The Dom Post editorial:
Of all the millions of words that will be written about Margaret Thatcher in the coming days none will more succinctly sum up the impact of the late British prime minister than those uttered by her former press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham: “She knew what she wanted to do, and did it.”
What Baroness Thatcher will be remembered for is breaking the power of the unions, privatising British Telecom, British Gas and dozens of other publicly owned companies, going to war over the Falkland Islands and resisting Soviet expansionism.
Not a bad list.
She changed the world, too. In the 1980s, building more missile bases and condemning Soviet totalitarianism at every opportunity was viewed as dangerously provocative. But, with the benefit of hindsight, Baroness Thatcher and her closest political ally, then United States president Ronald Reagan, were indisputably right.
People forget this. Tens of millions demanded that the West basically unilaterally disarm and appease the Soviet Union.
Margaret Thatcher’s social views stemmed from her Christianity and a belief in the importance of individual rights. If there was nothing novel in this, nor did she invent a new economic policy. Rather, she and Ronald Reagan brought monetarism into the mainstream, with their advocacy of reduced state intervention, free markets, entrepreneurialism, less taxation, and the privatisation of state assets. The implementation of this programme was made the easier by Britain’s dire state when she claimed power. The country was commonly described as the sick man of Europe. A postwar decline had been exacerbated by the power wielded by trade unions and a general sense of despondency.
Margaret Thatcher proposed to change all of this, and she did. From 1982, Britain provided a ready canvas as it started to pull out of its worst post-World War II slump. Spurred on by her leadership and a sharp curbing of inflation and interest rates, people soon had the confidence to start their own businesses and buy shares. This sparked a high level of social mobility – and the yuppie.
With time, I think people forget how morbid the UK was in the 1970s. It was sick beyond belief.
Her uncompromising style allowed her to be outstanding in foreign as well as domestic policy, an achievement rare among politicians. In the midst of her first term, Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands provided the opportunity to establish her credentials. If Britain’s recapture of the islands was a close-run thing, it, nevertheless, occasioned a wave of patriotism, and applause for her decisiveness. In President Reagan, she found a leader who shared her view of the world. Transatlantic co-operation blossomed, especially with the taking of a sterner approach to the Soviet Union. Ultimately, this played a part in the end of the Cold War and the downfall of communism.
In 100 years time, Thatcher will be the only UK Prime Minister still talked about, post WWII. She was a force of nature.