Magazine article Insight on the News

The Iron Lady Hasn't Rusted Politically

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Iron Lady Hasn't Rusted Politically

Article excerpt

Margaret Thatcher has a favorite aphorism: "In politics the unexpected always happens." This encourages me to ask:

Is Lady Thatcher, whom the Conservatives ousted in November 1990 after she had won three elections, on the comeback trail as the possible next prime minister? Yes, you heard it right, the next prime minister. (After all, when the British electorate overwhelmingly rejected Winston Churchill in July 1945, who would have predicted he would be returned as prime minister in 1951? And anyway, Thatcher was rejected only by Conservative members of Parliament, but she won three elections.)

Is Tory Prime Minister John Major, Lady Thatcher's personally chosen successor, on the way out? Will the Conservatives or Labour win the next parliamentary elections? Will the Maastricht Treaty on European union, negotiated in December 1991, really go into effect as scheduled in January?

These questions are related to two phenomena: First, the failure of the "Europhiles" (which is what pious believers in the European Community are called by the impious) to inspire any mass loyalty to the idea of a federal Europe with (1) a single currency, (2) a powerful central executive headquartered in Brussels and (3) common foreign and defense policies. The EC failure in the Yugoslav civil war has made a mockery of the EC's common foreign policy ambitions. Continued low job creation among the EC countries with a forecast of 12 percent unemployment next year mocks the rosy EC predictions about the benefits of a unified European economy.

As "Europeans Try to Revive a Faded Dream of Unity," to quote a recent New York Times headline, Lady Thatcher, who is contemptuous of the 12-member EC, never looked better.

Second, a recent British opinion poll shows that Lady Thatcher is a favorite when voters are asked who like as Tory leader.

The Thatcher comeback scenario is serious enough to have sparked a debate as to whether a member of the House of Lords, where Lady Thatcher, 68, now sits as a baroness, would be allowed to enter the House of Commons as prime minister at question time. The last peer to have been prime minister was Lord Salisbury in the 1890s. There is even discussion as to whether Baroness Thatcher would be legally allowed to renounce her title so that she could run for a seat in the House of Commons. …

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