (of recollection at any rate) has yet to delve for profit into the subject of what piece of extra underwear was packed, or similarly endearing anecdotes. For the lead on that sort of stuff, it is Americans who have the Thatchers to thank.