Margaret Thatcher , Baroness Thatcher, born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13, 1925 in Grantham and died on April 8, 2013 in London, is a British stateswoman, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 4, 1979 to November 28, 1990.
The daughter of a grocer and a seamstress, she was a chemist at Somerville College, Oxford, and later a lawyer. She entered the UK Parliament in 1959 and served as Secretary of State for Education and Science in the Heath government from 1970 to 1974.
She was the first woman elected to lead the Conservative Party (1975) and then to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979). She came to power in an unstable country and redirected the economy by implementing a series of radical reforms. She won three consecutive general elections, the longest uninterrupted term of office for a Prime Minister since Robert Jenkinson (1812-1827). She finally stepped down as Prime Minister after a rebellion broke out in her camp over her proposed poll tax and her Euroscepticism.
With Christian Methodist, conservative and liberal convictions, it invoked British sovereignty, protection of the interests of its citizens and the rule of law. Strongly influenced by the ideas of economic liberalism, it carried out major privatizations, reduced the influence of trade unions, lowered direct taxes, controlled inflation and the public deficit. This policy was accompanied by a rise and then a fall in unemployment, a significant increase in gross domestic product, an increase in economic inequality and an increase in indirect taxes. In foreign policy, it opposed the USSR, promoted Atlanticism, launched the Falklands War and defended free trade within the European Economic Community. All of her policies, including liberal economic measures, are known as “Thatcherism”.
Margaret Thatcher is one of Britain”s most admired and hated political figures. The nickname “Iron Lady” – given to her in 1976 by the Soviet military”s Red Star newspaper to stigmatize her anti-communism – symbolizes her toughness in dealing with the Provisional IRA hunger strikers in 1981 or the striking miners in 1984-85 and would spread around the world. Associated with the “conservative revolution” in major Western countries, the influence of his time in the UK government is often described as a “revolution” politically, ideologically and economically.
Beyond the Conservatives, she has influenced some of the Labour Party, notably Tony Blair. She is one of the top-ranked British Prime Ministers and is considered the most renowned British political leader since Winston Churchill.
Birth and family
Margaret Thatcher was born on October 13, 1925 in Grantham, England, into the middle class. Along with her sister Muriel, she was the daughter of Alfred Roberts (1892-1970) and Beatrice Roberts, née Stephenson (1888-1960). Her mother was a seamstress, one of her grandparents, Welsh, was a shoemaker, and the other, Irish, was a railway worker. A member of the local Conservative Party, his father was originally a small neighborhood grocer who rose through the ranks through work and savings to briefly become mayor of Grantham from 1945 to 1946, losing his term as a councillor when the Labour Party won the first municipal election in 1950. His older sister, Muriel (1921-2004), was born in the apartment above the family store.
Youth and studies
Margaret Thatcher”s early years were spent helping to run the grocery store, which led to her pro-free trade and pro-market options. She received a rigorous education, heavily influenced by Methodism and the sermons of her father. Margaret Thatcher”s faith is one of the foundations of Thatcherism: her religious morality enjoins men to “work hard” in order to elevate their social position through savings and merit, a clear link to Max Weber”s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. She confided: “We were Methodists, which means that we liked order, precision and rigor. She discovered politics at a very young age through her father”s involvement.
A brilliant student, she proved to be a workaholic, an ability she would maintain throughout her life. She studied until high school in Grantham, joining the Kesteven and Grantham Girls” School with a scholarship. She spent the first part of the Second World War there. In 1943, she was admitted to Somerville College, Oxford University, on a competitive basis, to study chemistry. She was the first in her family to enter an Oxbridge, which she financed with scholarships. She studied crystallography under the tutelage of Dorothy C. Hodgkin (Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964), and conducted research on gramicidin B, a polypeptide antibiotic. She graduated from the university with a degree in chemistry. She joined the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) on her arrival and in October 1946 she became its president, the third woman to hold this position. Her social background and political commitment made her an atypical personality, as most students were progressive and from a high social background. When she had an affair with a student from an aristocratic background, she was humiliated by his family for her lower social rank. Despite the snobbery, she managed to increase the membership of the OUCA from 400 when she joined to over 1,000 during her presidency. In 1946, she attended the British Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, where she met the Conservative Party”s militant base for the first time.
From 1947 to 1951, she worked in chemical research in the plastics industry at BX Plastics. In 1949, she was nominated as a Conservative candidate for the Dartford constituency in Kent; she moved from Colchester and joined the company J. Lyons and Co.
In the 1950 election, she ran for a seat in the Labour stronghold of Dartford, Kent, but failed, reducing Labour”s lead by 6,000 votes. At 24, she was the youngest female candidate in the country. At the time, it was rare for a woman to enter politics, and it was generally frowned upon. The following year, she ran again and took another 1,000 votes from her Labour competitor. Her speeches already reflected the ideas that would guide her future policy, such as this speech in Dartford:
“Our policy is not based on jealousy or hatred, but on the individual freedom of the man or woman. We do not want to forbid success and achievement, we want to encourage dynamism and initiative. In 1940, it was not the call for nationalization that drove our country to fight totalitarianism, it was the call for freedom.”
