Revolutionary Thatcher’s legacy

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By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS — Margaret Thatcher, the penultimate British Conservative Prime Minister, was a revolutionary. As the first female Prime Minister she emerged as a truly transformational figure both on the domestic and foreign fronts and soon challenged the entrenched interests with a stance that promoted freedom and economic liberty. She stood on principle and thus became a lighting rod for the continuing scorn of the collectivist left and the former Soviet Union who dubbed her “The Iron Lady.” She died at 87 in London.

In 1979 when her Conservative Party was voted into office in an electoral landslide, Britain was the “Sick Man of Europe.” Thatcher inherited a Britain in decline; economically, militarily and psychologically, not unlike the situation in the U.S. at the time. She would soon turn the tide through a resolute belief not only in her philosophical values but the courage and conviction to pursue them. She stood for something, and would righteously and often controversially push forward to achieve the freedom agenda whether it would be against Britain’s paralyzing trade union powers, standing up to the Soviet Union, or defending the remote Falkland Islands from an Argentine invasion. Not unlike today, the world was mired in moral relativism and a political logjam. Nicholas Jones, longtime BBC labor correspondent opined, “Margaret Thatcher’s demolition job on the industrial might of the British trade union movement helped generate an economic revolution.” During the 1970s, strikes paralyzed Britain. By the end of her premiership in 1990, stoppages had dwindled to a fraction. Later her “popular capitalism” movement saw the sale of lumbering state-owned industries and the shift of 900,000 jobs to the private sector. A million often run-down “Council Housing” units were sold to their inhabitants who became homeowners and thus had a personal stake in the survival of their neighborhoods. Her policies fostered entrepreneurialism and the opportunity it creates versus socialist stagnation. Gerry Grimstone, formerly in charge of privatization, told the BBC that firms like British Airways, British Telecom and Jaguar were taken from the government sector as a start. He recalls, “Britain was a very, very socialist country.”

Nothing was stronger than the revived special transatlantic relationship with the U.S. and President Ronald Reagan, her philosophical soul mate. As committed disciples of economic freedom and global liberty, both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan challenged the lurking dragons of entrenched interests and then thawed the permafrost of the Cold War.