WHERE'S MAGGIE WHEN WE NEED HER? Britain Facing Bankruptcy. A Labour Regime in Meltdown. Growing Dole Queues, Taxes on Success and Voters Hungry for Change. Thirty Years after Mrs Thatcher Won Power, History Is Repeating Itself. So Can a New Tory Leader Rise to the Challenge?

Daily Mail (London), May 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

WHERE'S MAGGIE WHEN WE NEED HER? Britain Facing Bankruptcy. A Labour Regime in Meltdown. Growing Dole Queues, Taxes on Success and Voters Hungry for Change. Thirty Years after Mrs Thatcher Won Power, History Is Repeating Itself. So Can a New Tory Leader Rise to the Challenge?


Byline: SATURDAY ESSAYsby Peter Oborne

THERE have been two truly great Prime Ministers in the last 100 years. The first, of course, was Winston Churchill. At a time of deep national peril, Churchill came forward as a symbol of our national resistance to fascism and the menace of Hitler, saving not just Britain, but also the world.

And the second was Margaret Thatcher. It is 30 years ago tomorrow that she was first voted to power and stepped forward to rescue Britain from disaster. Unlike Churchill, her remarkable achievement has yet to be fully recognised, and to understand the magnitude of what she did it was perhaps necessary to have lived through Britain in the Seventies.

It was a time of constant national humiliation. There was mass unemployment, inflation was out of control, and the collapse of ordinary services was so grave that at times rubbish lay uncollected in the streets.

Some speculated that the Army would have to mount a military coup in order to avert revolution.

The conventional wisdom, in all political parties, was that nothing could be done. It was accepted that it was impossible to take on the power of the unions, which held the country to ransom whenever constructive industrial reform was attempted. The unions had destroyed Edward Heath's Conservative Government and Jim Callaghan's Labour administration.

And then -- along came Margaret Thatcher! May 3, 1979 is a milestone in our history. It is the moment the tide began to turn and the grinding defeatism of the post-war period came to an end.

Almost single-handedly, this quite extraordinary woman took on the unions, tamed inflation, restored our industrial productivity and made Britain -- despised throughout the Seventies as the 'sick man of Europe' -- once again a force for tremendous good in the world.

In doing so, she improved beyond measure the lives of millions of her fellow citizens. She gave them jobs, hope, homes and the self-respect that comes from standing on your own two feet. She rolled back the power of the state and -- after a series of bitter and very divisive battles -- put the unions firmly in their place.

AS A consequence, Britain has enjoyed an unparalleled period of prosperity and influence on the world stage for three decades.

For that, we have Maggie Thatcher to thank. Of course, the BBC, the Left-wing intelligentsia, the dispossessed Tory grandees and the professional defeatists among the political elites have never forgiven her.

They opposed what she tried to achieve at the time, and have bitterly resented her success ever since. They hate her beyond rational computation, and even today they continue to use their massive influence to denigrate her memory. But they will never succeed because the people who count -- the ordinary people of Britain -- know exactly what Maggie Thatcher achieved and will cherish her memory for ever.

Yet as Britain marks this important political anniversary, there is one urgent question that must be answered: as Gordon Brown's moribund and directionless administration implodes, can Tory leader David Cameron repeat what Maggie Thatcher did, and pull Britain back out of the morass? The truth is that now, 30 years after Margaret Thatcher's legendary victory, Britain once again stares at the abyss.

Once again we face national bankruptcy. Once again unemployment is starting to climb viciously and millions of British families are facing joblessness and poverty.

Just as in the Seventies, Britain is reaching the end of a long period of Labour Party domination. Once again, the legacy of an experiment in state control is economic failure and degradation.

As a result, everyone wants to know if David Cameron has the intellectual capacity and the vast inner moral strength to fight the brutal battles needed to put Britain back on the road to greatness.

Answering this question is especially tricky because the problems are so much harder to solve. …

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WHERE'S MAGGIE WHEN WE NEED HER? Britain Facing Bankruptcy. A Labour Regime in Meltdown. Growing Dole Queues, Taxes on Success and Voters Hungry for Change. Thirty Years after Mrs Thatcher Won Power, History Is Repeating Itself. So Can a New Tory Leader Rise to the Challenge?
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