Margaret Thatcher – 30 years today...
The General Election of May 3rd 1979 yielded a momentous result the day after. On May 4th it was clear that the United Kingdom had voted for its first woman prime minister. As she walked through the door of Downing Street, the new Premier confidently adapted the prayer of St Francis of Assisi:
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.
Few could have envisaged then that she would not only dominate her party for a generation, but that she would transform the nation and, through a unique alliance and personal friendship with Ronald Reagan, alter the course of the world.
The Thatcher revolution was as much about personality as it was about policy. She administered the right medicine to cure the ‘sick man of Europe’, and refused to passively preside over a nation in terminal decline. For her, Britain was inseparable from its historic greatness, and so she sought to inculcate a notion of ‘Great Britain’ where it had ceased to exist – in people’s hearts and minds, but also throughout the continent of Europe and around the world. She was of the mould of Boudicca, Elizabeth I, Victoria – a woman who eclipsed ten thousand men in her grasp of statecraft and the administration of power.
She endured internal carping from the ‘wets’; constant attrition from those who sought a United States of Europe; trauma from months and years of strike action; demoralisation from economic downturn, inflation and recession; the unbearable yoke of war; she even survived an assassination attempt. But she persevered as her conviction obliged her to; she endured as her vocation demanded.
Margaret Thatcher began a revolution – not one of those bloody continental affairs of the eighteenth century, but a typically British and pragmatic one on a par with that of the nineteenth. Her transformation of British industry and her preparedness for the technological revolution was eventually to place the United Kingdom ahead of the rest of Europe. And so Thatcherism was born: a creed of economic and personal liberty which is her legacy. It was an expression of Conservatism every bit as defining as that of Peel, Disraeli and Churchill.
But Margaret Thatcher did not only leave her stamp on her own party: she also transformed the Opposition, for many of her reforms were retained by Tony Blair’s New Labour with his ‘Third Way’ fusion of mutual exclusives. The tragedy is that Labour has now reverted to type: with it instinct for centralisation and bureaucratic control; its financial incontinence; its loathing of liberty and personal responsibility; its envy of the rich and successful who once again face punitive levels of taxation. Once again, Labour has brought the nation to the edge of bankruptcy. The life blood of British identity has again been poured out as a sacrifice to a utopian Socialism which stifles, strangles, oppresses and deceives.
On this 30th anniversary of her coming to power, it is worth remembering Margaret Thatcher's remarkable political achievements which eclipse her personal failings like a thousands suns. If ever another Margaret Thatcher were needed, it is now.