I often get discouraged and even depressed by what I witness around me in the politics and culture of my country. I see this discouragement also in the recent words of Rush Limbaugh where he sees American as a “dying country”. So often I find myself on the verge of giving up and resigning myself to a final defeat from the left; finding that nice soft warm and comfortable sand pile and just burying myself as deep into it as I can possibly get.
But somehow I manage to find myself at the keyboard once more with yet another plea for some sanity.
You see, I know that the nice soft warm and comfortable sand pile wouldn’t be that at all, but rather would be suffocating, cold and frightful. Worst of all, it would be a place of shame for one like me; one who loves an America which has indeed been that Shining City on a Hill that has attracted countless to its shores in pursuit of liberty and opportunity.
Then an event comes on the scene such as the death of a great human being, a great leader, a great champion of liberty; Margaret Thatcher.
The reminder of her life and her accomplishments stir in my heart a new spark of hope. You see, I lived through that decade of the 1980s when the Iron Lady brought Great Britain back from the edge of economic collapse and restored to that nation the practical notions of individual liberty and prosperity, and pushed back strongly against the collectivist powers that were devouring her nation, and indeed, the world.
Conditions in Great Britain were truly abysmal when she took control as is highlighted in this Wall Street Journal commentary by Paul Johnson:
By PAUL JOHNSON
Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did she turn around—decisively—the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. “Thatcherism” was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.
Her origins were humble. Born Oct. 13, 1925, she was the daughter of a grocer in the Lincolnshire town of Grantham. Alfred Roberts was no ordinary shopkeeper. He was prominent in local government and a man of decided economic and political views. Thatcher later claimed her views had been shaped by gurus like Karl Popper and Friedrich Hayek, but these were clearly the icing on a cake baked in her childhood by Councillor Roberts. This was a blend of Adam Smith and the Ten Commandments, the three most important elements being hard work, telling the truth, and paying bills on time.
Hard work took Miss Roberts, via a series of scholarships, to Grantham Girls’ School, Somerville College, Oxford, and two degrees, in chemistry and law. She practiced in both professions, first as a research chemist, then as a barrister from 1954. By temperament she was always a scholarship girl, always avid to learn, and even when prime minister still carried in her capacious handbag a notebook in which she wrote down anything you told her that she thought memorable.
At the same time, she was intensely feminine, loved buying and wearing smart clothes, had the best head of hair in British politics and spent a fortune keeping it well dressed. At Oxford, punting on the Isis and Cherwell rivers, she could be frivolous and flirtatious, and all her life she tended to prefer handsome men to plain ones. Her husband, Denis Thatcher, whom she married in 1951 and by whom she had a son and daughter, was not exactly dashing but he was rich (oil industry), a capable businessman, a rock on which she could always lean in bad times, and a source of funny 19th-hole sayings.
Denis was amenable (or resigned) to her pursuing a political career, and in 1959 she was elected MP for Finchley, a London suburb. She was exceptionally lucky to secure this rock-solid Tory seat, so conveniently placed near Westminster and her home. She held the seat without trouble until her retirement 33 years later. Indeed, Thatcher was always accounted a lucky politician. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan soon (in 1961) gave her a junior office at Pensions, and when the Conservatives returned to power in 1970, she was fortunate to be allotted to the one seat in the cabinet reserved for a woman, secretary of state for education.
There she kept her nose clean and was lucky not to be involved in the financial and economic wreckage of the disastrous Ted Heath government. The 1970s marked the climax of Britain’s postwar decline, in which “the English disease”—overweening trade-union power—was undermining the economy by strikes and inflationary wage settlements. The Boilermakers Union had already smashed the shipbuilding industry. The Amalgamated Engineers Union was crushing what was left of the car industry. The print unions were imposing growing censorship on the press. Not least, the miners union, under the Stalinist Arthur Scargill, had invented new picketing strategies that enabled them to paralyze the country wherever they chose.
