'She uttered a shriek of horror': Margaret Thatcher's shock at Katherine Hamnett's Downing Street T-shirt protest
Katherine Hamnett has revealed how Margaret Thatcher let out a 'shriek of horror' when she realised the legendary fashion designer had hijacked a 1984 Downing Street reception for fashion designers to make an anti-nuclear protest.
Hamnett smuggled one of her infamous slogan T-shirts into the event, putting it on when she was inside and approaching the Prime Minister for a chat.
The garment was emblazoned with the words '58% don't want Pershing', in reference to the then Prime Minister's decision to allow U.S. Pershing missiles to be stationed in Britain despite the majority of the British public being opposed.
Protest: Hamnett smuggled the T-shirt into the reception at 10 Downing Street, revealing it once she was inside. 'Thatcher uttered a shriek of horror,' says the designer. 'I felt quite sorry for her'
Wearing shabby trainers and baggy leggings, a scruffy Hamnett was photographed shaking hands with the immaculately dressed Baroness Thatcher, who leaned in closer to read the words.
'She bent over to read the T-shirt then uttered a shriek of horror,' Hamnett told Harper's Bazaar. 'She said, “Oh, we haven't got Pershing. But we've got cruise (missiles), my dear. So maybe you're at the wrong party.”'
Hamnett, who the same year was awarded designer of the year by the British Fashion Council and menswear designer of the year from the Bath Costume Museum, tells how she managed to gain entry to the party before unveiling her protest.
'I had to
smuggle the T-shirt in,' she says. 'I revealed it at the last moment and Thatcher
was horrified. I actually felt sorry for her.'
Forgiven: Katharine Hamnett's political stance did not affect her popularity with the Queen, who handed her a CBE in June last year. Hamnett, left, was one of few in who dared take on the Iron Lady
Despite Thatcher's fearsome reputation, Hamnett is not the only one to have said say they feel sorry for the Iron lady. Lord Healey, the former Labour chancellor and one-time enemy of Thatcher, said that despite her politics, she was actually a 'fragile' person.
'As a prime minister she was bad, without any question,' he said. 'But when I got to know here as a human being I found she had quite attractive qualities.
'One felt rather sorry for her because she was quite fragile.'
The Iron Lady will be showing at cinemas across the UK from January 6.
Highly-anticipated: The Iron Lady opens in cinemas on January 6
REVIEW: THE IRON LADY (12A) by Chris Tookey
Verdict: Great performance, shame about the film
Meryl Streep is bound to be among the awards contenders for her uncannily accurate, Oscar-quality performance as Margaret Thatcher. That doesn’t prevent the film she’s in from being jaw-droppingly misconceived. Many times, I found myself silently mouthing the words our former Premier used about Euro expansionism: no, no, NO!
Director Phyllida Lloyd’s second film has all the economic and political sophistication of her first movie, Mamma Mia!
The Franco-British picture is far from the hatchet job some were predicting – it chooses to portray Thatcher as a plucky underdog defying a male-dominated establishment – but it’s nave.
It’s also bewilderingly single-minded about missing out everything that made her a unique and formidable figure. Instead, the movie is preoccupied with the idea that she is now senile and talks a great deal to the ghost of her husband Denis, who died years ago.
The rest of the movie gallops through some of the major events in her life, without much attempt to analyse whether she was right or wrong: the miners’ strike, the IRA bombing at Brighton, the Falklands conflict. It’s hard to know what screenwriter Abi Morgan was thinking.
Perhaps she felt that spending so much time on Thatcher’s recent ill health would engender audience sympathy. Or perhaps Morgan feels that senility is divine retribution for past crimes. It’s impossible to tell.
As Denis, the normally excellent Jim Broadbent has been lumbered with a comic caricature based, it would seem, on the Private Eye column ‘Dear Bill’.
Most of the other men around her, with two exceptions – her adviser Airey Neave (Julian Wadham) and strategist Gordon Reece (Roger Allam) – are depicted as bumbling incompetents or jealous male chauvinists.
That’s typical of the film’s distortions. It consistently, and predictably, sacrifices complexity and depth in order to pretend that Thatcher was something she never set out to be, a feminist icon.
That, of course, is not why she deserves commemoration.
She deserves to be studied because she was right about so many things, including the future of Europe, the sale of council houses and the saving of the British economy (none of which find any place in this film) – and carried out her public duties despite hysterical abuse from most of the political and media establishment.
Small wonder then that this is precisely what interests these film-makers the least.