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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Falklands drama makes tardy debut
Patricia Hewitt as Margaret Thatcher
The play was deferred because of the General Election
By the BBC's Michael Hubbard

Radio 4's The Falklands Play is a dramatisation of events leading up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 - and the response of Margaret Thatcher's government to the ensuing crisis.

The BBC commissioned the play from Ian Curteis 15 years ago but then decided not to broadcast it, allegedly because of its pro-Margaret Thatcher bias ahead of a general election.

It is being transmitted now for the 20th anniversary of the Falklands war.

Curteis told BBC News Online that he felt the play was dropped because he "presented Margaret Thatcher and her policy on the Falklands in a favourable light".

Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hodges' voice "cuts glass"

Margaret Thatcher, General Galtieri and US Secretary of State Alexander Haig all feature in this highly charged performance.

For listeners old enough to remember the events of the war, the play will rekindle memories.

The use of BBC News archive footage interspersed with the voices of an ensemble cast is an impressive combination.

The play outlines how the crisis developed and was resolved from Margaret Thatcher's viewpoint.

It also goes some way to show how international relations work.

Patricia Hodge plays the prime minister and her voice cuts glass.

She has some choice lines in which she compares herself to conquerors of enemies past.

Margaret Thatcher is portrayed as a straight-talking, passionate and courageous world leader who gains respect by standing up to General Galtieri and the forces of diplomatic diffidence.

She gives short shrift to American proposals to broker a peace based on a reassessment of the Falkland Islands' sovereignty - and with the passing of time the proposals do sound outrageous.

The Falklands Play
The prime minister's mettle is tested by colleagues
Meanwhile, the explosive political situation in the UK sweeps Margaret Thatcher along through personal doubt and trauma, despite her best attempts to seem in control.

Cabinet ministers resign and parliamentary voices demand diplomatic dialogue rather than a recourse to war.

Through throwaway comments from American diplomats, and Margaret Thatcher's political colleagues, we see that her mettle really was tested.

Exactly how much of the dialogue is invention and how much is factual is not clear.

But it seems a shame that the play ends on Margaret Thatcher declaring the case for why war is sometimes justified.

Leaving aside the servicemen and islanders who endured the consequences of the crisis also deprives the listener of some degree of objectivity.

The play does come across as biased but it does not talk Margaret Thatcher and her ideals up at the expense of the domestic opposition.

Rather, it questions the principles and operating practices of politicians and diplomats, in the UK and elsewhere, who found themselves caught up in the UK's worst foreign policy crisis since Suez.

The Falklands Play is on Radio 4 at 1430 BST on Saturday 6 April

See also:

29 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Lord of the Rings back on Radio 4
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher rejects Falklands trip
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Margaret Thatcher: Tory titan
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