Margaret Thatcher began studying law in 1950, spending her evenings and weekends there for three years. During this time she met Denis Thatcher (1915-2003), a wealthy divorcee. He was looking for a stable and secure relationship, while she was looking for a husband who could provide for her while she devoted herself to politics. They were married on December 13, 1951, at Wesley Chapel, a leading London Methodist church. If their marriage was not passionate, their relationship was extremely strong, and the death of Denis, in 2003, affected Margaret considerably. From their union were born twins in 1953: Mark and Carol, premature six weeks. This marriage also marked a break: she left her home town and her social environment, and converted to Anglicanism, the religion of her husband, which was politically expedient, because conservative politicians must, still at that time, be Anglican. The following year, she became a barrister specializing in tax law.
Member of Parliament for Finchley (1959-1992)
She made several attempts to win the party”s nomination in Conservative constituencies. In 1958, she was chosen to be the Conservative candidate for Parliament in the Finchley constituency (North London), which has the characteristic of having a strong Jewish community, which will undoubtedly have repercussions on her future foreign policy, rather pro-Israeli, when the Conservative tradition was rather pro-Arab. On October 8, 1959, she won the election with 29,697 votes against 13,437 for her Labour opponent, and entered the House of Commons for the first time. She was elected continuously to the Commons until 1992, for 32 years.
Margaret Thatcher”s political debut was not helped by the sexism she had to endure, especially in the Conservative Party.
Her first bill, on February 5, 1960, was to allow the press to report on the proceedings of local councils. At the end of her maiden speech, her bill was passed by 152 votes to 39, and she was praised by her fellow MPs and the press, with the Daily Express headline “A new star is born”. It was on this occasion that she met Keith Joseph, who would remain very close to her and strongly influence her.
In a reshuffle in October 1961, she became Junior Minister (a position similar to that of Under Secretary of State in the French Third Republic) to the Minister for Pensions and Social Insurance in Harold Macmillan”s government, where her mastery of the complex pension issue impressed her colleagues very favourably. In this position, she discovered how cumbersome the administration was, criticized the fact that “a woman is paid more when she is unemployed than when she is working”, and supported the introduction of funded pensions to increase the basic pension. She privately believes that her party has abandoned its values, including entrepreneurial freedom. According to The Guardian, “she seemed able to retire them all and do their jobs. She remained in office until the Conservatives were defeated in the 1964 election, when she was re-elected in Finchley with an 8,802-vote lead over the Liberal Party candidate John Pardoe.
Margaret Thatcher then supported Edward Heath as leader of the Tory party against Reginald Maudling. From 1964 to 1970, she was her party”s spokesperson in the House of Commons. As an MP, she was one of the only Conservatives to support the decriminalization of male homosexuality and the legalization of abortion. At the same time, she took sides against the repeal of the death penalty and the relaxation of divorce laws. At the 1966 Conservative Party Congress, she strongly opposed the Labour Party and its fiscal policy, which she considered to be a step towards “not only socialism but also communism”.
Re-elected to Finchley in the 1966 election, she joined Edward Heath”s Conservative “Shadow Cabinet” in October 1967 and was given the Ministry of Energy, followed by Transport in 1968 and National Education a few months later on the eve of the 1970 election.
Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-1974)
In the 1970 general election, she was re-elected in her constituency with a majority of over 11,000 votes, while the Conservatives won nationally. She was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science by Edward Heath on June 20, 1970.
Her policy was marked by the desire to protect grammar schools (selective and specialized) against comprehensive schools (generalist), which failed mainly because of the Prime Minister”s reluctance, while public opinion was mostly in favour of comprehensive schools and the end of the tripartite system. She also defended the Open University, a distance learning system that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Anthony Barber, wanted to abolish for budgetary reasons.
In 1971, having to cut her ministry”s expenses, she decided to abolish free milk for children aged seven to eleven, continuing the policy of the Labour Party, which had abolished it for secondary classes, in exchange for an increase in education credits. This decision provoked a large wave of protests and earned her the nickname “Thatcher Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. However, she opposed the increase in fees for library access. Having exposed herself considerably politically without gaining anything in return, she learned a political lesson from this experience: only go head-to-head with people on issues of major importance.
In addition, Margaret Thatcher introduced compulsory schooling until the age of 16, launched a major program to renovate elementary school, which were in a fairly poor state of repair, and increased the number of nurseries. As far as research was concerned, Thatcher, who was pro-European at the time, invested substantial sums in CERN.
After Prime Minister Edward Heath”s U-turn, when he radically changed his policy in the face of street pressure, she abandoned her liberal policies for a while and was no more frugal than her predecessors, which helped her gain popularity. Later, she was very critical of her own record in government.
Following the Conservatives” narrow defeat in the February 1974 election, in which she was re-elected with a majority of 6,000 votes, she became Shadow Minister of the Environment (which at that time included Housing and Transportation).
Leader of the Official Opposition (1975-1979)
While many conservatives were in favour of Keynesianism, Margaret Thatcher became close to Keith Joseph and became vice-president of the Centre for Policy Studies, whose analysis of the causes of the Conservatives” defeat she shared: both believed that the Heath government had lost control of monetary policy and had discredited itself by its constant reversals (“U-turns”). Gradually, a growing number of conservatives perceived that the government”s policies had led the country into relative and then complete decline, and sought an alternative to Edward Heath. Margaret Thatcher believed that the decline of this country, which was then described as the “sick man of Europe”, was not inevitable if one referred to liberal conceptions and if one ceased to bend to the trade unions, whose massive strikes episodically paralyzed the country.
