The Soviet press nicknamed her The Iron Lady, after her 1976 speech as head of the Conservative Party, declaring that: "The Russians are bent on world domination." Margaret Thatcher later enjoyed a close working relationship with American President Ronald Reagan, and both of them survived assassination attempts.
The Cold War
The life and political career of Margaret Thatcher was packed full of drama, confrontation and extraordinary resolution. She faced the miners strike, the Falklands War, the IRA bombing campaign of the British mainland, including the bombing of her hotel room at the Conservative Party Congress in Brighton. She led Britain during the height of the Cold War.
Margaret Thatcher was born 13 October 1925 in the Eastern England market town of Grantham. She took pride in her modest working class background as the grocer's daughter. She studied Chemistry at Oxford and became involved in politics at a young age. She gave her first political speech at 20.
Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, when the party was in opposition. 4 Years later she made history when she became the first female Prime Minister in British history, leading the Conservatives to victory in the elections of 1979. This was the first of 3 elections in which she led her party to victory. She became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at a time when the government was facing bankruptcy, unemployment was escalating and the labour unions were paralysing the country with strikes.
Bold Economic Initiative
Margaret Thatcher successfully turned the country around by cutting social welfare programmes, reducing trade union powers and privatising major industries. She offered a bold plan to reverse Britain's economic decline and to reduce the role of the state in the economy.
The Problem with Socialism
Concerning socialism, Margaret Thatcher declared: "The problem with socialism is that sooner or later they run out of other people's money."
The Iranian Embassy Siege
Early in her prime ministership, Margaret Thatcher demonstrated her determination to use decisive military action during the 1980 siege of the Iranian Embassy in Princess Gate, London. For the first time in 70 years, the armed forces were authorised to use lethal force on the British mainland. 26 Hostages were being held by 6 gunmen. When Prime Minister Thatcher authorised the Special Air Service to storm the Embassy, it was a time when many embassies were being held, including most famously, the American Embassy in Iran. Margaret Thatcher took bold action, which no other government in the West appeared to have the nerve to carry out at that time.
Lady Thatcher also had to deal with the ongoing IRA terrorism which increasingly targeted the British mainland. Margaret Thatcher declared in the House of Commons: "The future of the constitutional affairs of Northern Ireland is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, this government, this parliament, and no one else!"
Defeating the IRA
When IRA terrorists, imprisoned in Northern Ireland, went on a hunger strike to attain the status of political prisoners, Thatcher refused to budge. She declared: "Crime is crime is crime; it is not political!" She faced a firestorm of opposition as 9 of the IRA hunger strikers died. However, Thatcher's resolute determination to not be manipulated by opinion polls, or political blackmail, made the outcome a significant political defeat for the IRA.
The Falklands War
With over 2 decades of withdrawals and retreats from Empire, handing over one overseas territory after another for independence, many assumed that the British were passed having the military capability, or determination, to resist aggression. When the ruling Military Junta in Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands and South Georgia, 2 April 1982, the world was amazed that Prime Minister Thatcher dispatched a Naval Task Force to recapture the British overseas territories.
As Newsweek declared: "The Empire strikes back!" Margaret Thatcher made Britain's position clear by sinking the Argentinian battleship Belgrado, and launching an amphibious and ground combat operation which recaptured the islands from the Argentinian military. This military achievement, at the other end of the globe, sent shockwaves throughout the Soviet block, alerting them that the West was not quite as decadent and weak as they had imagined.
Courageous Defiance of Terrorism
When on 12 October 1984, Margaret Thatcher narrowly escaped assassination in the Brighton Hotel bombing, during the Conservative Party conference, she insisted that the conference be opened on time. The next day she made her speech as planned, in defiance of the terrorists.
Freedom on the Offensive
Throughout the Cold War, Margaret Thatcher supported the United States President Ronald Reagan's policy of putting freedom on the offensive, directly supporting anti-communist movements in the Soviet Empire and refusing to provide any more financial loans to the Soviets and their satellites. Margaret Thatcher's success in reviving the British economy also helped to demonstrate that capitalism had a future, even while communism was bankrupting the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Margaret Thatcher's role in enabling the West to defeat the Soviet Union and win the Cold War was decisive.
The Failure of Communism
The Iron Lady declared: "The Berlin Wall stands as concrete proof that when people have a choice, they choose to be free… freedom has its problems – but we've never needed to build walls to keep our people in!"
The Triumph of the Free Market
Despite widespread riots, strikes and other agitation mobilised by the Communist International and socialists throughout Britain, Margaret Thatcher continued to reduce state intervention, selling off nationalised industries such as British Telcom. Under Margaret Thatcher, inflation in Britain fell dramatically, as did unemployment. The British pound strengthened impressively.
Standing for British Sovereignty
Margaret Thatcher is also renowned for resisting all pressures to integrate Britain into the European Union. She resisted pressures to abolish the pound and bring Britain into the Euro common currency. From the start she asserted British sovereignty and opposed EU encroachment. At Bruges, Belgium, in 1988, Margaret Thatcher made a powerful speech in which she outlined her opposition to proposals from the European Community for a federal structure. She asserted that the EEC should be limited to promoting free trade and effective competition. She opposed any centralisation which eroded the sovereignty of Great Britain. She succeeded in keeping Britain out of the Euro zone.
