Tuesday, April 9, 2013

R.I.P. Margaret Thatcher: 1925-2013

I read with sadness yesterday that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had died. It did not come as a big surprise as her health had been declining for several years.
Baronness Thatcher lead Britain for 11 years, from 1979 to 1990, not always with smoothness but always with great resolve. She believed in the free economy and wished to liberate British manufacturing from the twin yokes of too-powerful trade unions that demanded too much and socialism which, she correctly believed, was the granting of money from those who earn it to those who do or produce nothing yet believe they are entitled to it. This did have the effect of massive unemployment and inflation during her early years, but only because these backs on which British industry had run for decades were finally being broken.
Margaret Thatcher did not cave in. She earned the term "the Iron Lady" from her detractors. She embraced the term, noting that trying to be liked by everyone would achieve nothing. Thatcher stood up for the residents of the Falkland Islands who wished to remain British. It's regrettable that it took a war to do so, but you can blame that on the Argentinian tin-pot regime that invaded the islands, thus precipitating it.
Thatcher did not always get it right, as the implementation of the poll tax—which essentially placed the tax burden on the traditional working class—demonstrated. She was also perhaps a bit overzealous in her desire to privatize almost everything she touched.
But for a few mistakes and the eternal hatred that she will always fetch from those with a red streak running through them, she was as perfect a leader as you could get. By 1979, Britain was in desperate need of a strong-willed Prime Minister who would be serious about turning the British economy and manufacturing base around to reflect capitalist credentials. Like her or loathe her, she was essentially the first Prime Minister of note since Winston Churchill. Who can wax eloquent about Wilson or Callaghan? Macmillan was fairly effective but too quiet and behind-the-scenes.
Thatcher was, admittedly, a bit "school ma'am"-ish.  She reminded you of the head lunch lady, veteran teacher or principal you had when you were in elementary school—an imperious woman that everyone respected but no-one liked.  It didn't matter if she never smiled at you; you were just relieved if she left you alone.
But, in the end, Margaret Thatcher deserves to go down in history as one of the greatest leaders that the Western world has produced.  This is her due, whether you agreed with her strongly or not at all.
There's not much I can say about Lady Thatcher that hasn't already been said over the years by other conservatives. So I will end this entry with what I consider to be some of her most noteworthy quotes:

"I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left."
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"To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no-one believes and to which no-one objects."
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"Ought we not to ask the media to agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists' morale or their cause?"
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"To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukemia with leeches."
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"There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty."
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"Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on Earth."
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"Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."
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"If you want to cut your own throat, don't come to me for a bandage."
*   *   *
"The battle for women's rights has largely been won."

1 comment:

goddessdivine said...

Gosh we need people like her today. What a great lady. I remember her coming to my college back in the 90s to speak, and even though I wasn't totally political back then, I remember being impressed with her. I'd give my left arm to have someone like her lead my country today.