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Respect for the departed

I may have heard of Britain’s first woman prime minister at the time of her election victory but the Thatcher that I knew of back then was the tough, no nonsense wife of Whispers, whose misadventures we read about every Sunday on Wahome Mutahi’s column.

Ofcourse in time we got to learn of this new strong British Prime minister who replaced a weak Labour government following the winter of discontent. We watched as Thatcher ordered the biggest naval operation of the day to retake the disputed Falkland Islands (Malvinas) after Argentinian forces had invaded them in April 1982. Following Britain’s famous victory Thatcher gained the highest ratings of any leader and went on to win a second term for her conservative party.

We came to learn how Thatcher closed down coal mines and ship yards, actions which cost many thousands of jobs and also how she used the police to break up the trades unions.

Margaret Thatcher was a force to reckon with even beyond the shores of the United Kingdom. She shared US president Reagan’s conviction that theirs was a calling to defend global capitalism in the face of the cold war communist threat. It was the Soviets infact who coined the name Iron Lady – which was later taken to mean the lady with steel bolls even in the UK.

Margaret Thatcher and Reagan argued against the imposition of international sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa making them no friends of the Frontline States at the time. Thatcher went even further describing the ANC as a terrorist organisation. It was clear that they were out of step with the rest of the world which witnessed the changing winds as the cold war was drawing to a close.

Thatcher reorganised the economy in Britain and went on to lead the conservatives to a third election victory in 1987 securing her place as the longest serving premier of the twentieth century. Her uncompromising politics and leadership style made her unpopular in her country and it was members of her own party that engineered the plot that toppled her from power.

Baroness T

Baroness Thatcher, as she later became died on April 8th 2013 following a stroke. She had stood down from active politics some 20 years earlier and had been quite unwell in recent years. There have been street parties and celebrations up and down the country following news of her death. I think that this is regrettable.

Thatcher loyalists – and there are just as many as her detractors – look upon these strange scenes of jubilation and say: “Thatcher won. They had to wait until she left so that they could party”


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4 Comments

  1. I’ve been reading up on the lady the past couple of days, because most of what I know about her came from the movie (and we all know that hollywood is not the most reliable source of knowledge), but I’m still confused. On the one hand, she’s praised as a leader of great strength and moral conviction, on the other hand, she’s derided as a ruthless capitalist. Seems there are very strong feelings on either side.

    As for the celebrations, that she still inspires such strong reactions is a testament to her legacy. I suspect she would be proud…

  2. The Lady was Iron,in that there is no doubt and I guess you could say that like an ambulance arriving at a horrible road accident Thatcher came to the scene when tough and decisive leadership was exactly what Britain needed. She used her political achievements to win 3 consecutive terms for her party.

    A lesson we can draw perhaps is that a leader, any leader, having served such a long term should consider standing down whilst still at the top of their game. Thatcher’s last days in power involved bitter acrimony, falling out with senior colleagues, betrayal,and a final desperate attempt to cling on to power. A sad end for someone so distinguished.

  3. What is it about being a leader that makes it so hard to walk away? Hubris? Tony Blair met a similar fate, and he was nothing like the great lady (in theory, although the Iraq war/invasion put his left leaning principles into question).

    I read this today, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/apr/16/legacy-margaret-thatcher-neoliberalism, and got even more disturbed, it would appear the lady had an impact on us back home as well.

  4. You’re a real archaeologist, Alex – During this period Kenya and Ivory Coast were the darlings of the west because we did exactly what we were told by the world bank and IMF. It completely weakened our shilling around 1987 -88 and price inflation shot up. Thanks for the guardian piece.

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