Margaret Thatcher - The Iron Lady will never rust
She has been nicknamed Thatcher the Milk Snatcher, the Iron Lady, Attila the Hen. But like her or hate her, Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher was a figure to be reckoned with when she was alive, and even in her death on 9th April 2013, she continues to grab the spotlight. Britain is divided over her death, while many mourn, many rejoice – and celebrate in ways which are quite disturbing and unfitting.
She was born to a grocer and led a humble existence, with hard work and commitment to improvement being a constant feature in her life, right from her youth. She worked as a research chemist till she joined politics, after which her rise to the position of the Prime Minister of Britain was a course charted with a lot of opposition as well as glory.
All great leaders have their fair share of critics and detractors, and Maggie Thatcher's story was no different. The opposition, The Labor Party, released this statement at the time of her death: "The Labour party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength."
And her defiance was the stuff of legends. What makes her a champion was the fact that she was a woman, in a largely conservative Britain of the 60s and 70s, and she went on to become a towering World figure.
She bravely led Britain for more than a decade ( 1979-1990 ) and is considered by many political pundits as the most dominant Prime Minister since the enigmatic Winston Churchill. It is for this staunch power and discipline, that she earned the moniker "Iron Lady" from Captain Yuri Gavrilov in Soviet newspaper Red Star, for her opposition to socialism, and the Soviet Union.
The free market economic revival is largely attributed to her exemplary governance. Leaders and experts believe Thatcher wasn't just one who led the country, but one who saved it. In a time that saw the Fawklands War, The Apartheid and the Gulf War, Thatcher shone as a leader and premier.
She strengthened the elusive British-American ties, and was a friend and philosopher to Ronald Reagan, the American President. Such close ties between these two superpowers have not been seen since, as is evident in President Obama's statement ,"the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend. Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will".
Margaret Thatcher was the first woman elected to lead a major western state, and enjoyed the longest premiership since 1827. She was overthrown only in 1990 by a coup due to the Poll Tax rioting in Trafalgar Square.
She was in office for eleven, unbroken years. Thatcher had been in declining health for some time now, and suffered from dementia and the aftermath of multiple strokes. The death of her husband of 50 years, Dennis Thatcher, isolated her from the world of politics and she became a recluse, needing constant care and medical attention.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has spoken about how she was one of the defining figures in modern British politics and that no matter what side political parties take, her contribution as Prime Minister was undeniable. He said that today, everyone is forced to acknowledge the strength of her personality and “the radicalism of her politics."
Her career defining decisions include lending a hand to the United States during the Cold War, and her strong stance on the Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev. This move made her synonymous with championing the cause of liberty and freedom.
Her rise to premiership was a remarkable story. From being education secretary in 1974 to become party leader in 1975 was an astounding feat. Her foreign policies and domestic reforms polarized allies and critics, and even led to assassination attempts from the IRA who tried to bomb her in the Grand Hotel in 1984. Her reign saw the word "privatisation" emerge and it continues to be a buzzword in World politics, and it has its foundation in "Thatcherism".
Since retirement, Thatcher wrote her memoirs and founded and campaigned for the Thatcher Foundation, promoting free markets. However, her ill health did not allow many speaking and motivational assignments and she last made a public appearance in March 2012, seen enjoying the spring sunshine in a park near her home, conversing with the people around and petting a dog.
Lady Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister, became the first living Member of Parliament to be honoured with a statue in the lobby of the House of Commons. She famously commented that she would have preferred it to be of iron, but didn’t mind it being made of bronze as it would not rust. Her last public appearance in a political context was in Washington in 2002 at a special tribute to Ronald Reagan, former US President.
Though she slid into dementia soon after, there was quite a bit of outrage when Meryl Streep portrayed her as a frail, bewildered and scared old woman in the film The Iron Lady, despite her frightening battle with the disease being well known. Her daughter Carol spoke of how Thatcher constantly repeated herself, had to be reminded that her husband Denis was dead and was often confused about her role as a politician.