May 10, 2004

Ahh, The Iron Lady

The WSJ Ed Page has a superb tribute to PM Thatcher today, - Maggie Moments (paid site only, sorry!)

British Tories are this month celebrating the 25th anniversary of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's ascent to power.

The "Iron Lady" led her country for 11 years, during which she shaped the modern, successful Britain, leaving a powerful legacy that her party is wise to celebrate and from which other leaders would be wise to learn.

Inheriting a Britain with high unemployment, militant unions and rampant inflation, Baroness Thatcher abandoned the socialism of past governments -- asserting that "to cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukemia with leeches." She instead introduced free market reforms -- cutting taxes, privatizing state-owned enterprises and defeating overly powerful labor unions.

Famously euroskeptic -- a stance linked to her abhorrence of socialism and bureaucracy -- she warned, "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European superstate exercising a new dominance."

In foreign policy, democracies had to stand firm against aggression. She once reprimanded the House of Commons thusly: "I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air." And after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, she memorably told a hesitant U.S. President George H.W. Bush "this is no time to go wobbly.

She even had a word to say on how to defeat terrorism: "Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend."

To those who place their faith in international bodies she offered this warning: "To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects." And for those who insist on their own importance in the world, she had this to say: "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

Finally, to politicians who base policy on public opinion rather than principle: "If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."

But perhaps her best-remembered phrase was her challenge to critics at a party conference, who wondered whether she should back off from her aggressive economic-policy proposals: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning." Consensus politicians, take note.

I'd say all those ideas hold up well today. She is still abused badly by the BBC elitists, I heard a unbelievably cruel interview with a BCC reporter last time I was there. She is, alas, not well, and has lost her beloved Dennis.

I always thought of Mrs. Thatcher, Reagan, and Pope John Paul as the three lions who defeated Communism and freed half the world. They are all suffering from poor health today -- let us keep their ideas alive.

Posted by jk at May 10, 2004 08:29 AM
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