‘The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher’ will be read by Shakespearean actress Dame Harriet Walter in a 13-minute broadcast for Radio 4 on January 9. The fantasy story by Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel was condemned as “perverted” and “distasteful” when it was published in September.
“It is a sick book from a sick mind and it’s being promoted by a sick broadcasting corporation,” said former Cabinet Minister Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was paralyzed when the IRA tried to murder Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet in the 1984 Brighton bombing.
Tebbit has called on BBC’s director-general to stop the broadcast, the Daily Mail reports.
“The serialization should never have gone ahead and, if Tony Hall was worth his gigantic salary, he would stop it. It would be interesting to know how much the BBC had paid for the book,” said Tebbit.
The assassination plot is one of ten short stories in an anthology also called ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.' The BBC will serialize four of the stories across five days beginning on January 5.
“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,” said a spokeswoman for the BBC.
“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.”
Best-selling author Mantel has admitted to detesting the former Prime Minister, describing her as an “anti-feminist” and a “psychological transvestite.
“When I think of her I can still feel that boiling detestation. She did long-standing damage in many areas of national life.”
Mantel has previously spoken of her assassination fantasy, saying she was once so close to Thatcher she could have pulled the trigger herself.
“If I was someone else she’d be dead,” she said.
The Daily Mail reports that supporters of Thatcher have accused the BBC of being deliberately provocative with a move that will spur accusations of the broadcaster’s bias against the Tories.
Said Lord Bell, a former adviser and a friend of Lady Thatcher: “If the BBC had any real sensibility it would leave that subject alone with an election just five months away. It is inevitably going to be accused of political bias. If it really was independent it would avoid doing things that were provocative.”
Tory MP Conor Burns, Lady Thatcher’s closest confidant and adviser in her last days, said: “Given the public controversy that surrounded Hilary Mantel’s original publication of this twisted little story from her disordered mind it seems calculating of the BBC to choose it for Book at Bedtime.”
“Leaving aside the distastefulness, it certainly seems to me to be an unfortunate choice for people who are on the verge of a restful night’s sleep.”