Monday, April 8, 2013

RIP Margaret Thatcher: Milk Snatcher with Iron Balls

Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of England a few years after I left 'England, MY England,' (D H Lawrence reference for those unaware,) but over the years I have followed her career with interest and watched her undeniable impact on the British way of life.

When I first heard this morning of her death from a stroke, the first thing that came to mind was her unflinching response to IRA Bobby Sands'  hunger strike, and her unswerving decision to reclaim the Falkland Islands after the Argentinians decided to occupy those British territories.  (An interesting video on the Empire striking back, here.)

In the hours following the announcement that yes, she has actually died, I have been listening to the global responses to her death. I don't know that there is ever a good time to die - for any of us - but I have to think that Margaret Thatcher would not be pleased with the state of the world today.  It occurs to me that the current POTUS should probably be relieved that he has not had to face the indomitable Iron Lady during his own term(s) in office.  Margaret Thatcher's principles and philosophy were diametrically opposed to every decision, in any arena,  which he and his 'most transparent ever' government have forced on the American people - often behind closed doors.

Margaret Thatcher:
"I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the Government’s job to cope with it. “I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.” “I’m homeless, the Government must house me.” They’re casting their problems on society. And you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbors. People have got their entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There is no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.

Margaret Thatcher, was Britain's longest serving (1979-1990) Prime Minister in the 20th century.  The only female British leader, she took on the old boys club, and showed the world that she was more than capable of standing her ground.  That she hated bullies was obvious in everything she did.  Her determination to reshape Britain's economic polices, and future, brought her into direct conflict with the trade unions of the day.  Arthur Scargill and the miners union was one of her fiercest domestic battles. For an interesting synopsis, look here.

Another classic example of her tough stance on bullies was her leadership on the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980 when she unleashed the might of the SAS on British soil  (From Wiki) :

Iranian embassy siege

Thatcher's determination to face down political violence was first demonstrated during the 1980 siege of the Iranian embassy in Princes Gate, London, when for the first time in 70 years the armed forces were authorised to use lethal force on the British mainland. 26 hostages were held by six gunmen for six days in May, until the siege came to a dramatic end with a successful raid by SAS commandos. Later that day, 'Thatcher went to congratulate the SAS men involved and sat among them watching a re-run of the attack'.[12] The breaking of the siege by the SAS was later celebrated by the public as one of television's greatest moments.[13]

The appearance of decisiveness—christened the 'resolute approach' by the prime minister herself—became Thatcher's trademark, and a source of her popularity.[14] In the words of one historian: 'The mood reflected Mrs Thatcher's Iron Lady stance, her proclaimed intention of laying the "Suez Syndrome" to rest and again projecting Britain as a great power. Celebration of the SAS was a key component in the popular militarism of the 1980s, fuelled by the continuing "war" against international terrorism and by the Falklands conflict and Gulf War. The storming of the Iranian Embassy had shown that Britain could meet terror with counter-terror: Mrs Thatcher's black-clad "terminators" would protect us.'[15]

Commenting on the SAS's action, social services secretary Norman Fowler agreed: 'Mrs. Thatcher attracted public support because she seemed to be taking action which the public overwhelmingly thought was right but never thought any government would have the nerve to carry out.’[16]

One of the first signs that Margaret Thatcher meant to be anything BUT politics/business as usual came when she was Education Secretary, prior to her Prime Minister-ship. 

From the Beeb:

Margaret Thatcher's decision to end free school milk for the over-sevens earned her the nickname "Thatcher, Thatcher Milk Snatcher". 
The economic outlook was bleak when Edward Heath was returned to power in 1970 and the Tories had to take some drastic measures to meet election pledges on tax. 

The most infamous cut of all was the decision to end free school milk....

She has argued that ending free milk for all but nursery and primary children would free more money to spend on other areas of education, like new buildings. 

At present free milk for primary school children costs £14m a year - twice as much as is being spent on school books.

In a full year the saving on milk provision will be about £9m. 

Mrs Thatcher told MPs the Chief Medical Officer had been consulted on the plans and he had advised that it was not possible to predict whether the withdrawal of free milk would harm children's diets and overall health. ...

