Pope Benedict XVI greets former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during his weekly audience in 2009 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Thatcher, a major figure in British and world politics and the only woman to become British prime minister, died April 8 at the age of 87. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest leaders of the Cold War
, of the 20th century, and of British history, has died at the age of 87.
world dubbed her the Iron Lady, a title that duly fits. Many, however,
mistake the Iron Lady moniker as referring solely to her strength in the
Cold War. There was much more to it. Consider:
Margaret Thatcher is arguably the most complete British leader of the last 100 years, surpassing even Winston Churchill.
Like Churchill, she was tough and successful in foreign policy, taking
on and vanquishing totalitarian evil. Churchill warned the world as the
Iron Curtain descended across Europe. Decades later, the world
celebrated as the Iron Lady helped break the Iron Curtain.
unlike Churchill, Margaret Thatcher had enormous domestic successes
that Churchill couldn’t touch, and didn’t dare try to touch. When World War II
closed, the British people booted Churchill from the prime ministership
in preference of Labour leader Clement Attlee, who gave the British
populace Keynesian socialism. The masses wanted their welfare state, and Attlee, equipped with promises of “change” and “forward,” gave them a fundamental transformation.
In no time, Attlee’s party was spending money unlike anything Britain
had ever seen, nationalizing everything under the sun, including with
the progressive left’s coup de grace: government healthcare. It was a giant government binge that would bury Britain for decades.
This fundamental transformation to welfare-statism was so thorough, and so imbibed by the electorate, that when Churchill later returned to office for another term (1951-55) the World War II hero couldn’t stand up to the sacred cows
of Britain’s new nanny state. By the late 1970s, the United Kingdom was
smothered not only by massive government expenditures and debt but by
the enormous and disastrous government unions that the Labour Party had built and nurtured.
of this came to a crashing head in the late 1970s, and fittingly under
the Labour Party, this time led by Prime Minister James Callaghan. The
signature event was the Winter of Discontent (1978-79). The economy was
an utter train wreck, debt-ridden and hampered by a prolonged
Things were made far worse by continual work stoppages by striking
public-sector unions. Given that the government ran just about
everything, thanks to decades of the British left nationalizing
everything, there was garbage literally rotting in the streets and dead
people not being buried because of striking government refuse workers
got so bad that the British electorate was willing to elect a bona fide
conservative to run their government: Margaret Thatcher. This was not
some squishy moderate that we in the United States would have called a
Rockefeller Republican or (today) a RINO. This was the real McCoy; the
genuine article. Here was a new leader who actually understood and could
articulate what was wrong with Britainand had the courage to do
something about it.
so, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first-ever female prime minister,
embarked upon an extraordinary run from 1979-90 that featured three
consecutive electoral victories, including the landslide that brought
her to power. She then proceeded to take on not just the Soviets
abroad, but, at home, the powerful government unions, the Keynesian
spending, the bloated cradle-to-grave welfare state, the punitive taxes,
the burdensome regulations, and decades of government
nationalizations/seizures. As to the latter, Thatcher began a
comprehensive campaign of privatization that returned freedom, solvency,
and sanity to Britain.
was an amazing performance. You can now expect a remarkable outpouring
of emotion and appreciation in Britain, much like what America saw with
the death of Ronald Reagan and what the world witnessed with the passing
of John Paul II, her two Cold War partners and kindred souls. And like
her two great Cold War allies, she fortunately lived to see the collapse
of the Soviet empire.
Thatcher outlived both Reagan and John Paul II. Her health,
unfortunately, had been in decline for a long time. I recall that she
recorded a video eulogy for Reagan’s funeral rather than address the
audience live and directly. That was 2004, almost 10 years ago.
I also recall her parting words to Ronald Reagan: “Well done, thy faithful servant.”
And now, we can second that tribute. Well done, Lady Thatcher.