A Leader with True Grit; Margaret Thatcher Demonstrated What Convictions Can Accomplish

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Leader with True Grit; Margaret Thatcher Demonstrated What Convictions Can Accomplish


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Just when America and the West needed a shot of testosterone, with Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard settling in to swallow Kuwait's oil, Margaret Thatcher stepped up with a word from the warrior queen. Don't go wobbly on us, George, she told President George H.W. Bush. He didn't, and the West won.

Mrs. Thatcher, the Methodist grocer's daughter who won three straight general parliamentary elections and rewrote the book on what a conservative with conviction and true grit could accomplish, died after a stroke Sunday night in London at the age of 87. Throughout a career that stretched from the end of World War II to the end of her life, she never flinched.

She brought Britain back from the precipice and taught free-market economics even to the socialists of the Labor Party, and did it with such fierce determination that years later she told a friend with a certain rue, I made the Labor Party electable.

She offered her countrymen a taste of Winston Churchill's famous wartime promise to Britain on the eve of war of blood, toil, tears and sweat with her election in 1979. Unless we change our ways and our direction, she said, our greatness as a nation will soon be a footnote in the history books, a distant memory of an offshore island, lost in the mists of time like Camelot, remembered kindly for its noble past.

David Cameron, the prime minister, recalled Mrs. Thatcher's grim prescription in his tribute Monday. Calling her a great prime minister, a great leader and a great Briton, he said: Margaret Thatcher didn't just lead our country - she saved our country. [She] took a country that was on its knees and made Britain stand tall again. We can't deny that Lady Thatcher divided opinion. For many of us she was and is an inspiration. For others she was a force to be defined against. But if there is one thing that cuts through all this - one thing that runs through everything she did - it was her lion-hearted love for this country.

When she retired as prime minister she left behind a legacy of deregulation, smaller government, lower taxes and an appreciation of free trade as the engine that drives capitalism. She and Ronald Reagan, both often sneered at by the ruling elites in their own countries, emerged from the Cold War as the two great figures of that perilous era. In class-conscious England, where the wrong school and the wrong accent can cripple ambition, Mrs. Thatcher towered over her colleagues of more genteel birth. Margaret Hilda Roberts grew up working in her father's grocery along with her sister Muriel and her mother, and the great influence of her early life was her father. He was a serious man of wide education, largely self-taught, and was revered as a lay preacher in the Methodist Church, the wrong religion in a nation steeped in the class traditions of the Anglican state church. He bequeathed to his daughter an appreciation of the faith and an intense interest in politics. She further inherited a strong sense of duty to God, country and neighbors.

Through her father's membership in a local Rotary Club, the family took in a Jewish girl from Austria in 1938. Maggie was 13 and listened to the little girl's stories of Nazi persecution of her family and it filled Maggie with a fierce loathing of anti-Semitism, which became a tie with her constituency years later when she was elected to Parliament from the heavily Jewish district of Finchley. She enrolled at Oxford in 1943 and studied chemistry under a professor described by one London newspaper as extremely left wing. The professor left no political imprint on his student, and four years later, when she was 22 and working as a research chemist in plastics, she first stumped for a Tory candidate for Parliament. She was in politics at last, and never left it, nor was she ever again associated with anything remotely plastic. …

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