Margaret Thatcher’s place in history is secure. She will be remembered for many things including her unwavering belief in the virtues of free market, her disdain for socialism and for her role in the downfall of communism. The truth is if you loved Margaret Thatcher, there is nothing that can be said or done to dissuade you from that position, and likewise, if you despised her, you probably hold fast to that position as well.
In pursuit of the defeat of what she saw as socialist totalitarianism, she made a close alliance with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and built a relationship with
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, while still standing firm in opposition to the
Soviet empire. Without question, she was one of America's closest and most important friends and was instrumental in winning the Cold War for the West.
Thatcher refused to be bowed by terrorism and stood against it in all its forms. After the Irish Republican Army (IRA) attempted to assassinate her and her Cabinet at a conference in 1984, she famously insisted the conference go on the next day. She was tough!
"The fact that we are gathered here now, shocked, but composed and determined, is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail." Her courage brought moral clarity in highlighting the atrocity of terrorism as a means of political activity.
Her resolve to stand against any threat to British interests was clear in the Falklands War. After the invasion of British territory by Argentine military forces, Thatcher said it would not stand. Fully knowing the real prospect of defeat, Thatcher ordered a British military task force to re-take the islands. They did. Along with foreign policy successes, Thatcher, known as "The Iron Lady," scored domestically.
Facing high unemployment rates, a crippling union stranglehold and an unproductive, stagnating economy, the United Kingdom of the 1970s was a country in dire straits. She guided Britain's economic base away from domestic monopolies and toward global capitalism. Because of her privatization and deregulation policies, the United Kingdom became a center for international finance and investment. Although many thought it was impossible. In 1987, Thatcher was elected to a historic third term.
Despite her successes, she was and remains today a polarizing figure in British politics. Many disagreed with her attempts to curb the unions, her cuts to social programs and education, and her introduction of the "poll tax." She was one of the few European leaders to resist the oncoming European Union and ultimately her distrust of some of the centralized requirements of a common Europe led to her downfall.
Still, there can be no debate of her enduring impact. Tony Blair's historic 1997 election and return of the Labor Party to power is often pointed to as a moment of renewed liberalism in Britain. In many ways, it was. However under the banner of a new Labor Party, Blair embraced a more moderate message and proved that Thatcher had changed the politics of Britain forever.