A new general election was held in October 1974. Margaret Thatcher was at the center of the campaign, mainly because of the proposal that Heath had asked her to defend: the abolition of rates, the local taxes. On October 10, 1974, she was re-elected with a narrow majority (3,000 votes) in her constituency. At the national level, the Labour Party won a majority of seats and Harold Wilson became Prime Minister.
Edward Heath is putting his position as Conservative Party leader back on the line. Initially a candidate, Keith Joseph withdrew following a “gaffe” in a speech. Margaret Thatcher decided to run. On February 4, 1975, after methodically campaigning among MPs, with the support of Airey Neave, she obtained 130 votes and, to everyone”s surprise, beat Edward Heath (119 votes), who immediately announced his withdrawal. The Daily Mail wrote that “the word ”sensational” is hardly adequate to describe the shockwave that shook Westminster after the results were announced. In the second round, she received 146 votes against 79 for William Whitelaw. She became leader of the party on February 11, 1975.
Inheriting a political party that was ideologically disoriented and had lost two consecutive elections, Margaret Thatcher set herself the task of restoring a clear political doctrine to the party and preparing it for victory in the next elections.
As leader of the Tory party, she adopted an anti-communist attitude, especially in speeches such as the one in Kensington on January 19, 1976, in which she accused the Soviets of aspiring to world domination and sacrificing the welfare of their people to this end. This earned her the nickname “Iron Lady of the West,” given by the newspaper of the Soviet Ministry of Defense, The Red Star, and popularized by Radio Moscow; this nickname will remain attached to her since then. To build her international stature, she visited thirty-three countries and met many leaders, including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Valery Giscard d”Estaing, Anwar Sadat, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir. In 1978, with most of the leaders of European conservative parties, she participated in the creation of the European Democratic Union.
On the domestic front, criticized by several conservative figures, Margaret Thatcher called on the services of an advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, to manage her campaign, as was already done in the United States, but not yet in Europe. Posters were printed, showing a line of unemployed people on a white background (the extras were in fact members of the Conservative Party), illustrated with the double entendre slogan Labour Isn”t Working
The difficulties encountered by the Labour government, which was obliged to ask for three loans from the IMF like any other underdeveloped country, gave a boost to the conservatives, who attacked the government”s record on unemployment and overregulation. Moreover, the Winter of Discontent of 1978-1979, during which massive strikes paralyzed the country, had disastrous consequences for the economy and the population (more than a million people were made redundant, schools and nurseries were closed, there was no health care for the sick, and there were regular power cuts, etc.). Margaret Thatcher took the opportunity to denounce the “immense power of the unions” and offered, “in the national interest”, her support to the government in return for measures to reduce their influence, but the government refused. On January 31, 1979, Margaret Thatcher declared:
“Some unions are defying the British people. They defy the sick, they defy the old, they defy the children. I am ready to fight those who defy the laws of this country. It is the Tories who must take upon their shoulders alone the responsibilities that this government is unwilling to assume.”
On March 28, 1979, the Callaghan government was overthrown by a vote of no confidence initiated by Margaret Thatcher and supported by the Liberal Party and the Scottish National Party. The next day, the Prime Minister announced that Parliament would be dissolved and that elections would be held on May 3.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979-1990)
The new Prime Minister is a relative newcomer to politics, having led the Conservative Party for only four years and not having held any real senior position before. Describing herself as “a woman of conviction,” she set out to implement a program, based on a few basic principles, to halt the country”s decline. On October 10, 1980, she declared that “there is no turning back”, in contrast to the reversals of former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath.
Margaret Thatcher orchestrated a major reduction in the role of the state, accompanied by the strengthening of its authority over the areas it retained, to the detriment of intermediate bodies.
She launched her most important reforms at the beginning of her mandates, when her democratic legitimacy was unquestionable. In her first term, she aimed to liberalize the economy and reduce public spending, as well as the deficit and public debt. She took advantage of her second victory, in 1983, to launch a program of privatization and reduce the power of the unions. Finally, during her third term, her plan to reform local taxes led to her downfall.
Faced with the failure of monetarism, Margaret Thatcher”s policy shifted after her first term of office, and was directed towards exchange rate management, with the main objective of fighting unemployment.
This policy has met with some criticism: the state is accused of “selling off the family jewels,” and the public is disappointed to see that privatizations do not benefit consumers, with lower prices or a better quality of products and services, but rather new oligopolies where politicians often take the reins once they leave government; on the other hand, the increase in the number of shareholders should not hide the fact that many of them prefer to sell their shares quickly once short-term capital gains are assured, and the privatization program, although it is being pursued, is no longer being used as an electoral argument.
As an example of her desire to change the role of the state, Margaret Thatcher said in a speech in 1975:
“A man has the right to work as he pleases, to spend what he earns, to own his property, to have the state as his servant and not as his master. These are the British legacies. They are the essentials of a free economy, and on this freedom depend all the others.”
Margaret Thatcher promoted an economic policy that would later be called “popular capitalism”: she encouraged the middle class to increase its income thanks to the stock market (the number of shareholders in the United Kingdom rose from three million in 1980 to 11 million in 1990). In 1980, with the Housing Act 1980, it allowed tenants to buy social housing, i.e., the Right to Buy, which allowed the privatization of more than one million social housing units, previously held by local authorities, in seven years. The 1988 Housing Act introduced the Assured shorthold tenancy, which allows landlords to review the rent once a year without restriction. Section 21 allows tenants to be evicted after at least two months” notice for any reason except unpaid rent.
