Dear Commons Community,
Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, died yesterday and the news media was awash with praises of her legacy. The cable news channels such MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN lauded her contributions. A New York Times editorial commented:
“She was a pathbreaker from the moment she took office in 1979 as Britain’s first, and so far only, female prime minister. And she was the rare conservative leader to come not from the upper echelons of Britain’s class-obsessed society, but from a modest apartment above her father’s grocery.
But much more than that distinguished the 11 years of Mrs. Thatcher’s government, which followed years of tepid leadership, economic stagnation and high inflation. She tamed the power of Britain’s once powerful labor movement by shutting down inefficient coal mines and privatizing state-owned industries. She encouraged an entrepreneurial culture that had grown timid and somnolent. With her powerful, plain-spoken approach to issues large (like Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait) and relatively small (the brief war over the Falkland Islands), she reawakened Britain’s taste for military engagement.”
Anthony C. Grayling, a British philosopher who founded and became the first Master of the New College of the Humanities, has another take on Thatcher, which is not as complimentary.
“It is hard to think of a more divisive figure in British politics than Margaret Thatcher…
Her admirers laud her for breaking Britain’s once-powerful trade unions, and liberalizing the City of London’s financial services industry; these acts, they say, halted the country’s economic decline. Her detractors blame her for destroying much of the country’s manufacturing base by refusing to aid struggling industries, and effectively annihilating the mining sector by emasculating the National Union of Miners. Her premiership will always be remembered for the bloody battles between workers and the police, and the high unemployment and sudden appearance of industrial wastelands that followed.
If Argentina hadn’t invaded the Falkland Islands in April 1982, she might not have even won the 1983 election. National pride raised her approval ratings, and the implosion of the opposition Labour Party sustained her party at the polls for nearly another decade.
Mrs. Thatcher’s own downfall was the so-called Poll Tax, a highly unpopular flat-rate levy on every adult, officially known as the Community Charge. The law was passed in 1988 and caused violence in many cities, including the London riot of March 31, 1990, before it was scheduled to take effect. The tax eventually helped precipitate her resignation from the premiership.
Mrs. Thatcher left behind a changed and divided Britain.”
Regardless of our views of her accomplishments, she definitely left her mark on her country. May she rest in peace.