Maggie's Last Stand, the movie
Sunday 12 December 1993
A video, The Last Days of Thatcher, is taking shape in a London editing studio, for release when the faint-hearts of the Commons Select Committee on Broadcasting can bring themselves to deliver a verdict in favour of commercial access to Parliament's television archives. The 60-minute video, featuring the parliamentary drama that preceded her downfall, also stars Lord Howe whose 'bat breaking' speech triggered the Tory putsch against her leadership. The film-makers are anxious to sell the video to schools.
The Last Days of Thatcher is destined to be the first in what could be a long run of political thrillers from Hollywood-by- the Thames. A second film, not for the squeamish, brings to the small screen the highlights of the Wild Mammals Protection Bill debate, which almost outlawed foxhunting.
Finishing touches are also being put to The Election of the Speaker, a no-holds-barred melodrama in which Labour MP Betty Boothroyd vanquishes the powers of darkness - played by Peter 'Babbling' Brooke, the cricket-loving former Northern Ireland Secretary. Shots of the former Tiller girl being 'dragged' to the Speaker's chair amid scenes of Commons tumult (slightly overplayed) may have to be left on the cutting room floor.
The videos are being put together from footage shot by the Parliamentary Recording Unit, the Westminster office that has kept a televised record of the Commons since MPs allowed in the cameras in 1989.
But they cannot go on sale until the Broadcasting Select Committee gives its approval for commercial exploitation of the archives. The committee, chaired by the Leader of the House, Tony Newton, is dominated by Conservatives, some of whom are not yet convinced of the wisdom of allowing unexpurgated shots of Tory back- benchers in full cry to appear on the shelves of video shops.
Charles Frater, a director of the of the film makers, Parliamentary Films, said: 'You get a different perspective on television. I find that is good. My hope in all of this is that it will give credibility to Parliament again.'
The Broadcasting Select Committee has been deliberating for months, and is not now expected to give a verdict until the New Year. Labour MPs on the committee, plus the sole Liberal Democrat, believe they have won over enough 'open government' minded Conservatives to carry the day.
But the public interest argument seems clearly to have been resolved by Tony Benn, MP, who was given special dispensation by the committee to publish a video of his own speeches in Parliament. No doubt spurred on by a hostile review in the Independent last week by Roy Hattersley, The Benn Tapes ( pounds 12.99 a time) are going faster than hot cakes.
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