Attempts at reform had led to the overthrow of the Harold Wilson Labour government in 1970, and an anti-union bill put through by Heath led to the destruction of his majority in 1974 and its replacement by another weak Wilson government that tipped the balance of power still further in the direction of the unions. The general view was that Britain was “ungovernable.”
Among Tory backbenchers there was a growing feeling that Heath must go. Thatcher was one of his critics, and she encouraged the leader of her wing of the party, Keith Joseph, to stand against him. However, at the last moment Joseph’s nerve failed him and he refused to run. It was in these circumstances that Thatcher, who had never seen herself as a leader, let alone prime minister, put herself forward. As a matter of courtesy, she went to Heath’s office to tell him that she was putting up for his job. He did not even look up from his desk, where he was writing, merely saying: “You’ll lose, you know”—a characteristic combination of bad manners and bad judgment. In fact she won handsomely, thereby beginning one of the great romantic adventures of modern British politics.
The date was 1975, and four more terrible years were to pass before Thatcher had the opportunity to achieve power and come to Britain’s rescue. In the end, it was the unions themselves who put her into office by smashing up the James Callaghan Labour government in the winter of 1978-79—the so-called Winter of Discontent—enabling the Tories to win the election the following May with a comfortable majority.
Thatcher’s long ministry of nearly a dozen years is often mistakenly described as ideological in tone. In fact Thatcherism was (and is) essentially pragmatic and empirical. She tackled the unions not by producing, like Heath, a single comprehensive statute but by a series of measures, each dealing with a particular abuse, such as aggressive picketing. At the same time she, and the police, prepared for trouble by a number of ingenious administrative changes allowing the country’s different police forces to concentrate large and mobile columns wherever needed. Then she calmly waited, relying on the stupidity of the union leaders to fall into the trap, which they duly did.
She fought and won two pitched battles with the two strongest unions, the miners and the printers. In both cases, victory came at the cost of weeks of fighting and some loss of life. After the hard men had been vanquished, the other unions surrendered, and the new legislation was meekly accepted, no attempt being made to repeal or change it when Labour eventually returned to power. Britain was transformed from the most strike-ridden country in Europe to a place where industrial action is a rarity. The effect on the freedom of managers to run their businesses and introduce innovations was almost miraculous and has continued.
Thatcher reinforced this essential improvement by a revolutionary simplification of the tax system, reducing a score or more “bands” to two and lowering the top rates from 83% (earned income) and 98% (unearned) to the single band of 40%.
She also reduced Britain’s huge and loss-making state-owned industries, nearly a third of the economy, to less than one-tenth, by her new policy of privatization—inviting the public to buy from the state industries, such as coal, steel, utilities and transport by bargain share offers. Hence loss-makers, funded from taxes, became themselves profit-making and so massive tax contributors.
This transformation was soon imitated all over the world. More important than all these specific changes, however, was the feeling Thatcher engendered that Britain was again a country where enterprise was welcomed and rewarded, where businesses small and large had the benign blessing of government, and where investors would make money.
As a result Britain was soon absorbing more than 50% of all inward investment in Europe, the British economy rose from the sixth to the fourth largest in the world, and its production per capita, having been half that of Germany’s in the 1970s, became, by the early years of the 21st century, one-third higher.
The kind of services that Thatcher rendered Britain in peace were of a magnitude equal to Winston Churchill’s in war. She also gave indications that she might make a notable wartime leader, too. When she first took over, her knowledge of foreign affairs was negligible. Equally, foreigners did not at first appreciate that a new and stronger hand was now in control in London. There were exceptions. Ronald Reagan, right from the start, liked what he heard of her. He indicated that he regarded her as a fellow spirit, even while still running for president, with rhetoric that was consonant with her activities.
Once Reagan was installed in the White House, the pair immediately reinvigorated the “special relationship.” It was just as well. Some foreigners did not appreciate the force of what the Kremlin was beginning to call the Iron Lady. In 1982, the military dictatorship in Argentina, misled by the British Foreign Offices’s apathetic responses to threats, took the hazardous step of invading and occupying the British Falkland Islands. This unprovoked act of aggression caught Thatcher unprepared, and for 36 hours she was nonplused and uncertain: The military and logistical objections to launching a combined-forces counterattack from 8,000 miles away were formidable.
