Not For Turning

Joe Doakes got to writing before I did this morning:

A research chemist turned lawyer who became a elected representative of the people of Finchley, Margaret Thatcher changed the world.

Margaret Thatcher

As Great Britain’s longest-serving (and only female) Prime Minister, “The Iron Lady” fought Liberalism and championed Conservative policies that won a war, rejuvenated the national economy and defeated the Soviets.

Margaret Thatcher passed away today, April 8, 2013. She was one of my heroes.

And mine, too.  Although it took a while.

I was still very much a liberal – in my self-induldgent, bobbleheaded adolescent way, which is really not a whole lot different than liberals of any age, so I’ll give myself a pass – when Thatcher took office. Being as tuned into Brit pop-culture – which has long led Hollywood at painting the left’s cultural toenails – I fumed along as she broke the steelworkers strike, and railed at what declared her “jingoism” in my shrill, strident way.   And 25 years before Sarah Palin, she got all the same brickbats liberalism reserves for all apostate women and minorities; I nodded along as a liberal teacher referred to her as an “ersatz woman” during the Falklands war.

But as I started to understand conservatism, I also started to understand that the Iron Lady was the real thing.

She was right about socialism – and in an era when Republicans fret about “messaging”, she got it:

As an oratory geek? I hasten to remind you that Thatcher was a member of the British Parliament – which is a rough-and-tumble oratorical scrum that would eat most American legislators alive. A successful Member of Parliament must be not only a capable legislator, not only a capable orator with a prepared speech, but able to turn active and vituperative heckling on its head to their advantage. And as capable as Thatcher was at the prepared speech, she packed the gear to hold much more than her own on the floor of the House of Commons, as in this exchange in re responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait:

Picture a stand-up comic needing to shut down not just a heckler, but dozens of them – while observing neo-Victorian rules of decorum, and staying on message to boot.

Picture any American legislator trying to do this.  Good luck.

She was, of course, a fast friend and ally to Ronald Reagan; she worked with him and an unlikely coalition of leaders from across the political aisle in public on behalf of Solidarnosc…:

…and with Reagan, Pope John Paul II and (of all people) the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland under the table to funnel aid to the belaguered Polish union, and throughout the battle to contain and, eventually, subdue the Communists.

And thirty-one years ago, she stood up eloquently for the idea that while peace was the goal and the ideal and the necessity, a nation’s sovereignty meant something:

As a young conservative, perhaps her greatest line…

…didn’t make nearly as much sense to me as it does today.  At a time when the Republican Party seems to have become exactly what we detested about Bill Clinton – driven by polling and consultants and inside-the-beltway contingencies – along with none of the things that made Clinton successful, the idea that Conservatism is not for turning is one that we need more than ever.

RIP, Madame Prime Minster.

(NOTE:  While I value a robust discussion in my comment section, I’ll have very limited tolerance for stupidity in this thread.  Comments I deem excessively stupid will be mutilated with glee.  Don’t push me).

10 thoughts on “Not For Turning

  1. Essentially Thatcher was an old fashioned English Nationalist, who was lucky to come to power when the oil revenues started flowing and the Soviet Union died.

  2. Emery, based on your comment, I conclude that you are about 25 years old, didn’t live through the relevant time and haven’t read any of the history. So I’m at a lose to understand why you feel compelled to opine on something you know nothing about?

  3. Closer to fifty than forty. ;^)

    Thatcher’s great gift was luck. Luck to be the right compromise candidate when the Tory party was looking for a leader. Lucky to come to power at the beginning of an oil boom, which she squandered on tax cuts. She was also lucky the Argentines foolishly invaded the Falklands when they did, giving her an opportunity to look tough. And she was lucky the Labour party split itself and hung itself on crazy policies like unilateral disarmament etc.

    It’s funny to see those Euroskeptics who like to keep pictures of her on their walls as some kind of second queen. Let’s remind everyone that Thatcher signed the Single European Act and committed Britain to join the Euro until her friend Nigel Lawson, eventually completely ruined the economy in 1988, making joining the euro impossible. Another stroke of luck.

  4. Lucky the British economy was in ruins and unions were on strike when she took office, lucky that painful and unpopular budget cuts were necessary in her first term, lucky that unproductive industries had to be shuttered, lucky the miners’ union waged the longest and most violent strike in history to protest her changes in trade union legislation, lucky the IRA bombed her hotel when she refused to negotiate with terrorists, lucky that Soviet Communism picked a moment during her administration to collapse.

    She never did a thing but was simply in the right place at the right time. In other words, “she didn’t build that.” Truly, Emery, I am astonished at you.

  5. Joe beat me to it.

    Also: Lucky that the Polish labor movement decided to get uppity during her tenure as PM. Lucky to be in office at a time when one of the most evil empires in world history went through a bout of assertive hard-line leadership. In the right place – Parliament – at a time when the UK was slipping rapidly into economic oblivion and racial hatred (perhaps you don’t remember the race riots in the seventies and eighties?) even as the unions (whom previous governments had given pseudo-governmental powers) continued to gobble up more power and influence and money unto themselves.

    And all of that nearly three years before Reagan took office, alone between a Europe that accepted socialism as the new normal and a US that was heading that way fast.

    Yep. Just luck.

    And remember – anyone would have reacted to the situation exactly as she (and Reagan, and John Paul II) did. No big deal!

  6. Yeah, those poor, unlucky Argentinian generals, using a little military adventurism to stir patriotism and distract their people from the moral and economic disasters at home. Does that ever work?

    Oh, wait…

  7. Privatization and the rollback of socialism were causes worth rallying around when 12% of British output was from publicly owned companies; by 1997 that was down to 2%. State capitalism may be the rage in emerging markets but no rich country government today aches to nationalize its economy’s “commanding heights”. Smashing the unions meant more when they dominated every facet of economic and political life than after three decades of declining unionization rates around the world.

    Labor has little pull today in the U.S. Actual Marxists are rare curiosities… And nationalization, well, it’s not happening in America. Her problems then are not ours now.

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