This reduction in the role of the state was accompanied by a reduction in the number of intermediary bodies: several hundred Quangos (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Government Organisations) disappeared and several county councils were dismantled or abolished. In London, the abolition in late 1986 of the Greater London Council, headed by the popular Labour leader Ken Livingstone, was seen as a political move.
While Margaret Thatcher”s economic policy emphasized reducing public spending and controlling the public deficit, the British National Archives indicate that she was also thrifty in her management of 10 Downing Street, insisting, for example, on paying for the ironing board.
Margaret Thatcher also dealt with the issue of trade unions, which had considerable influence on the British economy when she came to power: unelected union leaders could provoke major strike action and paralyze the country, as was the case during the Winter of Discontent before Thatcher was elected. This power is partly due to their influence within the Labour Party itself, which was then firmly anchored on the left.
The most significant conflict between the new government and the unions was the long British miners” strike of 1984-85, which Thatcher won. This strike, which lasted for a year without spreading to other activities in the country or to a general strike, was directly concerned with the question of closing down the loss-making coal pits, a prospect categorically rejected by Arthur Scargill, the head of the NUM, the National Union of Miners. The films Billy Elliot, The Virtuosi and Pride all refer to these strikes.
During his time in power, five laws on unions were passed: in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1987 and 1988. The main purpose of these laws was to put an end to the “closed shop,” which allowed a union to authorize only the recruitment of unionized workers. Picketing was further regulated and “sympathy strikes” were prohibited.
London wanted to become a central place in the management of international capital movements, hoping to surpass Wall Street. Margaret Thatcher took important measures to free up banking constraints, which resulted in London becoming the hub for German and Japanese surpluses and American deficits. The City of London, in the center of the city, becomes, under the effect of this massive deregulation, one of the most important financial centers in the world.
The situation in Northern Ireland deteriorated at the beginning of his mandate. His advisor Airey Neave was assassinated by the INLA on March 30, 1979, and Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip”s uncle and organizer of Indian independence, was assassinated by the IRA on August 27, 1979. In 1980, several members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army incarcerated in Maze prison went on hunger strike to obtain the status of political prisoners, which had been abolished in 1976 by the Labour Party, but which some prisoners continued to enjoy. It lasted 53 days, without the strikers obtaining anything. In 1981, a second strike was organized by Bobby Sands. Despite the death of ten hunger strikers (including Bobby Sands, who had meanwhile been elected a member of Parliament) after 66 days on strike and petitions sent from all over the world, Thatcher was inflexible, declaring in the House of Commons, for example, that Bobby Sands “chose to take his own life; it is a choice that his organization did not give to many of his victims.
Bombs targeted Hyde Park and Regent Street in 1982, and Harrods in 1983, killing 23 and 9 people respectively. In October 1984, an IRA time bomb exploded at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where the Conservative Party”s annual conference was being held, nearly killing Margaret Thatcher and several members of her government. Her coolness during the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton earned her the respect and admiration of the British public. Five people were killed and many more injured, including the wife of Norman Tebbit, a senior minister, who was left paralyzed. As for Margaret Thatcher, her bathroom was destroyed, but not her office, where she was still working, nor her bedroom, where her husband was sleeping. In 1987, an IRA attack in Enniskillen killed eleven people. On December 8, 1981, she met in Dublin with the Irish Prime Minister Charles James Haughey. Following these initial discussions, cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom was intensified, leading to the Hillsborough Castle Agreement (in English, the Anglo-Irish Agreement), signed on November 15, 1985, in which she recognized the “Irish dimension” in exchange for progress on security, which will not see the light of day. They were, however, seen as an important step forward in resolving the conflict. To the fury of the Unionists, the agreement gave guarantees to the Irish government and the pacifists and affirmed the need for majority rule for any change in the province”s status. But this was not enough to completely end the violence.
The United Kingdom experienced a growing wave of immigration after the oil crises of the 1970s, particularly from its former colonies in the Caribbean, but also and especially from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. New types of social problems appeared in neighborhoods often considered ethnic ghettos, particularly affected by unemployment. It was also at this time that the phenomenon of skinheads, a cultural movement (which became predominantly racist and anti-Semitic in the 1980s) calling for the use of violence against immigrants, the left and the far left, became relatively important in the United Kingdom. In 1981, Parliament passed the British Nationality Act 1981. This Act redefined citizenship status (national citizens, overseas citizens, citizens of dependent territories), and sought to reduce access to birthright, prohibiting the acquisition of residency by non-British citizens, and denying citizenship by marriage.
She criticized the wages of women “who would earn more by staying at home” and stood as the only conservative for the decriminalization of male homosexuality and for the legalization of abortion. Her policies also stood out as going against the moral grain of classic conservatives who had been pushed out of politics, such as Enoch Powell.
Margaret Thatcher is advised in her communication strategy, notably by the press director of Number 10, Bernard Ingham. She took courses in posture and elocution in order to perfect her Oxbridge accent (an accent characteristic of former students of Cambridge or Oxford universities) and to convey an image of firmness and assurance, which ensured her credibility in the audiovisual media.
