The Iron Lady's Only Turn

Rest in peace, Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female Prime Minister of England, has entered immortality.

Not that there aren't plenty on the Left who are doing their level best to consign her to Hell in popular memory.  The featherbedded unions, the welfare sponges, and of course Communists both "reformed" and unrepentant, all are pouring their customary vitriol on the Iron Lady.

Not that they didn't do the same while she was alive and in power; the reaction of the global Left to Ronald Reagan and even to George W. Bush was a lovefest compared to how they felt about Mrs. Thatcher.  The reason for their hatred was best explained by Mrs. Thatcher herself at a Conservative Party conference when England was in the throes of her own market-based reforms and her government was under heavy pressure to return to the familiar comforts of socialism:

To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the 'U-turn', I have only one thing to say: "You turn [U-turn] if you want to. The lady's not for turning."

More than any other, this phrase captures Mrs. Thatcher's approach to politics: She knew she was right, so why should she change to a different course that led somewhere else?  Mr. Reagan was staunchly against Communism, but he was willing to negotiate with his domestic political opponents, notably when he traded an amnesty for illegal immigrants for serious border enforcement that, of course, never came.  Mrs. Thatcher negotiated only with the electorate and that grudgingly.

Margaret Thatcher always knew her convictions and the direction they pointed.  As the Economist put it:

What were those convictions? In Mrs Thatcher’s case, the quickest way to her political make-up was usually through her handbag. As she prepared to make her first leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in 1975, a speechwriter tried to gee her up by quoting Abraham Lincoln:

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.

When he had finished, Mrs Thatcher fished into her handbag to extract a piece of ageing newsprint with the same lines on it. “It goes wherever I go,” she told him.

There's a lesson here for conservatives: Margaret Thatcher was so strong in the confidence of her convictions that she carried an entire country along with her for a decade, despite the almost unified opposition of every other power factor in England from the limousine liberals of the BBC to the Communist-backed trade unions.  The strength and vehemence of her knowledge of what was right persuaded the average voters that she not only knew what was right, she also knew how to address what seemed to be England's unsolvable economic problems of the 1970s.

Today, America and the entire Western world is once again wracked with what seem to be unsolvable problems originating from the same source that was killing Britain: overbearing government regulation and outlandish government overspending.  Alas, thus far there isn't an American Thatcher who knows what needs to be done and intends to do it no matter what anyone says.  Our modern Republicans hem, haw, and waffle, and as for her modern Tory heirs, Mrs. Thatcher would be speechless with fury if she understood the liberal polices being espoused by England's "Conservative" Prime Minister David Cameron.

And yet, for all that her party has lost its beliefs, her thrashing of communistic socialism was so thorough and so vivid that even modern England with its three leftist parties refuses to even discuss nationalizing any industries, as true socialists demand.  Prior to Mrs. Thatcher, large chunks of the British economy from railroads to coal mining to even some manufacturing were wholly owned and operated by the British state.  Mrs. Thatcher privatized many and deregulated most, and to be elected, Labour's Tony Blair had to continue the same policies of freedom.  Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, true socialism is dead in England to this day.

Now, this doesn't mean that conservative economics attained a permanent victory in England, right ideas never do.  The pure socialism of out-and-out nationalization has been replaced by the modern economic fascism of the administrative state where businesses are technically owned and controlled by private stockholders but in reality can hardly change a light bulb without the say-so of a pettifogging bureaucrat.  In this, America is little different from England; neither Mr. Obama or Mr. Cameron are Communists who actually want to own the means of production, but their governments make sure they wholly control them just the same.

Mrs. Thatcher spent the last years of her life in the fog of dementia.  This was a desperate shame for freedom lovers the world around but was probably a mercy to her.  A Mrs. Thatcher who retained her full faculties would be pounding on the table in fury at what has become of her beloved nation, and her almost as beloved cousins across the pond.

But today, we have an advantage that Margaret Thatcher never did: her own example.  She rescued her nation from a far worse morass of government control than we see today, and achieved greater heights of victory than, really, any American conservative ever has.

The Iron Lady has taken her only turn, to dust.  Her record stands as an embodiment and proof that it can be done, and always will.

Now, like Mrs. Thatcher herself, we need only to believe in the strength of our principles and get out there and do it.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Margaret Thatcher was the embodiment of the leader in conservatism that Rush Limbaugh says would win in any election. she was a person who believed what she said and more importantly in todays politics, knew how to tell it to the people. It's probably why she and Reagan were such good friends. If we could only get a candidate with the guts to get up on the stage and tell his/her view of how to get out of this mes I think the people are ready. Political correctness and polite behavior is not needed. Does anyone recall the campaign against Tomney and the republicans for their "War on WOmen?". The left will stoop to any depth to win. Should we as conservatives do the same?

