7 FEBRUARY 1981, Page 28


Why me?

Patrick fvlarnharn

Recently I have found myself dreaming about Margaret Thatcher; quite frequently. It requires a certain recklessness to admit to this. When the trouble first started I used to mention it to people with whom I regarded myself as being on a more or less friendly basis. In the early days it was just a sneaking admiration I felt for her. When the BBC first started to broadcast prime minister's question time Mrs Thatcher was usually on her feet, questioning Mr Callaghan. At first, nothing. Just Mrs Thatcher's familiar, precise enunciation. But then those terrible House of Commons background noises started up. On the radio it sounds like feeding time in Bedlam Hospital. And I realised with a growing feeling of frustration that Mrs Thatcher's voice was too weak to make itself heard. It seemed so terribly, terribly unfair.

Then she herself became prime minister and the reel trouble started. Of course I knew what I was meant to think about Mrs Thatcher. Either she was the evil one or she was mildly embarrassing. I also knew what had always really thought about her. Which was nothing at all. But now I found that when I did just occasionally think about her it was with a growing sense of warmth. She seemed rather gallant, dashing, attractive, witty even. I wondered if I was suffering from overwork, Whenever I tried this new idea out on others there was a sort of stunned silence. 'What do you mean, "She's not so bad"?' they would eventually ask. Or, 'How can you possibly think that "She's really rather wonderful?" And I asked myself the same anguished questions. How? Why? Why me? Before things got completely out of hand, and I lost all my acquaintance, I decided to pretend that it was just a joke after all. Oh very amusing; yes, yes, it's all right; go on talking among yourselves; nothing has changed . . .

But ther these dreams started. The details are difficult to recall, but certain things remain constant throughout the series. Mrs Thatcher is always prime minister. I am lways at her side. We are in public. Everything is entirely proper between us. The dreams would be quite suitable for family viewing. Mound us there are large crowds who have come to see Mrs Thatcher. I am not quite sure whether I call her 'Margaret'. I think not. I call her 'Prime Minister'. She calls me 'Marnham'. My ownrole is not entirely clear. It seems that I am paid to advise her about the dangers of her position. I wear a suit. Mrs Thatcher, and this is rather odd, wears long flowing silk tea-gowns. Everyone else in the dream is dressed for work in the upper echelons of Whitehall. But she is all frills and ruffles and organdie, whatever that is. Very bold prints, dresses down to her ankles. She swishes when she walks and gives off an inner light.

The other thing that I recall from these dreams quite clearly is that she never listens to a word I say. In fact she seldom stops talking. I am not entirely alone as her Adviser. There are other men around — ambitious, ruthless, scheming — who seem to know more about economics than I do. That would not be difficult, but these sharks seem to know more about economics than anyone could, in all sanity, want to know. And Mrs Thatcher ignores everything they say as well. She just interrupts them, and when she starts to speak we all fall silent. None of us feels at all humiliated by this On the contrary, we like her to interrupt. We are quite certain that if she has something to say it will be well worth listening to.

Normally we are grouped, me and these thrusting economists, around her in a motorcade. 1 am invariably standing in the back of the open car. She is raised slightly on a platform from which she can wave to the cheering crowds and also direct the conversation. She has uncannily good hearing and always gets straight to the point. Eventually the limousine draws to a smooth halt. She alights. We scramble out. The police close around our group and we struggle towards the sanctuary of whatever building it is that she has decided we must enter. In the middle of this teaming mob she again asks me for my opinion. I take the greatest care to express it as precisely as Possible and begin to speak but she has already taken the point and disagreed. She Is talking again. We struggle on towards the door. However many people call out to her from the crowd she remains completely calm.

,I am not interested in any psychiatric interpretation of these dreams. You don't have to spend eight years dissecting hYpothalami to trot out glib analyses of Other people's dreams. It is apparently quite common for people to dream about the Queen. I have never dreamed about the Queen. I have no time to do so, apart from anything else, since Mrs Thatcher occupies SO many of my unconscious moments. But if I did dream about the Queen, or if I did admit to thinking that the Queen was not entirely without merit, I do not think that it Would arouse quite the same strangled and horrified reaction when I said so.

More than anyone else my secret life seems to outrage members of the Women's Movement. Why should that be? I have decided that until I can solve this mystery, and until I can control my dreams, I must stop writing this column.