History Heroes: Margaret Thatcher, Champion of Freedom

Dinner Topics for Thursday

 History Heroes—

Margaret Thatcher, Champion of Freedom

From Wikipedia

margaretthatcherkeyWhere there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts (born 13 October 1925) is a British politician, the longest-serving (1979-1990) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post. A Soviet journalist nicknamed her the “Iron Lady“, which became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented Conservative policies that have come to be known as Thatcherism.

Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election and became Leader of the Opposition, as well as the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

After entering 10 Downing Street, Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives to reverse what she perceived to be Britain’s precipitous national decline.[nb 1] Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Thatcher’s popularity during her first years in office waned amid recession and high unemployment, until economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her re-election in 1983.

Thatcher was re-elected for a third term in 1987, but her Community Charge (popularly referred to as “poll tax”) was widely unpopular and her views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990, after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership. Thatcher holds a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitles her to sit in the House of Lords.

Early political career

In the 1950 and 1951 general elections she was the Conservative candidate for the safe Labour seat of Dartford, where she attracted media attention as the youngest and the only female candidate.[23][24] She lost both times to Norman Dodds, but reduced the Labour majority by 6,000, and then a further 1,000.[23] (By an odd coincidence, Edward Heath was elected for the first time in the neighbouring constituency in 1950.) During the campaigns, she was supported by her parents and by Denis Thatcher, whom she married in December 1951.[23][25] Denis funded his wife’s studies for the bar;[26] she qualified as a barrister in 1953 and specialised in taxation.[27] That same year her twins, Carol and Mark, were born.[28]

Education Secretary (1970-1974)

The Conservative party under Edward Heath won the 1970 general election, and Thatcher was subsequently appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science. During her first months in office she attracted public attention as a result of the administration’s attempts to cut spending. She gave priority to academic needs in schools,[43] and imposed public expenditure cuts on the state education system, resulting in the abolition of free milk for schoolchildren aged seven to eleven.[44] She held that few children would suffer if schools were charged for milk, but she agreed to provide younger children with a third of a pint daily, for nutritional purposes.[44] Her decision provoked a storm of protest from the Labour party and the press,[45] leading to the moniker “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”.[44] Thatcher wrote in her autobiography: “I learned a valuable lesson [from the experience]. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit.”[45][46]

Thatcher’s term of office was marked by proposals for more local education authorities to close grammar schools and to adopt comprehensive secondary education. Although she was committed to a tiered secondary modern-grammar school system of education, and determined to preserve grammar schools,[43] during her tenure as Education Secretary she turned down only 326 of 3,612 proposals for schools to become comprehensives; the proportion of pupils attending comprehensive schools consequently rose from 32 per cent to 62 per cent.[47]

Prime Minister (1979-1990)

Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979. Arriving at 10 Downing Street, she said, in a paraphrase of the “Prayer of Saint Francis“:

Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.

Privatisation

The policy of privatisation has been called “a crucial ingredient of Thatcherism”.[110] After the 1983 election the sale of state utilities accelerated;[111] more than £29 billion was raised from the sale of nationalised industries, and another £18 billion from the sale of council houses.[112]

The process of privatisation, especially the preparation of nationalised industries for privatisation, was associated with marked improvements in performance, particularly in terms of labour productivity.[113] Some of the privatised industries, including gas, water, and electricity, were natural monopolies for which privatisation involved little increase in competition. The privatised industries that demonstrated improvement often did so while still under state ownership. British Steel, for instance, made great gains in profitability while still a nationalised industry under the government-appointed chairmanship of Ian MacGregor, who faced down trade-union opposition to close plants and reduce the workforce by half.[114] Regulation was also significantly expanded to compensate for the loss of direct government control, with the foundation of regulatory bodies like Ofgas, Oftel and the National Rivers Authority.[115] There was no clear pattern to the degree of competition, regulation, and performance among the privatised industries;[113] in most cases privatisation benefitted consumers in terms of lower prices and improved efficiency, but the results overall were “mixed”.[116]

The privatisation of public assets was combined with financial deregulation in an attempt to fuel economic growth. Geoffrey Howe abolished Britain’s exchange controls in 1979, allowing more capital to be invested in foreign markets, and the Big Bang of 1986 removed many restrictions on the London Stock Exchange. The Thatcher government encouraged growth in the finance and service sectors to compensate for Britain’s ailing manufacturing industry.

Thatcher’s antipathy towards European integration became more pronounced during her premiership, particularly after her third election victory in 1987. During a 1988 speech in Bruges she outlined her opposition to proposals from the European Community (EC), forerunner of the European Union, for a federal structure and increased centralisation of decision making.[147] Thatcher and her party had supported British membership of the EC in the 1975 national referendum,[148] but she believed that the role of the organisation should be limited to ensuring free trade and effective competition, and feared that the EC’s approach was at odds with her views on smaller government and deregulation;[149] in 1988, she remarked, “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 super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels”.[149] Thatcher was firmly opposed to the UK’s membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a precursor to European monetary union, believing that it would constrain the British economy,[150] despite the urging of her Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson and Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe,[151] but she was persuaded by John Major to join in October 1990, at what proved to be too high a rate.[152]

On 4 July 2011, Thatcher was to attend a ceremony for the unveiling of a 10-foot statue to former American President Ronald Reagan, outside the American Embassy but was unable to attend due to frail health.[216] On 31 July 2011 it was announced that her office in the House of Lords had been closed down.[217] Earlier in July 2011, Thatcher had been named the most competent British Prime Minister of the past 30 years in an Ipsos MORI poll.[218]

Honours

In the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher Day has been marked every 10 January since 1992,[246] commemorating her visit in 1983.[247][248] Thatcher Drive in Stanley is named for her, as is Thatcher Peninsula in South Georgia, where the task force troops first set foot on the Falklands.[246]

Thatcher has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour awarded by the US.[249] She is a patron of The Heritage Foundation,[250] which established the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom in 2005.[251] Speaking of Heritage president Ed Feulner, at the first Clare Booth Luce lecture in September 1993, Thatcher said: “You didn’t just advise President Reagan on what he should do; you told him how he could do it. And as a practising politician I can testify that that is the only advice worth having.”[252]

Continued in Wikipedia

 

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s