But reassured by her service chiefs that, given resolution, the thing could be done, she made up her mind: It would be done, and thereafter her will to victory and her disregard of losses and risks never wavered. She was also assured by her friend Reagan that, short of sending forces, America would do all in its considerable power to help—a promise kept. Thus began one of the most notable campaigns in modern military and moral history, brought to a splendid conclusion by the unconditional surrender of all the Argentine forces on the islands, followed shortly by the collapse of the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires.
This spectacular success, combined with Thatcher’s revival of the U.K. economy, enabled her to win a resounding electoral victory in 1983, followed by a third term in 1987. Thatcher never had any real difficulty in persuading the British electorate to back her, and it is likely that, given the chance, she would have won her fourth election in a row.
But it was a different matter with the Conservative Party, not for nothing once categorized by one of its leaders as the “stupid party.” Some prominent Tories were never reconciled to her leadership. They included in particular the supporters of European federation, to which she was implacably opposed, their numbers swollen by grandees who had held high office under her but whom she had dumped without ceremony as ministerial failures. It was, too, a melancholy fact that she had become more imperious during her years of triumph and that power had corrupted her judgment.
This was made clear when she embarked on a fundamental reform of local-government finance. The reform itself was sensible, even noble, but its presentation was lamentable and its numerous opponents won the propaganda battle hands down. In the midst of this disaster, her Europhile opponents within her party devised a plot in 1990 to overthrow her by putting up one of their number (sacked from the cabinet for inefficiency) in the annual leadership election. Thatcher failed to win outright and was persuaded by friends to stand down. Thus ended one of the most remarkable careers in British political history.
Thatcher’s strongest characteristic was her courage, both physical and moral. She displayed this again and again, notably when the IRA tried to murder her during the Tory Party Conference in 1984, and nearly succeeded, blowing up her hotel in the middle of the night. She insisted on opening the next morning’s session right on time and in grand style. Immediately after courage came industry. She must have been the hardest-working prime minister in history, often working a 16-hour day and sitting up all night to write a speech. Her much-tried husband once complained, “You’re not writing the Bible, you know.”
She was not a feminist, despising the genre as “fashionable rot,” though she once made a feminist remark. At a dreary public dinner of 500 male economists, having had to listen to nine speeches before being called herself, she began, with understandable irritation: “As the 10th speaker, and the only woman, I wish to say this: the cock may crow but it’s the hen who lays the eggs.”
Her political success once again demonstrates the importance of holding two or three simple ideas with fervor and tenacity, a virtue she shared with Ronald Reagan. One of these ideas was that the “evil empire” of communism could be and would be destroyed, and together with Reagan and Pope John Paul II she must be given the credit for doing it.
Among the British public she aroused fervent admiration and intense dislike in almost equal proportions, but in the world beyond she was recognized for what she was: a great, creative stateswoman who left the world a better and more prosperous place, and whose influence will reverberate well into the 21st century.
Paul Johnson is a giant in the annuls of historians, is English, and is one whose views on history should be considered seriously. He has written much over the years. Two of his works I have read are:
Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830
A more complete listing of his works on history is as follows:
- 1972 The Offshore Islanders: England’s People from Roman Occupation to the Present/to European Entry
- 1974 Elizabeth I: a Study in Power and Intellect
- 1974 The Life and Times of Edward III
- 1976 Civilizations of the Holy Land
- 1977 Education of an Establishment in The World Of the Public School
- 1978 The Civilization of Ancient Egypt
- 1981 Ireland: A Concise History from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day
- 1983 A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s
- 1984 Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s
- 1987 Gold Fields A Centenary Portrait
- 1987 The History of the Jews
- 1991 The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830
- 1996 The Holocaust Phoenix
- 1997 A History of the American People
- 2002 The Renaissance
- 2002 Napoleon
- 2005 George Washington: The Founding Father
- 2006 Creators
- 2007 Heroes
Also from the Wall Street Journal I invite you to read:
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Dies which I include here:
LONDON— Margaret Thatcher, the uncompromising British prime minister who became one of the most influential global leaders of the postwar period, died on Monday, three decades after her championing of free-market economics and individual choice transformed Britain’s economy and her vigorous foreign policy played a key role in the end of the Cold War.