Read the rest of this overview here

The impact of Thatcher's steadfast implementation of her philosophies - vision - has been much debated over the years, and many books have been written.  So today, everybody and their dog (except Bratdog, of course!) have rushed to comment:
John Boehner of the US says:

  'Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, stared down elites, union bosses, and communists to win three consecutive elections, establish conservative principles in Western Europe, and bring down the Iron Curtain. There was no secret to her values – hard work and personal responsibility – and no nonsense at all in her leadership

George W Bush on Thatcher's death:

“Laura and I are saddened by the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher. She was an inspirational leader who stood on principle and guided her nation with confidence and clarity. Prime Minister Thatcher is a great example of strength and character, and a great ally who strengthened the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Laura and I join the people of Great Britain in remembering the life and leadership of this strong woman and friend.”
 Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Baroness Thatcher. There was no more potent force in the defense of freedom than this remarkable woman. Her unshakable belief in the universal appeal of liberty helped to steer the free world through treacherous times until communism was defeated and Europe emerged whole, free and a peace.

I was honored to know her and to be inspired by her. Baroness Thatcher will be missed but generations will draw strength from the memory of her passion for freedom.”

Sarah Palin:

We’re deeply saddened at the loss of Margaret Thatcher. While the Iron Lady is sadly gone, her iron will, her unfailing trust in what is right and just, and her lessons to all of us will live on forever. She was a trailblazer like no other. We lost an icon, but her legacy, as solid as iron, will live on in perpetuity.

Margaret Thatcher will continue to have her admirers and her detractors.  A friend of mine quoted an obvious detractor this morning:

Quite apart from the stunning ignorance this comment displays, it is probably just as well for Brazile that Margaret Thatcher is not able to reply right now, but I think if she was, this (again quoted by another social media friend) would be more than appropriate:

“I owe nothing to women’s lib,” “The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.”

To really make the point, and one of my personal faves from the Iron Lady?

Fact is, Thatcher was, and will remain, a divisive figure.  Love her or hate her, nobody paying any attention could remain indifferent.  I did not agree with all her policies, although I totally supported her stance on the European Common Market - the precursor to the EU of today.  To my mind, her views and commentary then have all been proven to be valid, as we watch David Cameron still wrestling in a milquetoast manner with Britain's future role (or not) in the EU.

Again from the Beeb  archives:

"I want my money back!" At the European Union summit in Dublin, 1980

"We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at a European level, with a European superstate exercising a new dominance from Brussels." 1988

"No! No! No!" House of Commons 20 October 1990, the climax of an anti-European outburst that moved Geoffrey Howe to quit as deputy prime minister and deliver the resignation speech calling for her to be challenged for her job

 There are many, many links out there today rehashing/revisiting the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.  One of my favourites is an interview that she did with the CBC on a visit to Canada. THIS is the quintessential Thatcher in my opinion (and yes, I must confess I enjoyed the classy way that Thatcher keeps the interviewer in her place. Reminds me of another person I know who always enjoys keeping the msm journalists in their place - but I

(CBC archives)

Margaret Thatcher's political career ultimately ended as the result of a mutiny within the old boys club of her own party.  She survived an IRA bomb attack on a Brighton hotel in 1984,but was unable to quell dissension within her own ranks.

Margaret Thatcher leaves 10 Downing Street in London for the last time as British prime minister on November 27, 1990.(c) AFP

 To the end of her political tenure,  she remained classy and dignified.  From Margaret Thatcher Foundation:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
[voice breaking a little on ‘Gentlemen’]
We're leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we're very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven and a half years ago.

It's been a tremendous privilege to serve this country as Prime Minister—wonderfully happy years—and I'm immensely grateful to the staff who supported me so well, and may I also say a word of thanks to all the people who sent so many letters, still arriving, and for all the flowers.

Now it's time for a new chapter to open and I wish John Major all the luck in the world. He'll be splendidly served and he has the makings of a great Prime Minister, which I'm sure he'll be in very short time.

Thank you very much. Goodbye.


Whether you love her or hate her, nobody could ever doubt her love of country, her passion for principle, her willingness to put her convictions ahead of personal popularity and,  last but not least, her iron balls.  We will not see her like again.

Thank YOU very much, Baroness Thatcher.  Rest In Peace.


Anonymous said...

She saved Great Britain's ass. And she hated Communism and helped President Reagan defeat it. That's all I need to know. She was one of a kind, and I will always honor her.


kate said...


Anonymous said...

I loved her from the US as one of "our own"! She was an amazing woman and is already missed...