Katy Guest: Gordon, Maggie, and late-flowering love ...

The Iron Lady's transformation from icy leader into sweet old woman is nothing short of scary
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The Independent Online

Perhaps it's just our craving for some good news. Perhaps we are missing Ziggy and Chanelle. But for some reason the meeting between Gordon Brown and Margaret Thatcher this week is being portrayed in terms of a romance.

You can just see them in 10 years' time, giggling on a sofa as Davina shows the couple their "best bits" – Gordon and Maggie's eyes first meeting across a crowded despatch box; Gordon trying to get Maggie's attention by writing Where There's Greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain's Future; Maggie in tears as she leaves the big Government house. And then that tea party. She wore a bright fuchsia dress. He wore a matching tie. She gazed into his eyes. The rest could indeed be history.

But, just as in reality TV, so it is in the world of Prime Ministers, and there are those who seem hell-bent on crushing this fledgling relationship before it even takes flight. The Daily Express is already pouring poison into Maggie's ear. "The smirking Prime Minister...lured Baroness Thatcher into his most cynical stunt yet," leered the paper, portraying the PM as if he were some sort of sexual predator. The Daily Telegraph called Brown "the most ruthless Prime Minister of this country" since Francis Urquhart in House Of Cards. Did the writer mean the Urquhart in the book, who murders his rival by cutting his cocaine with rat poison? Or the Urquhart of the TV adaptation, who also pushes his mistress off a roof? There are stealth taxes and there is serial murder. Let's get this in perspective, people.

Maggie's former sweetheart David Cameron is pretending not to give a damn about all this, but we all know he is secretly sitting in his bedroom, re-reading her old e-mails, as his friends spread it around that he is "relaxed" about her hot date. It serves him right for publicly dumping her when he refused to have his photograph taken with her after he became popular. Gordon's mates are furious that he is sleeping with the enemy. His ex, Tony, wishes he'd done it first...

Of course, Gordon Brown doesn't really fancy Margaret Thatcher. He is merely flirting in the way that middle-aged men are obliged to flirt with old ladies if they have any manners. His gracious bow as she left the house was his chivalrous way of making her feel 21 again. His little aside about their meeting being "private" was like winking at her saucily as he waved her off. She probably spent their two hours together shouting "I'm 81 you know!" and trying to show him her legs.

The Iron Lady's transformation from icy global leader into sweet old woman is nothing short of scary. This is why icons must live fast, die young and leave a terrifying corpse. It's like seeing Marilyn Monroe watching Songs Of Praise and crocheting, with her wrinkly stockings, whiskers and no dentures in. During their conversation, Maggie apparently told Gordon that she recently took in a stray cat called Marvin. The old Maggie would have drowned the kitten and eaten the mice herself. Now, she's not for turning down a cup of tea from a handsome young man with all his hair and a lovely Scottish accent. What do you bet that she kept patting his knee and wanted to know what he wears underneath his kilt?

I met Mrs Thatcher once. She was tiny, smiley and had a conscientious whisky wallah to thrust a drink into her hand the second she walked into the room. Where is it written that anyone famous must be disarmingly, comically small? The only celebrity tinier than Maggie and Madonna is Judi Dench, who would comfortably fit into Maggie's patent leather handbag. It means that meeting your heroes (and villains) can only ever take the wind out of your sails. It is hard to maintain a lifetime's righteous fury against someone when they are glugging a scotch and grinning up at you from somewhere around your knees. I can't help but think, though, that Lady Thatcher is playing a long game. With her candyfloss bouffant and her pink dress, she has charmed her way back into Downing Street. She has won over Saatchi and Saatchi and got them to sabotage Labour's advertising campaign. (The Tories' former advertising company works for altruistic reasons, you see, and claims to have "aligned" itself with Gordon Brown "on the grounds of what is right for the country" and not for money at all.) Now she is even working on Gordon's children. On her way to No. 10, she popped into Hamley's and bought a shiny remote-controlled car for three-year-old John and a cement mixer for 10-month-old Fraser. She was seen leaving with flowers from the boys. Did Gordon make them kiss her whiskery cheek?

Thatcher has got her revenge on Cameron, stealing the limelight from his tedious Quality of Life Commission Report by being filmed cosying up to Gordon. Now she will avenge herself on the Labour Government. Did Gordon keep a close eye on the old lady as he was feeding her "cakes and little sandwiches" in the Thatcher Room? Does he think she has forgotten where the red button is? Did he notice a faint but unmistakable taste of bitter almonds when he was drinking that tea?

k.guest@independent.co.uk

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