Link added later: See Aidan on Thatcher, the scientist and the politicianThe world's most important female politician of the 20th century – and Britain's #1 peacetime politician of the same era – left us yesterday after a stroke. Her physical health has been tolerable in recent years but her mental health wasn't which is why her life's work was essentially wrapped up already a decade ago.
Klaus reminds us of Thatcher's speech about the EU in Burges, Belgium. See also what our current president Miloš Zeman wrote in the condolence letter to Cameron.
Her departure marks the end of an era. Together with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher was the politician who won the Cold War for the free world but she has done much more than that. She has re-energized the United Kingdom – after decades in which the influence of the once powerful and advanced empire only knew one, downward direction – and she has helped to restore the market economy and the self-confidence of freedom in the whole world, at least for several more decades.
She has also heavily influenced environmentalism as a political topic – in both directions. I wrote about some of these things just two weeks ago.
Lots of insightful texts about her life, character, and work have been written and I certainly don't want to claim a membership in the elite club of the leading Thatcher experts. Czech ex-president Václav Klaus, a self-described Thatcherite who has echoed many of her views and policies relatively to the EU, privatization, and many more topics, mentioned that she was an Iron Lady only in politics. Otherwise she was a kind person who always listened and cared for others.
It's perhaps even more interesting what the leftists wrote about her. Ten years ago, shortly before he died, her biographer Hugo Young wrote a column on her life that still reflects the negative obsession of the leftists with her and the efforts to demonize her as an antihuman, unemotional person who undermines the cohesion in the fabric of the society.
Ian McEwan, another leftist who has known her, is already offering a different perspective which has some balance and 10 years of hindsight incorporated into it. He essentially admits that the left-wing pseudointellectuals such as himself have always been irritated by their being dwarfs relatively to her. She was better in so many objective respects, she had the sex they officially favored, yet she was so clearly out-of-the-box that they have prepared for everyone.
Much of their discourse about her was tainted by unexamined sexism. People – especially her critics – were simply fascinated by the fact that a woman could become such an important political figure. So discussions about her femininity or the lack of it were always imprinted in pieces about her. Various phrases such as "sado-monetarism" were coined and had some sexual connotations, too. These connotations and biases came primarily from the same folks who otherwise love to attack others for the alleged sexism.
Margaret Thatcher has become an important role model that helped to explain the Higgs mechanism to the masses. She was also the mother of the LHC and the Internet. ;-)
She privatized many sectors of the U.K. economy that were controlled by the government. When I read about these decisions, they sound pretty similar to some changes that the Czech economy saw in the 1990s. That brought lots of new competition, progress, and satisfaction of the consumers that the Britons – and others – take for granted these days. And what's even more important is that even mainstream Labour politicians consider much of Thatcherism to be irreversible. Labour champions who disagree: try to re-nationalize airlines, railways, energy coal and return the quasi-Soviet pre-Thatcher conditions; when you fail, just admit that he defines your program just like the Tories'. So she revolutionized not just 1 major British party but at least 2; he was a uniter, not a divisor, in this sense.
She knew that some political support and allies were needed to achieve certain things but she didn't care about the "quick smile", about her being instantly liked.
In the current era, almost all politicians are moving pretty much exactly in the direction of the wind that can make them "liked" according to the nearest polls. This habit is what makes pretty much all active politicians of our era lightweights in comparison (after all, they deliberately try to do everything to resemble a leaf randomly blown by the wind) and it's what makes our society so hypocritical and politically correct. It's annoying to notice that one of her most natural heirs, Václav Klaus, is technically a "former top politician" at this moment, too.
Thatcher didn't have a problem with starting a war against Argentina and about 99% of the people at Falkland Islands are happy to be a part of the United Kingdom these days. Even in this respect, Thatcher was extraordinary.
The nickname "Iron Lady" was invented by some Soviet newspapers. Regardless of her political values, they were equally fascinated by her natural energy and self-confidence. I would say that this was also true for some of the "communist believers" among my teachers when I was a kid. The moniker may have been unflattering for a while but it became a powerful trademark. After all, Thatcher, a grocer's daughter, became the "milk snatcher" long before she worked at 10 Downing Street. She wasn't trying to get rid of this stamp, either, even though she realized that her fight to end or reduce milk subsidies at schools was an effort with maximum political expenditures for a minimal political gain. But it was already one of the steps that made her genuine Margaret Thatcher.
Her name appears in 34 TRF blog entries.
RIP, Iron Lady.