Margaret Thatcher’s achievements

She had core beliefs which she adhered to without compromise.

Former British PM Margaret Thatcher 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former British PM Margaret Thatcher 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Margaret Thatcher was a stateswoman in the fullest sense of the word. She had a coherent vision, articulated it in simple (some would say simplistic) terms and implemented it with passion. She had core beliefs which she adhered to without compromise.
Not in vain was she known as the “Iron Lady.”
However, the legend that she was obdurate all the time on every issue is historically questionable. When deemed necessary, on occasion, she would display a pragmatic streak designed to overcome obstacles on the way to achieving desired ends.
She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. She won three consecutive elections and lost only to her cabinet colleagues who failed to support her following the results of the first round of leadership elections with her Conservative Party in 1990. She never lost a general election as prime minister.
When she was first elected prime minister in 1979, Britain was seen as “the sick man of Europe.” When she left office in 1990, Britain was regarded as an economically vibrant country and diplomatically influential actor in the world stage.
The economic policies adopted by her governments, particularly her first one, led to high unemployment and social divisions, but they also brought a considerable change in the economic system of Britain.
The policies of her governments have been emulated by other leaders in other countries.
Even New Labour headed by Tony Blair refused to undo most of the reforms instituted by Thatcher and her governments.
Few leaders have lent their names to a whole economic philosophy as Thatcher has. Thatcherism is a by-word for economic policies favored by some and denigrated by others.
Although staunchly anti-Communist she was the first Western leader to declare that Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev was a man she could do business with.
Foreign policy turned out to be a turning point in her political life.
Her political fortunes changed significantly for the better in the midst of economic recession following the invasion of Argentina of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands on the April 2, 1982. Her resolute leadership and Britain’s military victory led ultimately to a Conservative landslide in the 1983 elections.
Thatcher’s resignation as prime minister came in the wake of a serious internal rift in her government over Britain’s policies toward Europe.
In both cases, she was trying to be resolute.
In the first, she won; in the latter, she lost.
Thatcher was loyal to those who were loyal to her and scathing to those who were critical or were thought to be critical of her policies. She could be supportive but also offensive.
She was a woman playing politics, a men’s game. She had to fight her way up, and her way in, among suspicious men who, on occasion, would denigrate her.
To be sure, as some ministers have acknowledged, she could make use of her femininity to pursue her goals. Her stiff public image was a true reflection of her politics, though not always of her personality.
Former French president Francois Mitterand is reported to have said of her that “she had the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe.”
Before she became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Thatcher said she didn’t believe a woman would become prime minister in Britain in her lifetime.
She was a true friend of the Jewish People and the State of Israel, although she had some serious reservations about Menachem Begin’s polices. She admired Jews and Jewish culture.
Thatcher was not a consensus-seeking politician. She was an ideologue who believed that politics should be an arena in which ideas become reality. Interestingly enough, some of the more radical members of the Labour Party during her premiership used to speak in her favor, arguing that what she did for “her class” is exactly what Labour should do for its own.
The author is a lecturer in the diplomacy program (political science department) at Tel Aviv University.