Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Margaret Thatcher - the Iron Lady

Baroness Margaret Thatcher passed away on April 8, 2013.
It is with great sadness that I write this as former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, has recently died after suffering a stroke. She was 87 years old. She was the world's first woman to serve as a prime minister of a country.  Although she did not consider herself a feminist - in fact she deplored them - she was a role model to me and many other women throughout the world.  She was a feminine woman, but not a feminist, she liked to say.  I believe a woman can be feminine but at the same time a strong, unwavering woman in her beliefs and in her making the United Kingdom a stronger nation.
Plaque that sits on Margaret Thatcher's birthplace home.

Home where Margaret Thatcher was born.

Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979-1990.  She was the only woman to have held that office.  She was leader of the Conservative Party (Tory) from 1975-1990 and also the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom.  She is the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century.

Her nickname, Iron Lady, was a christening from a Soviet Union journalist who gave her the nickname because of her unwavering convictions.  In fact,  Thatcher, herself, said she was a woman and a politician of conviction and not consensus.  During her tenure as prime minister she rarely did concede or compromise with the Labor Party.

Thatcher was originally a chemist and a barrister and was elected as a member of Parliament (MP) in 1959.   She was a staunch conservative and when she became prime minister she introduced a series of political and economic initiatives to reverse what she considered to be Britain's national decline in the world.  These became known as Thatcherisms.

Her philosophy and economic policies emphasized deregulation in the financial sector, flexible labor markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies and reducing the power and influence of trade unions.  She was a conservative to a T.

She was elected to a third term as prime minister in 1987, but her Community Charge (poll tax) was quite widely unpopular and her views of the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet.  At this time, she began to become quite unpopular and resigned as prime minister  and party leader in November 1990 after a challenge to her leadership.  She tearfully left 10 Downing Street believing that what she had done and had proposed for Britain was in its best interests.

In 1992, she was given life peerage as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire which entitled her to sit in the House of Commons which she did for several years.
Thatcher and her husband with the Reagans .
Thatcher with Mikail Gorbachev and wife.

Thatcher is also known for her unwavering support of President Ronald Reagan and helped him behind the scenes to bring down communism in the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall.  She also was a supporter of Mikail Gorbachev and his political philosophy of 'peristroika', the opening up of the Soviet Union.  She also had unwavering support for him in this regard.  And, both of these powerful men found her charming and elegant but at the same time strong in her convictions.

Several years go, the movie 'Iron Lady', starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, came out much to the interest of the public and much to the dismay of the Thatcher family.  Meryl Streep's performance of Thatcher in her dementia condition and then in flashbacks as Thatcher at the height of her power as prime minister was outstanding.  Meryl Streep was Margaret Thatcher.

Seeing Margaret Thatcher in dementia was poignant and true - we all wanted to know what was happening to her.  The Thatcher family was outraged as they didn't believe Margaret Thatcher would want us to see her that way.  But, her strength in her younger days contrasted by her dementia in later days, was absolutely fascinating to see.  Her basic personality and strength never wavered in dementia as portrayed in the scene when she washes the tea cup at the end of the movie.  Her strength and convictions remained even in dementia.  I found that portrayal comforting and a salute to Thatcher's strength of her convictions.

I find Margaret Thatcher's unwavering convictions a wonderful thing in an age where unwavering convictions do not exist in the United States at this time and place in our political institutions. Although, I didn't agree with every one of her policies I found her to be a strong leader for the United Kingdom.  Perhaps a few politicians like Margaret Thatcher, in our political institutions would help us out of our gridlock, help us in finding a stronger economy, and help us in our quest for some sort of gun control in this country.