“We’ve lost a great prime minister, a great leader, a great Briton,” said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short a Europe trip to return to the U.K. on Monday afternoon. “She saved our country and I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister.”
Mrs. Thatcher, who was 87, grew up in an apartment above her father’s grocery store in Grantham, eastern England. She went on to become Britain’s first female prime minister and arguably the country’s most dominant political figure since Winston Churchill.
Margaret Thatcher served as the U.K.’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990. During this time her policies—some popular, some not—transformed Britain. A look at Mrs. Thatcher’s impact on the U.K.
She was a key ally and close friend of President Ronald Reagan, sharing with him a view on free-market, monetarist solutions to the economic problems of the day, as well as an implacable stance toward the former Soviet Union, earning her the nickname the Iron Lady. The two led a rightward shift in Western politics that extolled the virtues of economies with little government intervention that has largely endured, though aspects, such as the deregulation of financial services, have been questioned since the credit crisis.
In moves that were widely copied, Mrs. Thatcher took on Britain’s powerful trade unions and privatized state-run industries, governing with a take-no-prisoners style that earned her both admiration and dislike.
“She showed everyone what a political leader with a powerful agenda could accomplish,” said George Shultz, who was secretary of state to Mr. Reagan.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says Margaret Thatcher courageously addressed issues from missile deployment in Europe to the Falkland Islands changing British foreign policy and geo-politics.
“She was the last outlier from the ideological wars against Marxism, an epoch-making politician, but an incredibly polarizing force,” said Patrick Dunleavy, professor of political science at the London School of Economics.
Downing Street said funeral services for Mrs. Thatcher will be held next week at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and will be followed by a private cremation. It will be a ceremonial funeral with military honors.
Mrs. Thatcher is remembered within Britain mostly for her role in revolutionizing the fading economy, in a process that caused huge social change and division, and for the successful retaking of the Falkland Islands, the British South Atlantic territory invaded by Argentina in 1982—after which she declared “We have ceased to be a nation in retreat.”
In Europe, she is remembered as a prickly leader who thrived on confrontation, but who ultimately agreed to foster some of the European Union’s most significant developments, such as the creation of a single EU market.
Mrs. Thatcher was forced from office in 1990 following a rebellion within the Conservative Party after more than 11½ years in power, making her the longest-serving 20th-century British prime minister. By the time the opposition Labour Party took power in 1997, its leader, Tony Blair, had forced his party to accept much of her legacy, dropping its commitment to nationalized industries and embracing free markets.
Even many of her ideological enemies admired Mrs. Thatcher as a person of conviction who eschewed the focus-group politics that characterizes many in her line of work.
“She said what she meant and meant what she said and did what she said she would do,” said Tony Benn, a radical left-wing minister in the Labour governments that preceded Mrs. Thatcher.
Mrs. Thatcher herself described consensus as the process of “abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies…something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.”
Born Margaret Roberts on Oct. 13, 1925, in the Lincolnshire market town of Grantham to Alfred and Beatrice Roberts, Mrs. Thatcher was schooled from an early age in an ethic of hard work and self-reliance. She grew up in a house with no hot water and an outdoor toilet. Her father, a Methodist lay preacher, was active in local politics and a major early influence.
“He taught her, don’t go with the herd if you think that the herd is wrong,” said Sir Bernard Ingham, who served as Mrs. Thatcher’s press secretary for 11 years.
Her father’s interest in politics provided the books and newspapers that would stimulate her own. The brutalities of World War II and the accounts of a young Austrian Jew for whom her father had arranged shelter in Grantham filled her with a hate of all totalitarianism. She later recalled in her autobiography that as a 13-year-old she took on a group of adults, to their astonishment, in a prewar fish-and-chip shop line after one said that at least Adolf Hitler had given Germany back its self-respect.
Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990, died of a stroke Monday morning. She will be remembered for her free-market economics, her close friendship with President Reagan and her role in bringing an end to the Cold War. Photo: AP
Mrs. Thatcher attended local state schools at a time when Conservative politicians were still mainly drafted from Britain’s elite private schools. She studied chemistry at Oxford University and spent her early career in research laboratories.
Mrs. Thatcher took power following Britain’s “winter of discontent” of 1978-1979, in which nationwide strikes over pay by public-sector workers from gravediggers to garbage collectors brought an economy that had for years been growing at half the rate of its peers close to a standstill. In her first full two years as prime minister, the nation’s economy shrank around 3.5% and unemployment rose by a million, hovering at three million until the mid-1980s. There was widespread rioting in inner cities as both these conditions and racial tensions fomented dissent.
Mrs. Thatcher responded with radical reforms, shaped by the ideas of free-market economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman on minimizing government control and allowing markets free rein in deciding the shape of the economy. “Without economic liberty, there could be no true political liberty,” she told European leaders in 1979.
She took on Britain’s labor unions and whittled the size of the state through sweeping privatizations and the closure of unprofitable state-owned enterprises from coal mines to steel plants. The resulting long showdown between striking coal miners and Mrs. Thatcher split the country.
Mrs. Thatcher said those who stood in the middle of the road risked getting hit by traffic coming both ways. “I’m not here to be liked,” she often said.
“It was obvious by the late ’70s and early ’80s that change was absolutely essential but there was no effort to try and manage the change with an expansion of vocational education or training for people whose whole economic life was being shattered,” said Neil Kinnock, who was leader of the opposition Labour Party for most of Mrs. Thatcher’s reign.
Ian Lavery, who worked in coal pits in Ashington, a town in northeast England, watched his father, two brothers and several uncles all lose their jobs as miners. Mrs. Thatcher “ripped the heart out of the place in a short few years,” said Mr. Lavery, now a Labour Party lawmaker. “There was never anything put in place to replace what was lost.”
Mrs. Thatcher relished an argument, and got so bored on vacations that young Conservative politicians were dispatched to join her family so she could argue politics, colleagues remember.
“I watched some people in her presence who were intimidated and [would] not say much and I don’t think she liked that. She enjoyed a good argument,” said Mr. Shultz, a key figure in the Reagan administration.
Britain’s economy recovered, in part as a result of the more flexible, U.S.-style labor markets she ushered in, helped by revenue from oil discoveries in the North Sea. In addition, the widespread privatization program she drove through—amid often-fierce public opposition—put inefficient, unprofitable state giants into private hands and provided a template for many other countries in Europe. By the end of 2009, state-run industry accounted for only 2% of the U.K. economy, compared with 10% in 1979.
Her deregulation of the financial industry helped turn London from an increasingly obsolete financial center into a rival to Wall Street. Known as the “Big Bang,” for the many changes made at once, the 1987 deregulation moved trading from the floor to electronic screens and blew away barriers to entry, bringing in bankers and businesses from around the world. Critics said it also kicked off the process of scaling back regulation that contributed to the credit crisis.
Mrs. Thatcher’s term was punctuated by several recessions. The worst, in the early 1980s, saw a peak-to-trough decline in output of 6%. While her government reduced annual inflation from the double-digit figures of the 1970s, it was only in the 1990s that inflation came under control.
During Mrs. Thatcher’s decade in power, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 2.46%, above the 2.1% average in the troubled 1970s but lower than some European peers, including Germany and France. Unemployment was 7.5% when she left, in 1990, up from 5.3% in the quarter she took office in 1979.
