Glenda Jackson on Margaret Thatcher

Glenda Jackson was a wonderful actor, nominated four times within the space of six years for Best Actress Academy Awards and winning twice, in 1971 and 1974. She retired from acting and went into politics, and was elected as a Labour Party member of the British parliament in 1992 and has served continuously since then. She has been a strong voice for progressive causes and was a thorn in the side of the odious and unctuous Tony Blair, who was her party leader. She announced that she would retire from politics at the end of her current term, which would be 2015 unless elections are called earlier.

In parliament yesterday, Jackson disdained the sanctimony surrounding the tributes to Margaret Thatcher, doing what I said in an earlier post was entirely appropriate, using the occasion of a public figure’s death to analyze her legacy. Defying the jeers of the Conservative party members, she ripped into Thatcherism with a fiery speech that showed that she is not going out like a lamb. Listening to her, you can see what made her a great actor.

Here are a couple of key passages from her speech.

But the basis to Thatcherism — and this is where I come to the spiritual part of what I regard as the desperate, desperately wrong track that Thatcherism took this country into — is that we were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice — and I still regard them as vices — under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees. They were the way forward.

What concerns me is that I am beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basic spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side. That isn’t happening now and if we go back to the heyday of that era, I think we will see replicated yet again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from, the talent that has been totally wasted because of the inability to genuinely see the individual value of every single human being.

At the end of her speech at the 6:30 mark of the video, a Conservative party member rises to tell the Speaker that her speech was not appropriate to the occasion and the Speaker politely tells him to buzz off.

In the case of Jackson, acting’s loss was politics’ gain.


  1. AsqJames says

    She’s great isn’t she.

    Incidentally, it may be worth pointing out that parliament was recalled early from recess for this “Emergency debate”. Maybe I need to buy a new dictionary, but I’m struggling to see how Thatcher’s death constituted a situation “requiring immediate action”. Particularly as the action taken seems to have amounted to a bunch of people who’d already spouted platitudes to the media spouting platitudes to each other. And Glenda Jackson being awesome of course. So I suppose it was all worth it for that.

    The BBC have a useful timeline of when and why Parliament has been recalled over the last 30 years. We must assume from the list that the deaths of Thatcher and the Queen Mother are on a par with:

    * the invasions of the Falklands and Kuwait;
    * crashing out of the ERM;
    * military crises in Yugoslavia, Somalia and Iraq (again);
    * Yugoslavia (again). Except the country no longer existed (showing how useful that previous recall was, eh?), so actually Bosnia;
    * the worst domestic terrorist attack prior to 7/7;
    * 9/11 and the military response in Afghanistan;
    * the worst civil disturbances since Thatcher watched Brixton & Toxteth burn;
    * a report into widespread corruption and collusion between the press, police and politicians which involved criminal activity against over a thousand people including murder victims, military veterans and members of the Royal family.

    Oh, did I mention? Each MP is entitled to claim up to £3,750 for the disruption to their holiday. I think I’ve spotted the “emergency” now.

  2. says

    Thanks for calling attention to the speaker’s comments at the end. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a put down savored quite so exquisitely. Priceless.

  3. Ben Wright says

    Perhaps the most entertaining thing about that video is looking for angry Thatcher supporters in the comments, taking a peek at their channels and discovering that all of them that have a visible comment history have obvious racist opinions or are conspiracy theory supporters.

  4. garnetstar says

    I would pay money to hear Jackson read the phonebook. So it’s even more marvelous to hear her speak the truth so well. Think of the contrast to the sort of thing we hear in the US congress.

    (There will never be another Elizabeth I for me, Jackson’s was the ultimate portrayal.)

  5. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Have you never seen Miranda Richardson’s marvelously psychotic Queenie in Blackadder?
    Now that was the quintessential Elizabeth I

    A wonderful speech by Ms. Jackson, and a beautifully restrained putdown by Mr. Berkow, who has just shot up a notch or two in my estimation.

  6. joe says

    Miss Jackson objects to what she calls a srtiving society. That is exactly what is wrong with people like Jackson, they want to sap the will and ambition out of people. She objects to greed, i dont know about Engalnd, but in the US the greedy people are the ones who vote for Obama. Obama should remember the greatest thing Thatcher said, pretty soon liberals run out of other people’s money to spend. Jackson’s idea of morality is to outlaw fox hunting and have the most vile forms of partial birth abortion legal. In Glenda Jackson’s world a fox has a greater right to live than a baby. No thanks, i want no part of Jackson’s world

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