Anger over BBC story about Thatcher assassination

Hilary Mantel's story imagines Mrs Thatcher's assassination. Picture: PA
Hilary Mantel's story imagines Mrs Thatcher's assassination. Picture: PA
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The BBC has sparked criticism over plans to broadcast a “mischievous” story on Radio 4 imagining the assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel will feature in the station’s Book at Bedtime slot.

But Tory grandee Lord Tebbit told a Sunday newspaper: “It is a sick book from a sick mind and it’s being promoted by a sick broadcasting corporation.”

Meanwhile, Tory Lord Bell said the BBC was “inevitably going to be accused of political bias”, adding: “If it really was independent, then it would avoid doing things that were provocative.”

But a spokesman for the BBC said that the literature was “of significant interest to the public”.

He said: “Book at Bedtime offers the best of modern and classic literature and, in doing so, presents a wide range of perspectives from around the world.

“The work of Hilary Mantel – a double Booker Prize-winning author – is of significant interest to the public and we will not shy away from the controversial subject matter that features in one of the four stories read across the week.”

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The broadcast from Mantel’s collection of short stories will go out in the week of 5 January and be read by Dame Harriet Walter.

BBC Radio 4’s publicity department said: “In Hilary Mantel’s mischievous story, a knock at the door announces an unexpected visitor who has plans to alter the course of history as people know it.

“The stories selected from Mantel’s collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher are dark and sharply observed.

“From the middle-class woman with powerful feelings about a former prime minister, to the woman trapped in her apartment in Jeddah, to the two young girls who, during the heat of the summer holidays, venture into forbidden territory, each of the stories deals with psychological unease, and at the same time is wickedly witty.”

Mrs Thatcher’s biography was featured on Book of the Week on Radio 4 when it was published.

Two-time Man Booker Prize winner Mantel, who made her name dissecting the 16th-century court intrigues of King Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell, has not been afraid to speak out about modern-day Britain.

Last year, the Wolf Hall author attacked the Duchess of Cambridge as a “shop-window mannequin” with no personality, whose only purpose was to breed.

During a lecture at the British Museum, she criticised Kate as appearing to have been “gloss-varnished” with a perfect plastic smile in contrast to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, whom she described as awkward and emotionally incontinent.

She went on to suggest that the “painfully thin” Kate was selected for her role of duchess because she posed no risk of showing any character.

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