Lady Margaret Thatcher died on Monday, and it seems that all the great ones are now gone.
Greatness is subjectively measured, of course, but only the most bitter partisan would deny that Thatcher was among the rare leaders who achieved it. One need only look at Great Britain in 1979, when Thatcher became Prime Minister, and then again when she was unceremoniously betrayed by her party in 1990. Thatcher took charge during the “Winter of Discontent” of an economically and spiritually impoverished country with chronically high unemployment and inflation, where the iron grip of the labor unions had denied the people almost everything they needed to live and then the grave diggers went on strike so the people couldn’t even die, and she left with the country so invigorated by rapid growth and innovation that it somehow summoned enough of the old stiff upper British lip to play a crucial role in winning the Cold War and liberating millions from Soviet tyranny. As measured by results, rather than the fashionableness of her methods, Thatcher’s record is one of greatness.
Perhaps the most telling measure of her greatness was the loathing she inspired in those who objected to her methods, a red-hot hatred that endured to her dying day judging by the ungracious send-offs from the left. One cannot turn a country around without offending the entrenched interests responsible for its decline, and the woman dubbed “The Iron Lady” was not hesitant to give offense to the labor unions, academic establishment, bureaucracy, and the yobbo welfare wastrels who stood in the way of her necessary reforms. The inescapable fact that Great Britain prospered from its rediscovered freedoms only intensified the hatred, and ultimately that hate triumphed.
According to the legend Thatcher’s dominating personality eventually alienated even those with in her own party to the point she was tossed aside for John Major, who offered a more moderate version of Thatcher’s red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism much as George H.W. Bush pursued a “kindler, gentler” version of her soul mate Ronald Reagan’s conservatism. That led inevitably to the Prime Ministership of John Major, who offered a “third way” that much resembled the concurrent “triangulation” of Bill Clinton in America, and eventually to the same old statist stasis. Great Britain’s current leaders are arguably more conservative than America’s, but reluctantly so, cutting back on the governmental behemoth only by the necessity of a few decades more of socialist rot than America has yet endured.
The triumph of the revisionists was brought home by a barroom conversation a while back when a pink-haired young woman at the next stool declared that “The only good thing Margaret Thatcher ever did was screw up the British economy so bad that punk rock happened.” It was her mistake to speak such nonsense within earshot of us, as punk rock and Lady Thatcher are both subjects to dear to our hearts, so we pointed out that the Modern Lovers had made the first punk rock recording in America in 1973, the definitive punk rock band The Ramones had formed in 1973, also in America, and that The Sex Pistols had been the first British punk band after forming in 1975, The Clash started up in 1976, and every seminal British punk outfit was already on the scene by the time Thatcher took office as a result of the same Labour Party-induced calamities that had fueled the music’s improbable rise. We further noted that under Thatcher’s leadership improved so dramatically that by the time she left office the United Kingdom music scene was dominated by peppy pop bands with up-to-date haircuts, and insisted that if she was determined to hate Thatcher she should blame The Iron Lady for Wham!
Only slightly embarrassed by her ignorance, the young woman confessed that she had gleaned a different impression from popular culture and her schooling. There was no doubting it, as Hollywood and academia and the rest of the opinion-making establishment are peddling notions of greatness based on the fashionableness of the methods rather than the results, and thus the real Thatcher legacy must be denied. A somewhat more informed friend admitted shortly after Thatcher’s death that he hadn’t given her much thought for the past 20 years or so, a somewhat more respectful attitude, but given Thatcher’s prescient warnings on the Euro and other matters of current importance it’s a shame that she was so often ignored. No one on the international stage comes close to Thatcher’s greatness at the moment, as much as the times demand it, and she will be missed.
— Bud Norman