Margaret Thatcher: the Iron Lady
The Iron Lady
Lady Margaret Thatcher became the first woman to lead a political party of Britain in 1975. Four years later, she would become the only female Prime Minister in the history of her country.
Margaret Thatcher was re-elected by a huge majority in 1983, and again by a landslide in 1987. This made her the first Prime Minister of Britain to win three straight elections in over 150 years. Thatcher was elected by the British People to serve as the head of their country for a longer period of continuous time than any of her predecessors since 1812.
Lady Margaret Thatcher was eventually forced out of office by her own party in 1990. To Americans, this would mean she lost the primary.
Margaret Thatcher was nicknamed 'the Iron Lady' by the Soviets, a title she relished. Despite a concerted smear campaign by hateful Leftists that has been a non-stop barrage lasting thirty years, Thatcher was voted by the British people in 2008 to have been the best Prime Minister since the Second World War by a three to one margin.
Margaret Thatcher was born in 1925. Her father was a grocer and a Methodist preacher. Margaret Thatcher graduated from Oxford in 1947 and became a chemist. Four years later, she married a successful businessman named Denis Thatcher, a marriage that would last until his death in 2003.
Margaret Thatcher passed the bar exam to become a tax lawyer in 1953, the same year she gave birth to twins. In 1959, she was elected to Parliament. From 1970 to 1974, Thatcher served as Britain's Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Though from humble origins in a nation that was very class conscious, Lady Margaret Thatcher would become a heroine for the ages. She was voted the 5th most admired woman in the world of the 20th Century, behind only Mother Theresa, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The Condition of Britain Before Thatcher
In order to appreciate the heroic accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher, first one must comprehend the condition that Britain was in before she came to power in 1979: it was an international laughingstock. By the time Thatcher left office in 1990, Britain was admired around the world.
In 1977, a humiliated Britain was bankrupt and forced to beg the International Monetary Fund for an enormous loan. British business was woefully uncompetitive in the global marketplace. The Civil Service had resigned itself to managing the decline of their nation—once the most powerful on earth. Everyone thought an economic and social collapse was inevitable. There seemed to be no hope.
The winter of 1978-1979 is known as Britain's "Winter of Discontent." Labor unions had a stranglehold on the economy and society. Unions blocked any new technologies. Unions blocked any downsizing of the labor force of old industries in terminal decline. Many labor union leaders were in fact quietly communists, loyal to the Soviet Union, determined to destroy Britain.
1979 was the year in which labor unions tried to overthrow democracy in Britain. Widespread labor strikes capped thirty years of disrupting the British economy. In 1979 alone, labor strikes resulted in thirty million lost work days. Imagine how much wealth would be permanently lost and how much damage it would do to the commonweal of any country to lose 30,000,000 days of work in one year. The demands of labor unions were for an immediate and incredible increase in wages of 15 to 25 percent.
Train drivers and nurses went on strike. Ambulance drivers refused to answer calls to help the ill and injured. Ancillary hospital workers blocked the entrances to hospitals. Refuse collectors let garbage pile up for weeks. Gravediggers refused to bury the dead.
Truck drivers disrupted oil supplies and closed refineries. 1,000,000 non-union workers lost jobs that were connected to these industries. Countless petrol stations went bankrupt. Violent union picket lines made it impossible for anyone to do the work that union members refused to do.
Britain was on the verge of complete collapse when it turned to Margaret Thatcher to save it from disintegration.
Before we turn to the rescue of Britain by Margaret Thatcher, we must look briefly at inflation. The power of labor unions to extort higher and higher wages every year—combined with meddling by the British Government in wages and prices—had created a 22 percent rate of inflation rate in the late 1970s. This means if you have a dollar on New Years Day, by the following New Years Eve it has diminished in value (purchasing power) to 78 cents.
It may be difficult for anyone who has never experienced such inflation to appreciate its significance. Massive inflation is often a prelude to political revolution, such as in NAZI Germany. It was inflation that brought Hitler to power, and it was inflation that was the catalyst to the French Revolution.
With huge rates of inflation, to let money sit in a savings account is a losing proposition. Decades of hard-earned savings become nearly worthless. To save money means to pay for tomorrow's higher-priced goods with yesterday's diminished dollars. Instead, people learn the bad habit (in the long-run) of buying today on credit what they can pay for later with inflated dollars before the price of the goods goes up again.
