Margaret Thatcher's death this year brought with it mixed feelings regarding her years of ruling Britain between 1979 and 1990 (three consecutive terms). Nicknamed "The Iron Lady," the Daily Mail headlines when she was elected was "The Woman Who Can Save Britain."
Her mission was to attack what she felt was the core problem of the British economy - too much socialism, which she felt was merely a weaker local variant of Communism. She carried in her handbag a piece of yellowing newsprint carrying the words of Abraham Lincoln "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer . . ."
She voiced her commitment for Trade Union reform and to privatize government held entities of which there were many.
Former prime minister Harold MacMillan likened privatization to a once wealthy family selling the family silver.
One of the big changes was government housing (council houses). These were offered for sale to the existing tenants at a rate below market value. The percentage of value was calculated according to the number of years the tenant had lived at the property. By 1990 1.5 million homes were sold but with the decline of council houses, there was an explosion of house prices resulting in a shortage of affordable housing for lower income families and subsequently a rise in homeless people living on the streets.
Along with her other commitments she increased pay for armed forces, increased old age pensions and income tax was reduced from 33% to 30% with a top rate reduction from 83% to 60%.
Industries were sold. Bypassing the banks, British Telecom shares were sold directly to the public followed by British Gas and British Airways. Rolls Royce, which was nationalized in 1972, returned to the private sector.
She was instrumental in negotiations with France to build the Channel Tunnel. She negotiated with China for a more pleasing handing over of Hong Kong after the 100 year lease as a British Colony had expired and her partnership with Ronald Reagan fighting against Russian Communism is well known.
Despite the mixed feelings about the overhaul of Britain in the 80s and 90s Margaret Thatcher's resolve and vigor cannot be denied and her legacies whether perceived good or bad were many. She truly was an Iron Lady.
The Iron Lady by John Campbell is a detailed account of Margaret Thatcher's years in office. It details many accomplishments along with failures. I thought it was a good overview of her time as Britain's Prime Minister.