“On macroeconomic policy, the record was patchy, but the theme throughout had been pro-business, pro-market,” which laid the foundation for later successes, said Ken Clarke, a minister in the current government, who was in Mrs. Thatcher’s cabinet throughout her time in power and became Treasury chief under her Conservative successor, John Major.
The close and candid relationships Mrs. Thatcher formed with both Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan, and her vocal support of the uncompromising U.S. position toward the Soviet Union, proved an important element in the end of the Cold War.
At her first meeting with Mr. Gorbachev, she leaned over the table to tell her Soviet counterpart over lunch: “Welcome to the United Kingdom. I want our relationship to get off to a good start, and to make sure there is no misunderstanding between us—I hate Communism,” said Sir Bernard, her press secretary at the time.
“Thatcher was a politician whose words carried big weight,” Mr. Gorbachev said Monday in a statement on the Gorbachev Foundation’s website.
“In the end we managed to achieve mutual understanding, and this was a contribution to the changing atmosphere between our country and the West, and to the end of the Cold War,” he said.
In her later years in power, the woman who famously said “the lady’s not for turning” was criticized for her inflexibility while the introduction of a new and widely disliked local tax system further sapped her popularity. In November 1990, the longest-serving member of her cabinet, Geoffrey Howe, resigned over her hostile position on a process of European integration, under which more national powers, on issues from banking regulation to working practices, were moving to Brussels.
In a resignation speech that kicked off a Conservative Party leadership contest—which Mrs. Thatcher lost—Mr. Howe told Parliament she seemed to “look out on a continent that is positively teeming with ill-intentioned people.”
Her former Defense Minister Michael Heseltine challenged her for the party leadership. He failed to win, but garnered enough votes from Conservative members of Parliament to show they wanted a change. Mrs. Thatcher, who had won three national elections, was persuaded by her party and advisers to resign before a second ballot. Mr. Major, her Treasury chief, became prime minister.
An emotional Mrs. Thatcher left No. 10 Downing Street on Nov. 28, 1990, and went to sit in the House of Lords, the upper house of the U.K. Parliament. As Baroness Thatcher, she continued to attack old enemies for a while, such as the European Union, and to exert a sometimes divisive influence within the Conservative Party.
After a series of small strokes in March 2002 and the death of her husband, retired oil executive Denis Thatcher, Mrs. Thatcher largely withdrew from public life in 2003. In a rare public appearance in 2007, she unveiled a bronze statue of herself in the House of Commons. “I might have preferred iron,” she said, “but bronze will do.”
And this again from the Wall Street Journal The Genius of Thatcherism Will Endure which I include here:
Seldom does the emergence of a single individual undeniably change the course of history. It was true of Winston Churchill becoming prime minister in May 1940, of course, but normally one person’s efforts cannot significantly alter the tide of human events. Yet undoubtedly such a person was Margaret Thatcher, for it is no exaggeration to say that she saved Great Britain from bankruptcy, made it great again, won a war and with Ronald Reagan helped sound the death knell of Soviet communism.
Yet her obituaries on both the left and the right hint that her battles were all in the past, that she was solely a figure from an earlier era, whose struggles bear no relation to today’s politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. The principles that she established—which together form the coherent political program called Thatcherism—have perhaps more relevance now than at any time since the 1980s. To write her off as a historical figure is to discard the timelessness, and thus the most important aspect, of her political thought.
With the U.N. Security Council plus Germany (the so-called P5+1) nowadays adopting what she once described in another context as “the politics of the pre-emptive cringe” toward Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb, we could do with the late Lady Thatcher’s clear-sighted and full-throated denunciation of pusillanimity in international affairs. When she was in power, her attitude toward dictatorships’ threats and bullying—be it the Argentine junta over the Falkland Islands or Saddam Hussein before the Gulf War—was precisely the tough and uncompromising stance from which the P5+1 group constantly shrinks. The advice she gave to President George H.W. Bush in 1990—”This is no time to go wobbly, George”—is desperately needed today.