The economist Alfred Khan said, "Inflation was not just an economic problem but a profoundly social problem—a sign of a society is some degree of dissolution, in which individuals and groups seek their self-interest and demand more money and government programs that simply add up to more than the economy is capable of supplying."
Margaret Thatcher Elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Britain in 1979. In her campaign for the office she promised to reverse the long national decline by curbing the outrageous power of labor unions to cripple the country; deregulating business; privatizing nationalized industries; ending the taxpayer provided subsidy of failing industries; lowering taxes; and giving the citizens more freedom.
Margaret Thatcher delivered on that promise. But it was not to be an easy road. Besides the labor unions, Thatcher faced fierce opposition to nearly everything she tried to do from the entrenched British Establishment—the Press; the Universities; the Bureaucracy.
Her support came from the Middle Class—the ordinary, decent, hard-working British men and women. They sensed that Margaret Thatcher was a courageous, no-nonsense, dedicated, hard worker who had high expectations of the British People.
Every Story Needs a Villain
Arthur Scargill is a communist who was elected president of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1981. Today he heads the Socialist Labour Party. Scargill has been quite public about his admiration of Joseph Stalin, that mass murderer of tens of millions of helpless human souls. Arthur Scargill says, "the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin" explain the 'real world'."
In 1984, the National Coal Board of Britain announced the closure of twenty coal pits that were losing money heavily. The coal industry was in fact losing more than one hundred million pounds each year. Scargill called for a union strike in protest but failed to get the required majority vote of coal miners.
This did not deter Arthur Scargill. He and his more militant henchmen set about closing coal mines undemocratically through pressure, force, and intimidation. Scargill succeeded in closing down 131 out of the 174 pits. He then planned to bus goon squads to the open pits to stop non-striking miners from working. The police halted the union goon buses for the first time in decades.
The Scargill Strike was horrifically expensive for the British Public. The total cost? Over 7.5 billion pounds. More than 7,000 miners were arrested for violent acts and five men were killed. Scargill paid striking miners with funds provided by the terrorist Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
The strike failed, and because of the financial damage to Britain's coal industry this meant that instead of 10,000 miners let go, as was planned before the strike; 30,700 lost their jobs permanently.
Margaret Thatcher As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The decline of labor union power revitalized many industries because no longer did people merely pretend to work. Real productivity per worker rose during the Thatcher years at a higher rate than in any other European country. The British economy as a whole grew by 4 percent per year during the 1980s—a post-WWII record.
In Britain, unlike in America, whole industries were owned and operated by the government. Even in a relatively small country, this proved, of course, to be an utter disaster. Margaret Thatcher privatized most of these, which was an absolute success. No longer did three workers stand around and watch one work; no longer did unions stymie technological innovation; no longer would a horse and buggy factory be kept open at taxpayer expense long after the invention of the automobile.
The year before it was privatized by Margaret Thatcher, British Steel set an all-time record for the one year loss of money by any entity in world history outside the Soviet Union: Five Hundred Million Pounds. Within seven years, British Steel had the highest productivity rates in Europe and had become the most profitable steel company on Planet Earth. British Airways experienced a similar turnaround.
Because Margaret Thatcher cut tax rates nearly in half, Britain ran big budget surpluses in the 1980s and retired 20 percent of its national debt as tax revenues actually went up! She had restored self-confidence and pride to her nation. It is hard to imagine that Britain would ever have stopped its decline into the ash heap of history without the miracle that was Margaret Thatcher.
The Legacy of Lady Margaret Thatcher
In 2007, Margaret Thatcher became the first living former Prime Minister to be honored with a statue in Parliament. And with good reason.
The total personal wealth of British subjects increased 80 percent during her leadership. She slashed inflation from 22 percent to 4 percent. The British People all benefitted from lower prices and increased efficiency from privatized industries. Home ownership increased 65 percent. Unemployment fell drastically. The economy grew strong and stable.
And she was no miser. Government spending on health care, social security, and job training increased 33 percent in the Thatcher years. Public safety spending went up 53 percent and lawlessness went down. And despite breaking the labor union stranglehold on Britain that threatened to choke it to death, only 39 percent of labor union members voted against her in the 1983 election.
The increases in labor productivity and the change from night to day in the British economy were literally amazing. And to top it all off, Lady Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, was instrumental in bringing down the Iron Curtain—freeing hundreds of millions of human beings from literal slavery under socialism.