Why the Iron Lady matters

Thirty years ago today Margaret Thatcher took office as Great Britain’s prime minister. Among the columns marking the occasion are Boris Johnson’s “Blonde on blonde” and John O’Sullivan’s “The lady turned around Britain’s fortunes.” O’Sullivan quotes Lady Thatcher during the campaign that swept her into office: “I can’t bear Britain in decline, I just can’t.”

The new Spring issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) is now available online. Our friends at the CRB have given us the opportunity of previewing three pieces that I thought would be of particular interest to Power Line readers. One of the pieces arrives in the nick of time to join the company marking the anniversary of Thatcher’s accession to power.

Kenneth Minogue is the renowned professor of political science emeritus at the London School of Economics. Minogue’s review of Claire Berlinski’s “There Is No Alternative”: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters can stand on its own as a fitting reflection on Mrs. Thatcher, but it also takes its rightful place in the chorus celebrating her today.

Berlinski writes that her book presents “a portrait, seen through a prism, of an extraordinary personality and towering historical figure — a woman whose influence extends far beyond Great Britain and far beyond her moment in power.” When England slipped into decline during the 1970’s, it was Thatcher who saved it by reversing its socialist economic policies. Thatcher called the British people back with the slogan that gives Berlinski’s book its title.

Minogue confirms Berlinski’s view that Thatcher’s character enabled her to dominate the poliitcal scene and reverse its course. Even Minogue’s short summary is bracing. “The author is herself slightly shocked at the ferocity of Thatcher’s moral disapproval of socialism. I have no doubt, however,” Minogue writes, “that her moral profile was central to her success. It is remarkable how little most politicians stand for, but Thatcher stood for moral independence and a contempt for dependence. She not only admired courage, but had plenty of it herself. She regarded socialism as a school for self-pity and mediocrity.”

Thatcher’s moral toughness was combined with a sense of humor, which made her able to negotiate with those she disagreed with. Her example teaches us that, contrary to popular opinion, those with strong views are not always quarrelsome. A sense of humor is an indicator of intelligence, and a useful tool to boot.

The lesson of Berlinski’s timely book is that capable statesmanship can redirect history’s seemingly irreversible tide. Let us pray for the imminent return of statesmen such as Thatcher, both in England and in America, and let us accord her the honor that is her due in the meantime.


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