His relationship with the BBC was stormy. Margaret Thatcher reproached the channel for its neutrality during the Falklands conflict in 1982, during the bombing of Libya in 1986, or more generally for the way it presented its political decisions, which led to a public controversy in 1986 and to political and financial pressure on the channel. On the other hand, the “Iron Lady” maintained good relations with certain newspapers, particularly those owned by Rupert Murdoch, which were considered to be rather favourable to her policies, even though the Guardian and The Independent were largely open to her political opponents.
In 1983, the Thatcher government increased fees for foreign students.
Margaret Thatcher also had the National Curriculum adopted, which unified the level of knowledge of students, regardless of their county, with the “common core” being the same for everyone up to age 16.
His foreign policy was guided by several strong ideas, including anti-communism, Atlanticism and Euroscepticism.
Relations between the Argentine military junta and Margaret Thatcher”s government were initially friendly. Members of the junta were invited to London, including the former head of the navy, Emilio Massera, who was responsible for hundreds of disappearances, and the Argentine Minister of Finance, José Martínez de Hoz, who defended Thatcher-inspired economic concepts. The Iron Lady put an end to an aid program for Latin American refugees fleeing persecution, which had been introduced by the previous Labour government. Arms sales to Argentina increase with the Conservatives in power. Just four days before Argentina invaded the Falklands, the British government was still trying to sell bomber planes to the junta.
On April 2, 1982, the Argentinean junta invaded two archipelagos off the coast of Argentina in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, both British possessions. Margaret Thatcher quickly decided to use force against this occupation. On 5 April, a fleet led by Admiral Sandy Woodward set sail for the South Atlantic and South Georgia, which was recaptured on 25 April. The recapture of the Falklands took three weeks (21 May-14 June) and resulted in 255 British deaths against 712 or 649 Argentinians, according to sources.
The Falklands War resulted in the defeat of the Argentine army, which precipitated the fall of the military dictatorship. Margaret Thatcher”s inflexibility in this conflict partly contributed to her nickname of “Iron Lady”; while her popularity was at its lowest before the conflict, the surge of patriotism and then the military success contributed to her first re-election. At the same time, she increased the military effort until the mid-1980s, in a context of “fresh war” between the two blocs.
One of the indirect consequences of this conflict was the creation of a very strong relationship with the leaders of Chile. Thatcher thanked General Augusto Pinochet for the support he had given to the British army during the conflict by making Chilean radars available and taking in the wounded. Argentina and Chile, both governed by military dictatorships, had tense relations due to a territorial dispute over the Beagle Channel, which had nearly triggered a war between the two Southern Cone countries. Thatcher publicly and personally thanked Pinochet again in 1999, after he was placed under house arrest in the United Kingdom following an international arrest warrant issued by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón for human rights violations committed under his government. Speaking in favor of her release, she said, “I am well aware that you are the one who brought democracy to Chile, you established a constitution appropriate to democracy, you implemented it, elections were held, and finally, in accordance with the results, you left power. According to Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, this claim is as “absurd” as saying “that she brought socialism to Britain”.
A Eurosceptic, she asked that the United Kingdom not pay more than it received from Europe. She famously said, “We are simply asking to have our own money back. The United Kingdom, then in the midst of a recession, was paying much more than it was receiving. On October 18, 1984, she justified her position in a speech in which she said: “Britain cannot accept the current budget situation. I cannot play Santa Claus to the Community when my own electorate is being asked to give up improvements in health, education, etc.” She won her case in 1984 with the so-called “British rebate”. Her relations with the President of the European Commission, the French Socialist Jacques Delors, were atrocious. Delors favoured a federal and managed Europe, which was in complete opposition to Thatcher”s ideas, and had repercussions on the United Kingdom”s European policy.
In her famous Bruges speech of September 20, 1988, she reaffirmed her opposition to a federal Europe and delegating more powers to Brussels while defending her vision of Europe, a Europe of the nations. Her Bruges speech defended three fundamental ideas: Europe must function according to the cooperative method, it must be the tool for the creation of the common market and the Member States must place themselves in an internationalist logic. She also opposed the European Community having its own resources.
Margaret Thatcher had approved membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) and considered that it should be only a means of establishing free trade and ensuring economic competition. She said: “We have failed to push back the boundaries of the state successfully in Britain only to have them re-imposed at the European level, with a European superstate exercising new dominance from Brussels.” The speech, which was widely criticized by other Europeans, revealed the Conservatives” divisions on the European issue. It was Europe that accelerated the fall of his cabinet with the resignation of the Europhile Geoffrey Howe.
The friendship with a foreign leader that most marked her tenure was with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, whom she had known since 1975, and whose principles she shared, including anti-communism and economic liberalism. Ronald Reagan called her “the best man in England”, while she called him the second most important man in her life. The two leaders met in 1975 when Reagan was still governor of California. The two leaders would give each other unwavering support on many occasions.
Even before Reagan came to power, Thatcher began to strengthen ties with the United States. On the nuclear front, she confirmed, notably through an exchange of letters with President Carter, the Nassau agreements signed by MacMillan in 1962, whereas Labour had at one time considered a rapprochement with France on this issue.
Throughout her career, she showed a deep attachment to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. In 1986, during the Reykjavik summit, she convinced Ronald Reagan to decline Mikhail Gorbachev”s proposal to eliminate all Soviet and American medium-range offensive systems.
