Mrs. Thatcher’s 11 years in office as prime minister were filled with their share of ups-and-downs. She did what many thought was impossible — crushing the mining unions, ruling in a man’s world and privatizing key services like British Telecom and British Airways — and made the world a better place because of it. She trusted her gut and believed in herself, and it paid off in the long run.
While she was often viewed as a beloved figure in the States during her tenure, the British people did not always love the Iron Lady. After just a year in office her approval rating was a mere 23 percent, the lowest approval rating ever recorded at the time, and by the end of her first term, her push for privatization left more than 3,000,000 Brits unemployed and the economy fell back into a recession. She was never even truly beloved within her own party unfortunately.
Her biggest accomplishment was undoubtedly the takedown of the mining unions. Using what some considered to be brutal police force on the striking miners, by the time the strike ended in 1985 the mining industry was essentially powerless. According to the BBC, it took nearly a generation for big labor to begin to rebuild itself after Thatcher tore it to shreds, and by the time she left office in 1990, over 40 state-owned businesses with more than 600,000 workers were privatized.
It’s almost ironic now that the reason she was replaced as the leader of the Conservative Party is one that still plagues the country today – Britain’s role within the European Union and the single monetary unit. She strongly believed that the proposed single monetary unit – today known as the Euro — would be devastating to Europe’s and Great Britain’s economies and was suspicious of yielding power to other European nations. As it turns out, she couldn’t be further from the truth.
So today, as we mourn her passing, it is the rationale behind her successes and failures that define her, not those actions. Her individualism, her passion and her confidence are qualities that every great leader should have, and each of us in the conservative moment would benefit from being a bit more like Maggie each and every day.
After all, as Mrs. Thatcher once said, “If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing.”