Margaret Thatcher and the
Transformation of British Politics
Jorgen S. Rasmussen
In the spring of 1993, a politician who had been out of power for two and a half years denounced the European Community and the United States for cowardice in failing to protect the Muslims from the Serbs in Bosnia. Usually the views of has-been politicians are of little interest to anyone. In this case, however, the comments were widely reported in newspapers and magazines and earned interviews on morning television. Furthermore, those office-holders in Britain responsible for making policy felt compelled to defend themselves from the charge.
The event was vintage Margaret Thatcher. Both the fact of and the moral fervor of the outburst were typical of her. Unlike other former office- holders, she would not fade away into retirement, and, as always, anything she did was newsworthy. Her complaints concerning Bosnian policy were not an isolated attack. Within months of being driven from power, she had set up a foundation to propagate her views and had been among the leading critics of her handpicked successor's policy on the European Community. The political establishment still had to reckon with this elemental force.
Not until Franklin D. Roosevelt became president did Americans refer to their chief executive by initials. Subsequently, American politics saw JFK, LBJ, and, even, HST. But none of these sets of initials had the aura--for either supporters or enemies--that attached to the letters FDR. Similarly no British prime minister before Margaret Thatcher had become an "ism." Since her fall from power, the term "Majorism" appeared--primarily in journalistic speculations concerning the main components of her successor's policy objectives. It was only a pale replica, failing to conjure up the visceral feelings, both pro and con, that reference to Thatcherism could.