Margaret Thatcher was the female form of the “Churchillian” bulldog. A force of personality who stirred controversy overbreakfast, lunch, tea and dinner across the world that led the Russian press to ironically bestow her with the moniker “Iron Lady” – a mystery wrapped in an enigma was our M.T. And don’t forget, (Aunt Spiker cried), she was our first female P.M! (M.P. would have rhymed better but that position was filled by Lady Nancy Astor in 1919)
An Iron Lady before the Russians knew her, her determination and stamina knew no bounds – beginning as grocers daughter, earning a degree at Oxford in chemistry, dabbling as a barrister, elected as MP in 1959 and finally achieving what no woman had done before her. She possessed the keys to No.10 Downing street.
She was a British bulldozer – our own Cold War Warrior; with her iron fists she accomplished lifting the “Iron Curtain” proving she would not desist, no matter the obstacle. Meeting with President Gorbachev in December 1984, was the catalyst to begin negotiations with the Soviet Union and bring about the end of the Cold War. Her words, “we can do business together” formed a catalyst, bringing the United States and Soviet Union to the negotiation table. The latter exhibits her savoir faire to act on initiative and appreciate the interests of both countries. Without Mrs. Thatcher its unlikely that President Reagan would have considered the thought of deliberations with General Secretary Gorbachev, who ruled what the U.S. President referred to as the “evil empire”.
Her domestic achievements included revitalising the British economy, emphasized deregulation, and lessened the authority of the trade and labor unions. Back over on the continent, she adamantly tried to prevent the very plague that is occupying Europe today, the Euro. Her support of the European Union was to ensure free trade and effective competition. One could say she was an augur who had her reasons and at times those reasons seemed harsh and cruel and resulted in negative situations. But she was of the people, for the people and like all humans, especially when placed into politics, people change and not always by choice.
Margaret Thatcher was no fool nor a monster and was, I believe, demonstrably misunderstood and under-appreciated when she was in office and out. While at No. 10, she not only battled those within Parliament, the Soviet Union, Falkland terrorism, the British economy, the people and lastly the press. Never before had a Prime Minister been the bunt of umteenmillion gaffes, cartoons, the monikers – the Milk Snatcher, Maggie, Attilla the Hen… a fetid of verbal and physical abuse. Yet she kept at her post and strove on as she had promised when elected. Her skin was akin to a medieval suite of armor – surviving the both Nazi and IRA bombs. Perhaps that was her undoing, that compromise was not a consideration.
Mrs Thatcher was Great Britain’s 77th Prime Minister, succeeding James Callaghan (1976-1979), known for his little mess known as the “Winter of Discontent“. What comes as a shock is not the fact that she passed away, she was 87 and had been of poor health for sometime, but rather the British public’s reaction. Did people throw parties when Sir Anthony Eden died (ignited Suez Crisis), or Neville Chamberlain (Invasion of Poland) and while I’m at it, Stanley Baldwin and his major WW2 Hiccup. Politicians who could have perhaps help prevent World War 2, died without much more than a few hurrumps from some, and rather tainted images that are vaguely mentioned in the history books.
Its saddening to think, especially after such great unity and equanimity that we have shown as a country over the last few years (save for a few riots and other misconducts) that the world see’s how poorly certain citizens have reacted to the passing of one of our past Prime Ministers. Rather than mourn or be respectful, rejoicing proliferates. In Brixton, Glasgow and Bristol street “death” parties took place – arrests were made, police officers injured and businesses damaged, all of which reveals nothing of her legacy but of the mind-state of those involved.
The ANC (African National Congress) for whom Mrs. Thatcher had previously refused to recognise, as well her rebuff to isolate apartheid, published this statement which I believe says it all:
“[Mrs. Thatchers] passing signal the end of a generation of leaders that ruled during a very difficult period characterized by the dynamics of the cold war. Her tenure as Prime Minister redefined British politics and public administration and these impacted greatly on the European politics and governance. The ANC was on the receiving end of her policy […] however we acknowledge that she was one of the strong leaders in Britain and Europe to an extend that some of her policies dominate discourse in the public service structures of the world. Long after her passing on, her impact will still be felt and her views a subject of discussion.
For the people of Great Britain, and the rest of the world
may her passing call to mind a quote she once said:
Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.
Where there is error, may we bring truth.
Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.
And where there is despair, may we bring hope.
-St. Francis of Assisi
History of Mrs. Thatcher’s Downing Street Years in Film