Margaret Thatcher, nicknamed by a soviet journalist, the “Iron Lady” of the west; a title she would later embrace in a public gathering. She agreed and differed with many on her policies especially economic ones, but the truth is that she changed the way Britain was governed. She had not always had this influence, it took a lot of personal effort and personality changes; and also other means of influence through friends and allies to get Britain to vote her into No.10 Downing Street. Her image was one of the biggest impediments to her growth in Politics. She already had the Fundamental characteristics of what leadership of the time in Britain required but her public image, public speaking and negative views of her a strength in candidature for prime minister. She had earlier arguably lost popularity in the Ministry of Education under Heath’s government, she was a woman in a parliament where there were over 95% men MPs and previously one of only 2 women in the cabinet, the odds were against her.
She later grew distasteful of the current leadership of the conservative party, the then opposition Party. She brought together the other party leaders to get someone who could stand against Heath’s leadership and none of them seemed ready, she felt the responsibility to do it herself and then started on a journey first of all to influence her own party to vote for her as leader of the opposition then later run for the post of prime minister.
Many people have said when she started out, everyone could see there was something in her that was special about leadership but her personal image was doing her injustice. Margaret was sharp and quick. She worked very closely with Airey Neave, a friend, conservative party member and former MI6 Agent that had earlier escaped a Nazi camp (Colditz Castle) in World war II to help her with influencing the party members to vote her into leader of the opposition, Neave was her campaign manager. On the other hand she worked with Gordon Reece, a former Television producer to help her with her public image.
The first area she needed to work on was her public speaking. Her voice and tonality was quite awful, high tones when speaking, sharp and irritating at times, some said she sometimes talked too fast and one critic (Clive James) particularly said “her voice was like that of a cat sliding down a black board”. For this, Gordon Reece arranged for a voice coach, the coach was a trainer for movie stars and therefore was believed to do a good job for the would be prime minister. Margaret was taught how to lower her tone but exert more power to her voice, she was given humming lessons repeatedly and taught how to speak with clarity. This definitely took a little bit of time but afterwards in her speeches you could tell she had worked on herself a lot. Her speeches were edited and she was trained especially on tonality and how to alter her voice in some parts of her speeches. She was taught how to breathe when speaking, which is actually a difficult skill to learn and how to wait out before answering questions, how to handle the press, how to act in interviews and handling audiences when speaking.
In some interviews she was asked about the sudden improvement of her speaking and presentation skills and the role of Gordon Reece in training her but she denied and instead claimed she was the one training Gordon haha. She only admitted Gordon’s role later in an interview like 15 years after resigning from the Prime Minister post.
Margaret had often dressed in what you’d call conservative yet smart parliamentary attire, but she had nothing to distinguish herself from the rest, she was just plain. Gordon Reece again came in and changed almost everything. He got to decide her hairstlyle, make-up, clothing and something else he added on top was hats! One thing people remember about Margaret was her hats, they were unique and very very different. You could tell where she was seated or standing in a gathering because of her unique hats. I am made to believe that Gordon Reece hired Television’s highly skilled professionals to work Margaret’s make-up, hair, dresses, shoes and everything to make her look beautiful and stand out everywhere she went.
Looking the part is great until someone opens their mouth. Gordon knew this and the public image programme ran in tandem with Public speaking so that Margaret looked good, sounded good and spoke what the British public wanted to hear. She was dressed everyday as you would dress someone meant to appear on TV that day.
I’m Just Like You
After winning the opposition leader position, working on herself became even more intense. She now had to take advantage of every other opportunity that presented itself as a good too for publicity.
Her husband Dennis Thatcher was a rich businessman and this kind of isolated her from the working class who viewed her as part of the ruling class and British nobility. She worked really hard to water down this philosophy by constantly sharing her strory as the ‘daughter of a grocery store owner’, which indeed was true. Her family lived in a house above a grocery store that her father owned. The story of growing up ‘above the grocery store’ was circulated a lot in the dailies and by herself in her interviews and speeches to help her relate even more closely with the working class of Britain at the time; this really worked for her during her campaign for prime minister.
She now attended more family shows on TV, took opportunities for interviews, became a guest of the gutter press and went a lot on radio. This way she made sure that people knew what she sounded like, looked like and it was meant to create the impression of I’m just like you, especially to the working class.
In the press visits, TV Interviews and photo opportunities, the image she worked hard to create was the ‘I am Just Like You’ image to woo the working class, who were the majority of voters at the time. Tabloid magazines covered her stories and the press seemed to follow her everywhere she went. She already had the brand of a decisive person that wouldn’t mince her words. She had natural clarity of mind and working on herself made her even more articulate in her expressions. She sometimes had the press follow her in her car and home where she was always signing papers and going through files to create an impression of a ‘working’ prime minister. These exposures allowed her the opportunities to practice what she had been learning from Gordon Reece and also communicate her values and vision for Britain.
Margaret suffered a tragedy of losing a very close confidant and campaign manager Airey Neave shortly before the elections in a car bomb assassination. She picked herself up quite quickly, campaigned really hard and clinched the PM seat; she went on to make history as the first British female prime minister with record policies that shaped and ushered post-war Britain into the new post-modern Britain that exerted that much influence on the world especially in trade and commerce.
In my opinion, she owes so much of her success to Gordon Reese because with a gift or without, the inability to communicate it effectively to the right people, it’s simply not going to be effective. If you are looking to go to the next level of your life, get professionals around you to help and before you know it, you’ll be there!