Despite many points of convergence, the two heads of state disagreed on a few specific points. Concerning the Falklands war, American interests were originally on the Argentine side. While the United States initially tried to find a compromise that would save the face of their protégé Galtieri, they finally provided the United Kingdom with significant logistical and military assistance (in particular the Sidewinder missiles that changed the course of the conflict).
With regard to the sanctions policy against Poland, which repressed the Solidarity trade union, Margaret Thatcher reproached the Americans for having unilaterally decreed sanctions that affected the economies of her Western allies much more than their own. Their bilateral relationship, however, was not affected.
It intervened with the George H. W. Bush administration to encourage it to take a hard line against Iraq. The United Kingdom was the first country to agree to join the coalition set up by the United States to launch the Gulf War.
In Asia, it had a special relationship with the Indonesian dictator Soeharto, whose massacres after he took power killed more than a million people and whose regime”s conquest of East Timor killed another 200,000. Described as “one of our best and most valued friends” by Margaret Thatcher, Soeharto was defended in the United Kingdom by the Asia section of the Foreign Office, which sought to minimize his crimes.
In 1983, Margaret Thatcher sent the SAS, the British special forces, to train the Khmer Rouge in landmine technology. The Khmer Rouge were engaged in a war against the Cambodian communist government and its Vietnamese ally. The United Kingdom continued to regard the Democratic Kampuchea regime as the legitimate government of Cambodia and supported it at the United Nations. The United States and the United Kingdom also imposed an embargo with devastating consequences for the Cambodian economy.
In 2013, The Economist credited Margaret Thatcher with helping to bring about the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, and allowing Britain to play a major role on the world stage for the first time since Churchill.
Thatcher took little interest in the remnants of the Empire during her tenure; the interests of the United Kingdom were her priority.
As soon as she took office in 1979, she made her mark by settling the 15-year-old Rhodesian problem in a little over six months with the Lancaster House Agreement.
Grenada, a former British possession and member of the Commonwealth since its independence in 1974, was invaded by American troops in 1983. Margaret Thatcher declared herself “appalled and betrayed”. Her support for the Grenadian regime, however, only resulted in a few protests at the United Nations General Assembly.
It opposed tough sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa as harmful to British interests and even dangerous to the stability of the region. She convinced her Commonwealth partners to accept the European Community”s graduated and less radical measures in June 1986. Her stance on apartheid was criticized and created tensions within the Commonwealth. The French Prime Minister at the time, Laurent Fabius, even said in an interview that he was both fascinated and appalled by the views she had expressed to him over a meal. In her memoirs, Thatcher argues that immediate abolition of apartheid, without compromise (and thus likely to drive the establishment to obsidianism) and imposed from outside (and thus without taking into account local constraints such as ethnic differences), would have produced anarchy that would have hurt both blacks and whites. For the American diplomat John Campbell, Margaret Thatcher”s positions were far more principled than her critics would admit, but he believes she erred in not perceiving that the ANC was committed to democratic and humanist values, even going so far as to label the organization “terrorist. Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela finally met at Downing Street in April 1990, despite opposition from the ANC leadership.
After very difficult Sino-British negotiations, and Deng Xiaoping”s affirmation of the principle of “one country, two systems”, on 19 December 1984 she signed the joint Sino-British declaration on the question of Hong Kong, which provided for the return to the People”s Republic of China of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon peninsula (ceded in perpetuity by the treaties of 1842 and 1860), together with the New Territories (leased in 1898 for a period of 99 years), effective from 1 July 1997.
British voters gave him a majority three times, giving him the longest tenure as Prime Minister in the United Kingdom since the 18th century.
In 1982, his situation was difficult and his popularity low. However, the Falklands War restored his moral authority and the Falklands Factor played an important role in his re-election. Nevertheless, for the historian Philippe Chassaigne, it is mainly the improvement of the economic situation that explains this re-election. The Tories finally obtained 397 MPs out of 635 in 1983.
In 1987, the Tories won again, but by a smaller margin, winning 375 of the 650 seats. Labour was defeated each time, not only in terms of seats but also in terms of ideas. Michael Foot, the last “arch-labourist,” gave way to a more moderate leadership in 1983.
Dissension within the party nevertheless multiplied, partly because of his authoritarianism, which led to quarrels with Francis Pym, Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson.
On October 31, 1990, his Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe, one of his oldest allies but a Europhile, resigned in protest at his European policy. He called for someone new to lead a new policy. Michael Heseltine, a former defence minister, ran to lead the Conservative Party, challenging Margaret Thatcher.
After her return from the Paris Summit, on the morning of November 21, 1990, she received her ministers one by one to consult them on the position to adopt regarding the second round. A number of them renewed their support for her, but most advised her to resign, believing that the second round was likely to be more unfavourable than the first. Two others informed her that, should she win, they would resign as ministers.
She remains the longest serving Prime Minister (eleven years and six months) since Lord Salisbury (fourteen years and two months).
Gradual withdrawal from public life
After resigning from 10 Downing Street in November 1990, she gave lectures around the world and devoted herself to her foundation. In 1992, she was made a Life Peer on the proposal of her successor John Major, as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, thus taking her seat in the House of Lords. In 1995, Queen Elizabeth II honored her with the Order of the Garter, the highest British distinction.
