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Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, and one of the seminal leaders of the twentieth century, was Britain’s longest continuously serving prime minister since the 19th century; a pivotal force in both the domestic and international arenas; the first, and so far only, woman to occupy her country’s highest political office.

From her humble beginnings as a grocer's daughter to her successful tenure in Parliament, Margaret Thatcher possessed great leadership qualities that contributed to her success. Thatcher took the helm of government amid tumultuous times. She would face wars abroad, terrorism at home, and deep uncertainty about the United Kingdom’s future. She met all these challenges and many others with unyielding drive and courage.

Thatcher read for the Bar before being elected as the Conservative MP for Finchley in 1959. She held junior posts before becoming Shadow Spokesperson for Education, and entered the Cabinet as Education Secretary in 1970. In Opposition she stood against Edward Heath for the party leadership in 1975 and won.

In 1979, the Conservative Party won the General Election and Thatcher became PM, taking over from Labour's James Callaghan. Her tenure through three election victories created considerable discord, alienating workers, deregulating health and safety hazards, and splitting her own Cabinet on some issues. She stood firm against militants in Northern Ireland, allowing one of them to starve himself to death in prison. She supported British membership in the European Union, but insisted on not participating in the open borders agreement and the common euro currency.

Post-World War II Britain was as socialist as any country on the continent, and large chunks of industry were nationalized in 1950s and 1960s. There was a clear faith in the fiduciary ability of government to ensure social equity, and the Civil Service was an Oxbridge-trained, nonpartisan body that ran things, if not efficiently, then at least adequately. However, by the mid-1970s the resulting “English disease” of inflation, high unemployment, and endless strikes soured the public on the socialist model.

She led the party when the largest economic crisis in post-war history erupted in the country. The crisis was accompanied by a sharp decline in production, rising unemployment, progressive inflation. To this was added the fuel and energy crisis. The activities of Laborites in finding ways out of the crisis did not bring tangible results.

In the wake of the British's dissatisfaction with the ineffective policy of the Labor Party, in 1979 one of the most prominent representatives of the “conservative wave” M. Thatcher came to power. The foundations of the policy that Thatcher began to pursue were formulated as early as the mid-1970s. in the document entitled “The Right Approach”. Its main goal, she declared the fight against inflation. After coming to power, Thatcher abolished control over prices and lifted restrictions on the movement of capital. Subsidies to the public sector have sharply declined, and since 1981, it has begun extensive privatization. The use of monetarist methods did not mean the curtailment of state intervention in the economy. It’s just now that it has been implemented by other methods — through the state budget.

In the social sphere, Thatcher led a tough attack on the trade unions. As a result of her policy, trade union representatives were barred from participating in advisory government commissions on issues of socio-economic policy.

Margaret Thatcher set in motion a chain of events which echoed the groundswell of public opinion; deindustrializing the government and reducing its control over business and private concerns.

Argentine military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri ordered the invasion of the Malvinas on April 2, 1982. Thatcher dispatched a naval task force to retake the islands from Argentinean invaders. Argentine troops were defeated by British forces on June 14, 1982. The two-month conflict took the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers.

"People knew that we would not tolerate an aggressor. We would not appease an aggressor. So we went down to the Falklands," she recalled. "That was the first time an aggressor had been thrown out in the post war period. So we did turn Britain around to become a great nation again although within much smaller borders in a way because we no longer have an empire. But we got back our self-respect and our reputation."

The British victory bolstered the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, known as the “The Iron Lady,” and helped her win elections the following year. Some said Thatcher invented her "splendid little war" in 1981 to shore up sagging Conservative policies.

Sensing this, she decided to use the “Falkland factor” to further strengthen the position of the conservative party in parliament. Early elections brought another success to the conservatives.

During the height of Great Britain’s struggles with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland, Thatcher narrowly missed being seriously injured or killed when an IRA bomb exploded at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, on October 12, 1984. The IRA provided this chilling statement directed at the British government after their unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Thatcher: “Today we were unlucky! But remember, we have only to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always!”

Nicknamed “The Iron Lady” for her strong and steadfast beliefs, Margaret Thatcher was an advocate for freedom and free markets. Along with her political ally and friend US President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher helped shape the policies of what was called the free world, contributing to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the liberation of millions from dictatorship and despair.

By 1983, howerver, Thatcher herself apparently believed President Reagan should moderate his rhetoric and actions. She evidently believed that US policy toward the USSR had become risky and counterproductive by threatening to undermine NATO's consensus on deployment of US intermediate-range missiles. Thatcher also was mindful of the growing strength of the peace movement in Europe and especially in West Germany.

The internal political situation in the country as a whole was favorable for the conservatives. The country's economy since the mid-1980s. entered the lifting phase. Its growth rates at this time averaged 4% per year, labor productivity has noticeably increased, the introduction of new technologies into production was actively pursued, which contributed to the growth of competitiveness of British goods on world markets. The tax policy of the conservatives stimulated the flow of investment into the economy. All this led to the growth of the life of the majority of the British, and this could not but affect their political sympathies.

In 1987, regular early parliamentary elections were announced in the country. Conservatives and this time won an impressive victory. After the election, Thatcher successfully continued the same course by the end of the 1980s. achieved a significant improvement in the entire monetary and financial sphere, and this helped strengthen England’s position in the world economy.

But the situation at the turn of the 1980-1990s. was not so cloudless. Government spending, especially for military needs, grew. And in the Conservative party appeared leaders, ready to challenge Thatcher’s leadership in the party. In the autumn of 1990, Thatcher again entered the election campaign, but, not waiting for the second round of voting, announced her resignation from the post of prime minister. Thatcher left big politics. The 10-year-old “Thatcher era” was completed - an important stage in the history of Britain, when the country’s transition to the post-industrial society phase took place.

Thatcher was replaced by the moderate conservative John Major, who was then replaced by the young Labor leader, Tony Blair. The change of parties at the helm of the state did not mean a change in milestones in the country's politics. True, new problems were emerging on the agenda.

Her determination to promote and protect democracy contributed to the successful dissolution of the Soviet Union and the liberation of dozens of former Soviet-occupied nations from Communism to free-market democracy. Prime Minister Thatcher's friendships with President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Polish Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa changed history, standing up for freedom against the threat of Communism.

Thatcher, who is credited with changing the face of British politics during her three terms as Prime Minister, was married to Denis Thatcher and had two children, a son and daughter - twins. In her autobiography, Thatcher said her foremost achievement, as prime minister, was to shift British policy from what she called soft socialism to a free-enterprise society.

Margaret Thatcher was one of the most influential and revolutionary figures of the 20th century Doing the right thing when it is not easy or popular is what defines leadership, and it defined Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher didn't just change a country or give people hope, she helped alter the course of history. It is true that she did not just go along to get along.

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Page last modified: 20-10-2018 16:59:14 ZULU