April 9, 2013 12:18 PM

A great tribute and a great commentary, as per usual. I am not surprised, but still disappointed by how the Left chooses to belittle the dead. They were much kinder to Hugo Chavez and doubtless, will be so when Fidel Castro finally calls it a day. In the case of Lady Thatcher, there is little doubt that she left the UK a better place than before she came to power.

April 9, 2013 1:10 PM

The Times reports that the British are still debating Thatcher's legacy. A graffitum said "Iron lady - rust in peace!"

Liberals HATE her for making them stop spending taxpayer's money buying votes from idlers. Since that's all they can offer, her chopping spending would have put them out of power permanently. That's why Obama can't cut spending - they have nothing positive or constructive to offer and buying votes is all that keeps his cronies in power.

For three days since she died in a London hotel suite at the age of 87, an outpouring of sympathy, respect and reverence from those who have hailed Mrs. Thatcher as Britain’s greatest peacetime prime minister has been accompanied by a parallel, and deeply antagonistic, critique.

Her death has been received in many quarters with a vituperation that was notably absent in the United States with the passing of former President Ronald Reagan, her ideological counterpart and cold-war wingman, and much of that criticism has played out on Britain’s streets. “Death parties” have been held in cities including London, Belfast and Glasgow, with banners reading “Rejoice, Rejoice,” graffiti declaring “Rot in Hell, Maggie” and celebrants “dancing on the grave” of the former prime minister.

Nor has the vitriol been confined to the streets. An arch-advocate of modernizing Britain, Mrs. Thatcher has effectively been put into the stocks of the Internet age, with a blizzard of hostile Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, blogs on leftist Web sites and comments on online newspaper articles about her death.

A Facebook campaign was under way to drive the street protesters’ anthem, “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” to No. 1 in Britain’s popular music charts.

A more measured debate took place on Wednesday in a special session of Parliament, in remembrances that went on for seven hours and rehearsed, mostly with a respectful forbearance, the embittered political arguments of the 1980s. While Prime Minister David Cameron, a fellow Conservative, described Mrs. Thatcher as “a prime minister who defined her age,” her harsher detractors depicted her as a relentless — many said heartless — destroyer of social cohesion, with policies that devastated state-owned industries and celebrated the pursuit of personal wealth as a civic virtue.

The disputes extended to the government’s elaborate plans for Mrs. Thatcher’s funeral next Wednesday. The Cameron government has decreed that it will be a state funeral in all but name, partly in deference to Mrs. Thatcher’s own insistence on “not making too much fuss” about her passing — and on not wasting unnecessary money on embellishments like a Royal Air Force flypast.

The funeral will be attended by Queen Elizabeth IIand Prince Philip, who have attended no other former prime minister’s funeral since Sir Winston Churchill’s in 1965, which was designated as a state funeral in deference to his leadership in World War II. But despite the careful calibration, and the government’s description of the arrangements as being modeled on those for the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, and for the Queen Mother in 2002, there has been intense public and political discussion about the plans.

And so on.

April 11, 2013 7:10 AM

And, the establishment left shows its usual class, decency, and chivalry:

BBC likely to play song mocking Thatcher's death

The BBC is likely to play anti-Thatcher song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" on the radio this weekend as it will not consider taste when making a decision on play lists, the Corporation has admitted.

April 11, 2013 1:51 PM

The NY Times gets it, at least partly...

Many years on, what happened to coal mining is reckoned, for better or worse, as a watershed moment for Britain. It was in the coal fields, more than anywhere, that a socialist vision that prized the welfare of blue-collar communities over profit finally yielded to a new era of individualism, entrepreneurship — and, for millions beyond the coal fields, prosperity. Eventually, that vision of a new Britian, pioneered by Mrs. Thatcher, was broadly embraced even by the Labour Party, which for much of the 20th century stood as the principal champion of the working class.

April 17, 2013 7:39 AM

Looks like the Silent Majority finally had a victory over the left!

It seemed to come out of nowhere. No one knew who’d started it – perhaps it was purely instinctual. But as the hearse came into view, the crowds found themselves breaking into applause – applause that followed the hearse all the way along the route, until it drew up at the church of St Clement Danes. Then, once the coffin had been loaded on to the gun carriage, and the horses moved off, the applause started again – and followed the procession all the way to St Paul’s.

Down the roads it spread and spread, gently rippling, a long impromptu chain of respect and appreciation.

The applause wasn’t rowdy; there were no whoops or whistles. It was steady, warm, dignified. But it was also, somehow, determined. At Ludgate Circus, protesters began to boo and jeer – only to find the rest of the crowd applauding all the more loudly to drown them out.

It has often been said that Baroness Thatcher appealed to the silent majority. They weren’t silent now.

April 17, 2013 4:09 PM
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