Lessons from Thatcher’s legacy
THE DEATH ON Monday of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain, has brought an outpouring of sympathy from many admirers while at the same time a clear display of no sorrow from perhaps an equal number of detractors.
People either loved and looked up to, or they hated and loathed, her.
Given the divide that she caused, the tradition that one does not speak ill of the dead, will not hold in her situation. She did not mince her words. Reactions to her death will be likewise – blunt and down the line.
Thatcher, a standard-bearer for the right wing, was neither from the old ruling class nor the new rich, but obviously had the ability to lead the Tories when she took over in 1975.
Four years later, as Britain’s Prime Minister, she immediately set about putting into place her vision. For the next 11 years, she led her country and transformed it as no other leader since the World War II.
Against the odds, this woman, with a mind of steel, took the tough decisions especially as it related to the economy and stood her ground, right or wrong, in the pursuit of her beliefs.
She took on the powerful trade union establishment in Britain – even at the cost of violent strikes and riots – and she eventually broke their power base, an action both supporters and detractors say may have saved her country from economic ruin and disaster.
As a strong believer in a free market, she got rid of many traditional state agencies which she saw as unnecessary intrusions by government in areas better left to the private enterprise.
To this day, her opponents argue that she not only dismantled the welfare state in Britain but that her actions negatively touched the lives of many who worked in the traditional industries.
Given the title “Iron Lady” by a Russian journalist, Thatcher’s role on the world’s stage was no less controversial than that at home. Her unalterable anti-communist position was welcomed in Washington as they witnessed victory in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
Barbadians will not forget that she got it very wrong with apartheid South Africa which she supported and her denouncing of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress as “terrorists”.
It was, however, her controversial decision in going to war against Argentina in 1982 over the South Atlantic colony of The Falklands which may have been her defining moment. Fortunately, she won that conflict and may have saved her day.
Whatever the view, Thatcher’s political and economic legacy admittedly it is a divisive one. But she took tough decisions and steered a path, right or wrong.
It is a lesson that our leaders can learn from even today.