Margaret Thatcher was hired by the tobacco company Philip Morris in July 1992 for $250,000 a year and an annual contribution of $250,000 to its foundation for a total of $1 million as a “geopolitical consultant. According to the Sunday Times, “he will be asked to help resist attempts to ban tobacco advertising in the European Community and to fight cigarette taxes and state tobacco monopolies.
On September 6, 1997, she attended, along with her husband and several other personalities, the funeral of Lady Diana Spencer at Westminster Abbey.
After several minor strokes and on the advice of her doctors, she withdrew from public life in 2002 to protect her health, while remaining involved in politics.
Last years of his life
Very affected by the death of her husband in 2003, Margaret Thatcher continues nevertheless to make some public appearances. She made a point of attending the funeral of her great friend, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, which took place on June 11, 2004 at the Washington National Cathedral. For the fifth annual commemoration of the attacks of September 11, 2001, she went to the Pentagon in Washington, accompanied by the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to pay tribute to foreign victims.
On February 21, 2007, she attended the installation of her statue in the House of Commons, alongside the effigies of Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and Clement Attlee. The first British head of government to have a statue in her lifetime, she said on this occasion: “I would have preferred an iron statue, but bronze suits me. At least it won”t rust. And this time I hope the head stays on” (referring to a previous marble sculpture of her by the sculptor Neil Simmons, which was exhibited at the Guildhall Art Gallery and decapitated in 2002 by the artist Paul Kelleher in a symbolic protest).
On June 10, 2007, the Sunday Telegraph published excerpts from an exclusive interview the “Iron Lady” gave to the BBC television channel, which has since been broadcast on June 19. Shortly before the 10th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong, she recalled the day on June 30, 1997, when the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to China: she said she felt sad that day, saying she wished Hong Kong had remained under British administration.
Her daughter Carol states in a book, which comes out on September 4, 2008, that her mother has had significant memory problems for seven years. She has significant cognitive problems secondary to vascular dementia, following several strokes.
On May 5, 2009, she celebrated the 30th anniversary of her election as the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the Carlton Club, and then met Benedict XVI at the Vatican on May 27, after having paid her respects at the tomb of John Paul II, on which she placed a bouquet of white roses and a dedication: “to a man of faith and courage. On November 23, 2009, she attended a reception given by Prime Minister Gordon Brown with the leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street, for the unveiling of a portrait of her by the artist Richard Stone; she is the first parliamentarian to be honored in her lifetime with a portrait in Downing Street and the third head of government after Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. She visited Downing Street on June 8, 2010, at the invitation of the new head of government, David Cameron, who the previous month had ended a thirteen-year period in opposition for the Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher was also invited to visit Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown shortly after they took office in 1997 and 2007 respectively. In the presence of the other former Prime Ministers and the current Prime Minister, she attended the address given by Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall on September 17, 2010, during his state visit to the United Kingdom. Due to her health condition, she declined several invitations and did not attend the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on April 29, 2011. In September 2011, she attended the party given for the 50th birthday of the Secretary of State for Defense, Liam Fox, in his apartment at Admiralty House. Liam Fox said that he was “delighted to have two Prime Ministers (Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron) from his party for his 50th birthday”.
For her 87th birthday in October 2012, she made a public appearance by having lunch in a London restaurant with her son Mark and his wife. She was then hospitalized, on December 20, 2012, and operated on a bladder tumor the next day. She leaves the hospital before New Year”s Eve, but does not return to her residence in the district of Belgravia on Chester Square, her physical condition no longer allowing her, in fact, to climb the steps of her house. She was relocated to the Ritz Hotel in London by her owners David and Frederick Barclay, who were strong supporters of the former Prime Minister.
Death and funerals
Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, 2013 at the London Ritz Hotel, following a stroke, at the age of 87.
A ceremonial funeral (like those held for Princess Diana and the Queen Mother), with military honours and live television coverage, took place on April 17 at St. Paul”s Cathedral in London. Exceptionally, Queen Elizabeth II (who only attends funerals of family members or heads of state, with the sole exception of the funeral of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965) and her husband Prince Philip of Edinburgh attended the ceremony. In addition to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, his predecessors Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major, some 2,300 people and international personalities representing 170 countries are present. Among them are two heads of state, eleven prime ministers, including Canadian Stephen Harper and his predecessor Brian Mulroney, Israeli Benyamin Netanyahu, Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis and Polish Donald Tusk, and seventeen foreign ministers. The United States is represented by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, while France is represented by Elisabeth Guigou, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly. At the end of this ceremony, in accordance with her wishes, Margaret Thatcher was cremated. On September 28, 2013, in the presence of her children, Mark and Carol, her ashes are buried in the gardens of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, alongside those of her husband Denis, who died in 2003. A headstone, bearing the simple inscription “Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013”, overlooks her final resting place.
In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher is being hailed across the political spectrum. Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the woman who “saved her country” and praised her “immense courage”. Indicating his sadness at having lost “a great leader, a great Prime Minister, a great Briton,” he said that Margaret Thatcher will be remembered as “the best peacetime Prime Minister the country has ever had. Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition, said that “Labour often disagreed with her, but that does not prevent us from having the greatest respect for her political achievements and strength of character.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Twitter that the “Iron Lady” had changed Britain “forever” and that every citizen of the Kingdom “owes her a great deal. The Queen, for her part, made known her sadness at the news. Like Diana Spencer, Margaret Thatcher will receive military honors during her funeral at St. Paul”s Cathedral in London, a great honor granted by royal permission, but a ceremony with less pomp and circumstance than the national funerals, reserved for sovereigns and the most important political figures (Admiral Nelson, Winston Churchill).
