Margaret Thatcher: Baroness and Iron Lady, We bid you goodbye

Margaret Thatcher has passed away. A great lady? Yeah, in that larger-than-life way that impacted the lives of so many people around the world. You cannot deny she had an effect on the Cold War anymore than lefties can honestly deny President Ronald Reagan had an effect on the Cold War.

Baroness Thatcher, Great Britain's first and only woman Prime Minister. (Wiki Commons)
Baroness Thatcher, Great Britain’s first and only woman Prime Minister. (Wiki Commons)

Indeed. Reagan was Thatcher’s strongest and best ally during her 11 years as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The two conspired to crush unions, among other pursuits. Reagan started his union busting by firing all the workers in one of the unions that supported him in the 1980 elections: PATCO. Thatcher started her brutal anti-union campaign by going after the Miners Union that represented the hundreds of thousands of miners in the state-owned coalmines.

As a result of Thatcher’s policies hundreds of thousands of Brits found themselves without jobs. Many of the state-owned infrastructures were privatized, including the coalmines. The national transportation system had been state-owned and had problems, including being on time. Thatcher insisted privatization would fix all the problems. In reality, the rail system in Great Britain just got worse as a private, for profit, company.

But Thatcher gets a pass on that because rail didn’t become completely privatized until fellow Conservative Party PM John Majors came to power.

She even wanted to privatize the health care system, but the nation pushed back too hard so she changed her tune on that idea.

There’s no denying Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister at a time when Great Britain was going through tough economic times. The populace naturally wanted a change so out went the Labour Party and in came Thatcher and the Conservative Party.

As the recession deepened under Thatcher’s first term it looked like her tenure at #10 Downing Street would be a short one. But something happened in 1982 that would bring Thatcher unexpected support throughout the Empire: Argentina invaded the British-held Falkland Islands. All of a sudden Margaret Thatcher was a war time PM.

British forces quickly ended the situation in Britain’s favor, restoring them to British rule. The Falklands, for those who don’t know, is an archipelago near the southern tip of South America, off the Patagonian coast of Argentina.

  • Also, because the Falklands are so far from Great Britain they have a nearly autonomous government.

Thatcher’s tough stance with Argentina and the decisive victory that resulted from Britain’s military actions cemented her popularity with just enough of the electorate to get her and the Conservative party re-elected twice and the Conservative Party one more time under the leadership of John Majors.

This is the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister of England.  Many of the industries and communities devastated by her policies have never fully recovered and there have been mixed reactions to Thatcher’s death.

President Ronald and Mrs. Reagan with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis Thatcher.
President Ronald and Mrs. Reagan with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis Thatcher.

Here in the U.S. it’s a different story. Every television and radio talking head is praising the “Iron Lady,” from the sycophants on FoxNews to noted lefties like Chris Matthews. Why? Because Margaret Thatcher is indelibly linked to President Ronald Reagan and in the political pundit world — with few exceptions — Ronald Reagan was one of the best presidents in history, regardless of the reality of Reagan’s record as president.

For many on the Left who lived through the Reagan Years, President Reagan was one of the worst presidents in our collective lifetime. We may quibble over whether Nixon was worse than Reagan, but we all agree George W. Bush (43) is the worst. For many of us President Reagan is a close second.

So a discussion of Margaret Thatcher from an American perspective has to include Old Dutch, Ronald Reagan. They were united on many fronts, most prominently their relationship to and with the Soviet Union.

And here’s where the mythology of Margaret Thatcher gets started: righties like to ascribe to Reagan many qualities and characteristics Reagan never actually possessed. Sure, he talked a big game about lowering taxes, but he raised taxes more than he lowered any. He talked a big game about reducing the size of government but was at the helm during one of the largest expansions of government in decades.

This last part is possibly the most egregious and includes The Iron Lady of Great Britain: according to armchair historians Reagan and Thatcher won the Cold War and brought down the Soviet Union. It doesn’t matter that the actual collapse of the Soviet Union didn’t occur until the last days of Thatcher’s time as PM and more than a year after Reagan left office. These time warping historians would have everyone believe it was the policies of Reagan and Thatcher that ended the Soviet Union.

On the flip side one can’t say they didn’t do their part to counter the Soviet Union, but the reality was, as technology moved ahead and people around the world were finding it easier to reach out to one another across these political borders, the repressive regimes in the Soviet Bloc could no longer contain and oppress their populations.

Upon hearing of Thatcher's death, Nancy Reagan on what a special relationship her Ronnie had with the Prime Minister. (Reagan Presidential Library)
Upon hearing of Thatcher’s death, Nancy Reagan on what a special relationship her Ronnie had with the Prime Minister.
(Reagan Presidential Library)

Add to that the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the die was cast for the fall of the Soviet Union and it’s satellite nations.

Ten years before Thatcher and Reagan came to power people were predicting the collapse of the Iron Curtain countries. An economic system that was wholly state-owned and run for the benefit of the state and not the people could not survive. European-style Socialism and even Capitalism were more sustainable forms of government. Everyone knew that, even many Soviets, which is one reason so many defected to the West.

So a mythology was created around Thatcher and Reagan: they smashed down the Iron Curtain and brought great prosperity to the West. All that despite the fact that millions of people lost their jobs during the Thatcher-Reagan era and the big result of their union-busting policies was that middle and low income wages either stagnated or went down while the richest 10 percent got exponentially wealthier.

Thanks to Thatcher and Reagan the income gap between the very wealthy and the middle class is now wider than it’s ever been in history. Since 1979 the wealthiest one percent saw their income increase 475 percent and the middle class just 60 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The statistics are extremely alarming. According to the Brookings Institute the income gap is growing faster and becoming permanent. It’s predicted it will end social mobility, as we know it. This will of course usher in a new oligarchy, or more precisely, a plutocracy. There are many in this world that believe that is already the case.

This phenomenon isn’t confined to the U.S., it’s happening in Great Britain too and the roots of this social disaster began with the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

The quote-unquote liberal governments that eventually followed Thatcher and Reagan did little to nothing to stunt the expansion of this growing plutocracy. Even after leaving the political arena — even after leaving this life — Thatcher and Reagan are still adversely affecting our lives.

Yet despite all her detractors, Margaret Thatcher was popular enough in England to win re-election twice. Could she have won a fourth term? Maybe, but members of her own party were challenging the Iron Lady so she gracefully left the public stage.

England’s first and only woman Prime Minister, it was often said she had bigger balls than all the male politicians in England — and often enough it was said her cojones were larger than all theirs combined.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney greets Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, along with former Soviet President Mikhael Gorbechev at Ronald Reagan's funeral. (Reagan Presidential Library)
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney greets Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, along with former Soviet President Mikhael Gorbechev at Ronald Reagan’s funeral.
(Reagan Presidential Library)

She was a firm, assertive and decisive leader — and unapologetic about it. She took on the men’s club and turned them into quivering boys. Her only male equals in the world were Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Yeah, Gorbachev was her equal. It was Thatcher who told President Reagan the Soviet President was someone they could do business with. In the 1980’s the three most powerful world leaders were Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher. She was the first British Prime Minister to ascend to that level of power and influence since Sir Winston Churchill. So we can criticize her policies, but we cannot ignore her achievements.

We bid farewell to the Iron Lady, Baroness Thatcher. She leaves behind a lasting impression on the world. In the history of England her name will go in the annals with the likes of Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli.

Some will forever dislike Thatcher and others will forever adore the Baroness. But those of us who lived in the 1980s will ever forget the name of Margaret Thatcher.

May she rest in peace.

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Just a quick update: It came to my attention late Sunday that there was some controversy surrounding the late P.M.’s death; Apparently many Brits have either sang or played the song from the movie Wizard of Oz, “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead, the Wicked Witch is Dead!” I have no love for the woman and I understand resentment, but singing that is just a bit over the top. Have some decency.