The lady who changed British society forever: Margaret Thatcher
“There is no alternative.” (TINA)
On July 2022, during the election to choose the successor of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rishi Sunak, one of the conservative candidates famously pledged to be the next ‘Thatcher’. Margaret Thatcher, the name brings back a wide range of emotions; the name still stands for conviction politics and radical reforms. Due to the pandemic and the fallout of the Ukraine war, the Great Britain of today needs Thatcherite reforms more than ever to unleash growth and prosperity. Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of the Western World. She led Great Britain for more than 11 years. She was born Margaret Hilda Roberts, on October 13, 1925, in Grantham England, in a family of grocers. Her early life shaped her political thinking. Her father was a conservative politician, who taught her to be fearless.
She attended Oxford University and graduated in 1946, with a degree in chemistry. She became the first woman to be elected as the President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. After graduating, she worked as a chemist for 4 years, but politics was her passion. In 1950, she made her first bid for parliament and lost. But she gained publicity for being the youngest candidate. Her political speeches also earned her the respect of her political peers.
The following year, she married Dennis Thatcher, a successful businessman, and World War II veteran. She began raising a family after the birth of her twins in 1953. Later she became a lawyer specializing in taxation. After dabbling in chemistry and law, she understood that politics was her true calling. Once she decided that, she put her heart and soul into it.
Her political career took off in 1959 when she won a seat in the Parliament. She held a variety of political posts and slowly emerged as a political leader. She was elected as the leader of the conservative party in 1975. On May 4, 1979, she was elected as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. She remained in office for 11 years introducing policies that changed British society and economy forever.
Margaret Thatcher believed in a free market and had a pro-business approach. She privatized many state-run companies and deregulated banks and financial services which lead to the influx of foreign capital in Britain. Her tenure also witnessed the bowing down of the mighty trade unions. Thatcher believed that these unions were dragging down the economy. The famous miner’s strike of 1984 changed everything. The government went on an offensive and eventually, the miners lost. Legal clauses were added to ensure that such strikes did not happen in the future. There was a cut on the income tax for high earners. VAT was increased and Poll tax was introduced. These were hugely unpopular. The Housing Act of 1980 allowed council tenants to purchase the property at huge discounts. She raised the standard of living, brought down inflation, and gave hope to millions of Britons. This is the reason why she won three general elections in a row. She was equally steadfast in the international arena. When Argentina invaded Falklands, a British colony in 1982, she sent British troops half across the globe to reclaim it. She was hailed for this bold decision and brought her next in line to Churchill, the greatest Prime Minister of Britain who brought his country victorious after World War II.
The Death of Bobby Sands in 1981 prompted an IRA attempt on her life when a bomb exploded in Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where she was staying with her team. She had a narrow escape. She had a close friendship with her contemporary US president, Ronald Regan. Together they enacted policies called Neo-Liberal which stood for less welfare state and were business friendly. A move that is still widely copied all over the world. They were responsible for the end of the Cold War. She had a strong anti-communist stance and a speech she delivered in 1976 condemning communism, earned her the nickname ‘Iron Lady’ in the soviet press Margret’s authoritative ways saw her support melt away. There was a leadership challenge and eventually, she left 10 Downing Street in 1990, putting an end to a glorious, tumultuous, and inspiring Thatcherite decade.
Margret Thatcher was one in a million. Her strong persona evoked extreme emotions in people. The quality that led to her rise-stubbornness also led to her downfall. It is rightly said that the most assertive personalities that make an imprint on the world are usually the most controversial. Over the years, all her policies and decision have been scrutinized to understand the enigma called ‘Margret Thatcher’. A motion picture named ‘The Iron Lady’ starring Meryl Streep was made in 2011 to showcase her achievements. Margret Thatcher died at 87 in 2013, leaving behind an unmatched legacy. She wanted to be remembered for ‘Having Clear Policies With A Purpose, Steadfastly Carrying Them Out And For Being Stalwart Of Freedom And Justice’.
Nidhi Raj is a homemaker, storyteller, and mother keen on women’s issues and international relations