The Corner

Thatcher Proved Character is Not an Illusion


On October 12, 1984, while the Conservative Party was meeting in Brighton, a massive bomb ripped through the Grand Hotel. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the target of the IRA’s assassination attempt, escaped unharmed, though her bathroom was destroyed. Five people were killed and 31 injured.

I don’t know about you, but if I had been blown out of my bedroom at 2:54 a.m. by a terrorist’s bomb, I might need a day or two to recover. Not Margaret Thatcher. By 4 a.m. she had given an interview to the BBC announcing that the party congress would continue on schedule. At 9:30 a.m., she delivered a speech promising that attempts to “cripple Her Majesty’s democratically elected government” had failed.

“That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now—shocked, but composed and determined—is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”

Some people have tremendous physical courage but lack all courage of their convictions. Some seem strong only to fold when it really counts. From the time when she was 13 years old and rebuked a gaggle of old men at a fish and chips shop who were saying that “at least Hitler had restored Germany’s self-respect,” to her refusal to buckle to political pressure to  compromise her free market policies (“the lady’s not for turning”), to her resolute support of the Cold War against the “evil empire” a phrase she happily quoted, to her sangfroid in the face of an IRA bomb that came within feet of killing her, Margaret Thatcher displayed every kind of courage. This is what is meant by character. It’s not an illusion. It’s not, as the cynics would have it, impossible. This is what greatness looks like.

I have more thoughts on Thatcher and the feminists here.

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