Trade Not Sanctions
Margaret Thatcher was also the leading international advocate of constructive engagement with South Africa during the 1980s. She was the most forthright opponent of economic sanctions against South Africa. She argued that a prosperous society would be the most receptive to positive change.
Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain in the 1980s with a dedication to free markets and became a critical ally and ideological soul mate of President Ronald Reagan in the Cold War against Soviet Communism.
The Biblical Foundations of Freedom
In an interview with Human Events 5 February 1996, Margaret Thatcher declared: "Biblical basis affects one's whole view, attitude and outlook… the notion of human rights comes from the sanctity of the individual. The Ten Commandments are addressed to each and every person. This is the origin of our common humanity and of the sanctity of the individual. Each one of us has a duty to try to carry out those Commandments. You don’t get that in any other political creed… it isn’t merely about democracy and liberty… it is personal liberty with personal responsibility. Responsibility to your parents, to your children, to your God. This really binds us together in a way that nothing else does. If you accept freedom, you have to have principles about responsibility. You cannot do this without a Biblical foundation. …Today people are trying democracy. But they look at it as a philosophy or political pattern, without understanding its roots.
The Religious Roots of Liberty
"I am afraid democracy's fundamental religious roots are weakening. There are some countries, fortunately, kept alive by faithful people. But even they are tending to weaken. In the British system children are taught Christianity. They are taught to have Faith in schools. It is a compulsory subject. In my day, the schools were places where children learned the great Hymns which stayed with them the rest of their lives. Hymns, prayers, Bible readings. It is really all locked together.
The Importance of History
"These things pass into our bloodstreams. Even if your parents are not practising Christians… it is important that people realise that history is an enormous, great and wonderful story of the fantastic efforts of man in the face of great adversity. By looking at history this way, you see how men never lost faith, no matter how terrible things were."
The Importance of the Family
Concerning the erosion of traditional marriage, Margaret Thatcher stated: "Today I am particularly concerned about the number of marriages that break up and the numbers of children that are born to single mothers. This is the greatest threat of all. Those numbers have gone up from 1950… For centuries before that it stayed about the same. These things did happen to some single mothers; but it was only about 5% of births. In the post-war period, mothers were provided with houses, or flats, and incomes. We hoped that would help the children. But what we have done by this, is not to relieve the problem, but to multiply it.
Eroding Family Foundations
"Today 30% of children are born to single mothers. We also find that the criminality factor is much higher in children with single mothers, for the reason that they have never been brought up with a stable background in a supportive environment. If there is one thing I cannot stand it is… cruelty, or abuse of children. It is the worst kind. It was in the New Testament that our Lord said: Anyone who harms these little ones deserves to have a millstone tied around their neck and to be sunk in the deepest sea."
Principle Not Popularity
Margaret Thatcher declared: "If you set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime and you will achieve nothing!"
An Inspiring Example of Excellence
In my opinion, Margaret Thatcher stands out as Great Britain's finest and most successful Prime Minister ever. She helped win the Cold War and strengthened Britain's economy. When asked what motivated her interest in politics, she said: "I cannot bear Britain in decline. I just cannot!" She, more than anyone else in the 20th century reversed that decline. It is for a new generation to take up her principles and policies and work to rescue a great nation from greater threats than it has ever faced before in history.
Personal Debt of Gratitude
As it so happens, I have a personal reason to be grateful to the Iron Lady. In October 1987, when I and three other Frontline missionaries were prisoners in Zambia, Margaret Thatcher personally spoke up for us and secured our release.
The Frontline Mission team I was leading had been arrested at Kazangulu, after refusing to bribe Zambian officials. We spent excruciating weeks of abuse at the hands of Zambian security forces, in filthy cells, blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated and incarcerated in the overcrowded Lusaka Central Prison.
Friends of ours ensured that the British Prime Minister was informed of our plight just before her departure for the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver.
Confrontation with Kaunda
There Margaret Thatcher was subjected to haranguing by Zambian dictator, Kenneth Kaunda, who was outraged that Britain was refusing to place economic sanctions on South Africa. Margaret Thatcher responded by asking why Zambia did not herself place sanctions on South Africa? Kaunda responded that, that would place many people out of work. "Exactly", responded the British Prime Minister, "and as South Africa is one of our most important trading partners, many British citizens would be placed out of work if I were to impose sanctions on South Africa. Quite aside from the many South Africans themselves who would be placed out of work."
She then went on to relate how Zambians were dependent on South African maize grown in the Orange Free State, how Zambian Airways was maintained by South African Airways, how Zambian Railways was maintained by South African Railways, how South African veterinarians cared for Zambia’s cattle, and how many Zambians were migrant workers in South Africa.
Kenneth Kaunda then declared that because of South Africa’s human rights abuses, Britain should impose sanctions. It was at this point that Margaret Thatcher produced our information. "Who are you to speak about human rights abuses?" She challenged Kaunda. Four British missionaries are being held without trial as presidential detainees in Lusaka Central Prison, tortured and abused by your own security forces! Kaunda was dumbstruck and humiliated. He ordered our immediate release.
Respect for a Great Leader
I am only one of many people who have a debt of gratitude to Baroness Margaret Thatcher. She deserves our deep gratitude and enduring respect.
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa