Margaret Thatcher 1926-2013

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Even if she had been a mediocre Prime Minister (of which Britain has had a few) Margaret Thatcher would have gone down in history as the first woman Prime Minister of Britain.She also earned the distinction of the longest serving Prime Minister in recent history.The sobriquet “Iron Lady” is I believe attributed to Soviet leaders who apparently found her to be an unbending anatagonist in the cold war.People with as strong a personality as hers are normally polarizing figures:they are both admired and detested.Thatcher was no exception.Nobody could doubt her physical courage or the courage of her convictions.The IRA tried to kill her by bombing the hotel where she was staying for the annual Conservative Pary meeting but she survived with her pugnacity intact. I believe she wanted to move her countrymen away from an entitlement mentality to become active participants in the capitalistic free enterprise system.Under Thatcherite policies some entrepreneurs became very rich.This affluence was not shared by the majority of the British people and is understandably the source of much bitter criticism against her.This has been reflected in the outpouring of both anti and pro- Thatcher sentiments in the media at her death.

Mrs.Thatcher was a strong anti-communist in foreign affairs.She struck up a mutually fruitful partnership with a political soul mate across the Atlantic: President Ronald Reagan.She exhorted her countrymen to be more like the Americans in their working methods.A woman embracing strong conservative views, she was a Euro-sceptic.She felt that it would be in Britain’s interest to keep a studied distance from the EU’s drive toward increasing political and economic integration.She wanted to maintain the “special relationship” with the US based in large part on their common history as English speaking peoples.Times and circumstances have changed.The US now recognizes Germany as the power house in the European Union.Britain is declining economically compared to Germany.The US-UK special relationship is thus fraying at the edges.Britain will have to reconcile to a much reduced European and global role.Cool Britannia-Tony Blair’s slogan-is perhaps not that cool any more.One noticeable example of this dimunition was commented upon by observers during Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to India accompanied by a large business delegation.Getting lucrative contracts from India thus appeared to have been a major objective of Cameron venturing into Britain’s former colony.Interestingly, neither Sonia Gandhi nor her son Rahul,the two most powerful persons in India, could find time to receive Cameron!

I have ambivalent feelings about Margaret Thatcher.I admire that beginning life humbly as a grocer’s daughter, she leapfrogged across Britain’s class divide to enter the highest political echelons in British political life by competing with her male collegues and winning the ultimate prize, the Prime Ministership which she held for a decade and more.This showed remarkable grit and perseverance against great odds.But her economic vision was hardly inclusive.Common Britishers suffered.They railed against the cuts in public welfare instituted by her and condemned her for their privation.Poverty and homelessness increased.The capitalism that she introduced and which she wanted her countrymen to practice, had its predatory features.Some of Britain’s current economic problems can, I believe, be traced to Thatcherite economics which was really the British version of Reaganomics.Neither system has been a roaring success to say the least.

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