The Week

(Roman Genn)


Margaret Thatcher R.I.P.

Margaret Thatcher was the greatest peacetime British prime minister of the 20th century, and perhaps of all time; and her achievements in foreign policy were second only to those of Winston Churchill.

In domestic policy, she reversed the decline of the previous 30 years and revived both the British economy and the British spirit. She brought inflation under control and established sound money; brought the unions under law, so dispelling the idea that Britain had become “ungovernable”; defeated the miners’ strike, so entrenching her reforms; revived the enterprise culture that Britain had pioneered a century earlier but lost; and started what became a worldwide revolution of privatization. Ten years after the strike-ridden “winter of discontent,” Britain’s economy had become the fourth-largest in the world.

In foreign policy, she was instrumental to the free world’s victory in the Cold War — a victory achieved “without firing a shot,” as she put it. She was steadfast and vocal in her support of the NATO policy of installing cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe. The success of that policy, against the vehement objections of both the “peace movement” and most parties of the European Left, marked the point at which the U.S.S.R. lost the Cold War. She improved on that success by identifying Mikhail Gorbachev as “a man we could do business with” and warmly recommending him to Ronald Reagan as such. Her early endorsement of the Soviet leader was one reason the Cold War ended peacefully, almost on friendly terms.

In addition, she won the Falklands War, defending popular sovereignty and asserting British will against incompetent bemedalled dictators.

Mrs. Thatcher — we prefer to call her by the name she was known by in the days of her glory — made enemies who remain bitter to this day, as some comments on her death from the British Left miserably illustrate. Her shade must be content with the praise that is rising from the formerly Communist nations in which she remains a heroic and loved figure — and from the United States, which was second only to Britain in her affection.

To sum up such a remarkable life is not easy. We cannot improve upon the attempt by Lord Saatchi, head of the think tank she founded and the shaper of her victorious election message in 1979: “Everyone wants to be immortal. Few are. Mrs. Thatcher is. Why? Because her values are timeless, eternal. Tap anyone on the shoulder anywhere in the world, and ask what Mrs. Thatcher ‘believed in,’ and they will tell you. They can give a clear answer to what she ‘stood for.’ She developed all the winning arguments of our time — free markets, low tax, a small state, independence, individuality, self-determination.”

May 6, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 8

Special Defense Section
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Jay Nordlinger reviews Roger Ailes: Off Camera, by Zev Chafets.
  • Richard Brookhiser reviews The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues: A History of Greenwich Village, by John Strausbaugh.
  • Abigail Thernstrom reviews Intellectuals and Race, by Thomas Sowell.
  • Robert VerBruggen reviews Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?, by Neil Gross.
  • John Daniel Davidson reviews Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas, by Erica Grieder.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .