Happy Birthday Mrs Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

Today, 80 years ago, on October 13, 1925 Margaret Roberts was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire. At the age of ten 10 she worked for the Conservative electoral campaign. She won a place at Oxford to study chemistry in 1943 and two years later she delivered the first political speech in a local market square. In 1951 she married the late Dennis Thatcher. All the rest is history: in 1959 she was elected for the first time, in 1975 she became the leader of the Conservatives, and from 1979 till 1990 she was Prime Minister of Great Britain.
“The Iron Lady” as the Soviets named her after a 1976 speech was able to give a new impulse to a country that was on the verge of economic death. Before the Thatcher cure the UK was little more than Trade Union prey. Mrs. Thatcher implemented a wide programme of liberalizations, privatizations, and free market reforms that significantly reduced the burden of the state. And guess what? The trend reversed and the economy started to grow again, because “pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth”. In order to do the latter, of course, one needs a competitive environment and most, if not all, barriers must be removed. There is, moreover, another good reason to engage in the fight against economic interventionism and bureaucracy: “there can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty”.

For her entire public life, Mrs. Thatcher had to fight against the most powerful demon of politics, that is consensus. “Consensus”, she said, “seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects”. Strongly committed to moral as well as economic ideals, the Iron Lady never stopped looking towards the shining light on the hill - that is the idea that human beings have rights and that “there is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families”. Consequently, to be just a policy should empower private citizens with their just rights. Collective actions, taxation, the welfare state, are all loopholes towards tyranny because their very premise is that the state knows better than free citizens what is best for them and can do it better.

For the same reason she was a strong opponent from the beginning of the harmonization process in the European Union. In fact her famous 1992 speech in The Hague soon became a euro-skeptic manifesto.

There is no way to sum up in a few words Mrs Thatcher’s legacy, as well as the moral debt that any freedom fighter in the world owes her. She loved to say, “If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim”. I daresay all of us at The Brussels Journal recognize that Mrs. Thatcher did walk over the Thames, and we all are extremely grateful for it.



Many happy returns

Just a shame that she had to destroy so many good businesses, wreck so many lives, unleash appalling inflation followed by recession, and create social divisions which have still not healed - all in pursuit of this reform and freedom. I think it's time for the Thatcherites to take off the rose-tinted glasses.

Bob Doney

Oh Bob, you can be such a

Oh Bob, you can be such a nuisance (which is why I always like your comments). Surely she was the greatest of your postwar Prime Ministers. Where would you be without her? In the situation of Belgium, a country dominated by the trade unions.

The greatest

Surely she was the greatest of your postwar Prime Ministers.

Yes, yes, yes. In a room full of pygmies she was a giant.

Many was the happy hour I stood on cold railway platforms, or in stifling Underground passages wondering if the unions would eventually condescend to offer a transport service. And I had the doubtful honour of temping at the European headquarters of one of the world's largest computer companies by candlelight!

But, she had massive support for what she wanted to do, but very little for the way she wanted to do it. British people, by and large, do not like to see busloads of policemen being ferried from all parts of the country to fight coalminers.

And anyone who now suggests measures that mean less state interference and more personal responsibility is accused of being a "Thatcherite", as a term of abuse. Neo-liberalism is not as popular in the UK as many European commentators would believe. And that is part of her legacy.

Bob Doney