Similarly, her support for Israel was lifelong and unwavering. When asked about anti-Semitism she said: “I simply did not understand it,” and she denounced members of her own constituency association who excluded Jews from the local golf club. When asked in later life what her greatest single achievement was, she replied that it had come in the late 1930s, when she was 12 and raised money to help save a 17-year-old Austrian Jewish girl from the Nazis by bringing her to Britain.
Margaret Thatcher hated deficits with all the power that a grocer’s daughter might be expected to hate indebtedness. Despite inheriting a disastrous economy from the Labour Party in 1979—the top income-tax rate was 98% and public-sector strikes were crippling British industry—she managed to increase growth and productivity to such an extent that she could leave office with a top tax rate of 40% and growth rates mirroring those of her beloved America. Sadly, her mind slipped into the shadows in the early part of this century, otherwise it would have been highly enlightening to hear her opinion of the astronomical deficits being run by the Obama administration today.
Similarly, it would be marvelous to hear her assess the state of the European Union today, as every one of her predictions of the dangers of economic and monetary union have been shown to be correct. Lord Salisbury once said that the four cruellest words in the English language are “I told you so.” How often did Margaret Thatcher tell Brussels and Europhiles that a system in which all European economies of whatever size, shape and type were strait-jacketed into uniform interest and exchange rates would inevitably fail? She saw the danger. Perhaps she could point the way out.
When it was proposed that the British pound should give way to the euro, she memorably cried out in the House of Commons, “No! No! No!” Britons should look at Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy today and laud her for her foresight, yet it was over the question of European integration that she was ultimately defenestrated by a small but determined cabal within the Conservative Party.
“Democracy isn’t just about deducing what the people want,” she once said. “Democracy is leading the people as well.” How often does one see that in today’s opinion-poll, focus-group-driven politics? Of the political U-turns that “the wets” within her own party so wanted in 1981, she told the Tory Party Conference: “You turn if you want to; the lady’s not for turning.”
Unlike too many politicians today, she had a visceral sense of politics—and of right and wrong. On the bicentenary of the fall of the Bastille, for example, her guts told her that it was wrong to join the French in celebrating a revolution that brought bloodshed, war and republicanism, so she forbade the British ambassador to attend, amid much grinding of teeth in the Foreign Office. Can one imagine any modern politician making such a magnificent gesture today?
Similarly she reveled in the abuse that her enemies directed at her. When the Soviet propaganda ministry pinned the label “Iron Lady” on her, it was meant to draw attention to her inflexibility. “Any leader has to have a certain amount of steel in them,” she replied, “so I am not that put out being called the Iron Lady.” How much does the West today need statesmen who treat personal popularity as an unimportant byproduct of the larger battles that they wish to fight, and who trust the people to re-elect them even if voters don’t particularly like them?
As someone who knew her well, I can attest that there was plenty to like as well as to admire in Margaret Thatcher, but she never put likability high on her list. She had a job to do. When a few years ago Hillary Clinton likened herself to Margaret Thatcher, it would have been easy to accept what was certainly intended as a compliment, but instead Lady Thatcher expostulated: “She’s not in the least like me; I know because I’m not in the least like her!”
Now that Lady Thatcher is dead, we must not turn her into a mere cozy historical figure, shorn of the ideological convictions that are for the ages. Thatcherism will always remain, and the world is better for it.
Mr. Roberts, a historian, was appointed by Margaret Thatcher as a Trustee of the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust.
I’ve included these somewhat lengthy articles from the WSJ in hopes you will read them in their entirety and digest the true quality of the person we had leading a major nation (and the world) through some very troubling times.
I included them because you may not have been there as I was when freedom was under attack throughout the world, and slavery in the form of Soviet and Chinese Communism was moving throughout the world.
I include them because even though you might have been there, you weren’t paying attention to the very real threats, both economically and politically that were facing the free world.
I include them here now because you are not likely to read such truth in many of the main stream media outlets which remain hostile to her.
And, I include them here now so that I not give up and put my head in that pile of sand.
Don Johnson – April 2013