Those who expect a character assassination of Mrs. Thatcher are in for a surprise; the work is more detached than the politics of its playwright might suggest. While he’s a shameless Remainer, it’s the Eurosceptic Mrs. Thatcher who comes across not only as the dominant figure but, surprisingly perhaps, the nicest too.
Mr McManus has said he wants to dispel some of the polarization caused by Brexit. But maybe he is just generous by nature – he also has nice things to say about the current Prime Minister, albeit in a roundabout way. Mr. Johnson has “a remarkable skill set,” he said, “you have to admire his techniques; I work in the theater now, so keep an eye for the techniques and gain an audience.
As for Mr. Heath, Mr. McManus puts an equally positive polish on things, casually speaking of his affection for his former boss until he remembers his own words in the play’s program notes. .
Mr. Heath was “cold and imperious, solipsistic and ungrateful,” a man who harbored grudges and outdated ideas, and not someone he never liked very much, wrote the playwright.
“Uh, yeah, a bit of a wasp by my usual standards,” admitted Mr. McManus, sipping his beer and adding with a laugh, “it’s a little hard to come back from that.”
Although Mr. Heath was charm embodied in wooing Mr. McManus for the post of political secretary, the freeze set in once he agreed. In 2000, after Mr. McManus announced he would run for Parliament in the following year’s general election, he quickly and peremptorily lost his job with Mr. Heath. “He decided when I was on vacation that he was going to get rid of me,” he said.
Mr McManus was unsuccessful in this election and never again managed to be selected as a candidate, the first step in running for office in the UK system. But several career paths presented themselves; he then worked as a consultant, journalist and director of a media watchdog. He has also written several books, including one on Mr. Heath. Another, “Tory Pride and Prejudice,” recounted a transformation in the attitude of the Conservative Party towards gay rights.