Reactions are more mixed among her opponents. Labour”s Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London known for his Trotskyite past, considers that “every economic problem we have today is a legacy of her policy and comes from the fact that she was fundamentally wrong. The director Ken Loach, a Marxist sympathizer and long-time opponent of her policies, proposes to “privatize her funeral. While the national and international press hailed Margaret Thatcher”s exceptional stature, many periodicals also pointed out that she remained a controversial figure and that the news of her death continued to divide British public opinion. The Daily Mirror said that “her death is a cause for mourning for half the country, but for the other half it is a cause for celebration, for never in our history has a political figure caused so much division. Parties to “celebrate” his death are being held spontaneously or are being organized in the United Kingdom and Argentina. This is the first time in history that such an event has been held for the head of state of a democracy. The Economist talks about a legacy that still divides Britons, using the phrase “love her or hate her” and analyzing that “it is not just because she was a controversial figure, but because the debates she provoked continue to divide.
The announcement of her death made the front pages of the world press. U.S. President Barack Obama hailed “one of the great advocates of freedom” and said that her tenure as prime minister “is an example to our daughters: there is no glass ceiling that cannot be broken. Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute to “one of the most remarkable political figures in the modern world.” Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher”s direct interlocutor during her tenure as prime minister, paid tribute to a “brilliant person” who will remain “in our memories, as in history.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel recognizes in Margaret Thatcher an “extraordinary leader of our time.” French President François Hollande believes that Margaret Thatcher “will have profoundly marked the history of her country.” “Throughout her public life, with conservative convictions that she fully assumed, she was concerned with the influence of the United Kingdom and the defense of its interests,” he added in a statement. Valéry Giscard d”Estaing, who worked with her, remembers their “courteous and friendly relations”. He recognized the success of her policy, believing that the successes of her successors were “largely due to her action,” and remembered her “unshakeable will” and her “indomitable character.” Lech Wałęsa, the historic leader of the Polish trade union Solidarność, meanwhile, emphasizes Margaret Thatcher”s commitment to delivering Eastern Europe from communism. A devout Catholic, he announces “praying for her.” Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, says that despite his political disagreements with Margaret Thatcher he “can only bow to a woman who was a major figure not only in European history, but also in that of the world.” She is also praised in Israel, where her work for peace in the Middle East is praised (Margaret Thatcher was behind a peace agreement between Israel and Jordan). China also paid tribute to her, calling her “a remarkable statesman” who had contributed “significantly to the development of Sino-British relations and in particular to the peaceful solution negotiated for Hong Kong”. In Australia, Julia Gillard, also the first woman to become prime minister in her country, says, “As a woman, I admire her achievement of being the first woman to lead the U.K.”; a member of the left-leaning Labour Party, she acknowledges that she does not share Margaret Thatcher”s political vision, but says, “She is a woman who changed women”s history.” More broadly, the entire Australian political class (Australia is a member of the Commonwealth) pays tribute to Margaret Thatcher.
House of Commons
Margaret Thatcher is one of the few British politicians to have a policy named after her: Thatcherism. The Economist notes that while Winston Churchill led Britain to victory against the Third Reich in World War II, he never made his name an “-ism.”
Margaret Thatcher”s economic and social policy, “Thatcherism,” is, along with “Reaganism,” its American counterpart at the same time, one of the two main avatars of the “conservative revolution” that the world experienced following the recessionary phase that began with the two oil crises and the crisis of Keynesianism. While it is possible to identify a series of elements that characterize it, historian Eric J. Evans points out that most contemporary commentators agree that Thatcherism is not a coherent ideology in itself.
Thatcherism took shape in the 1970s, under the influence of liberal thinkers and think tanks. Thatcherism is defined by three basic characteristics: political conservatism, economic liberalism and social traditionalism. Margaret Thatcher claimed to be a descendant of Edmund Burke, who was economically liberal but politically conservative.
Margaret Thatcher placed great importance on the Victorian values of work, order, effort and self-help, which she received in her upbringing and which she says in her memoirs played a great role in her life. During her university years, she became familiar with liberal ideas through the reading of Karl Popper”s The Open Society and its Enemies, The Road to Serfdom or, later, Friedrich Hayek”s The Constitution of Freedom. This was an important source of inspiration for his thinking, along with the liberal works that Keith Joseph advised him. In general, Thatcherism drew its political and economic inspiration from these theories and from those of the Chicago Monetarist School, embodied by Milton Friedman, the supply-side school of Arthur Laffer and the Austrian School, known through Friedrich Hayek.
Classical liberals, such as Adam Smith, also had an important influence on Margaret Thatcher, who was convinced of the accuracy of the “invisible hand” metaphor. She therefore encouraged individual economic freedoms, as she saw them as enabling the well-being of society as a whole.
Margaret Thatcher followed these theories by implementing a purely monetarist policy when she came to power, characterized by high interest rates aimed at curbing inflation by controlling the money supply; by abolishing exchange controls; by deregulating the labour market in order to switch to a supply-side policy; and by privatizing part of her assets. Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1990, declared in 1980:
“The economic policy of the new conservatism is based on two principles: monetarism and free markets in opposition to state intervention and centralized planning”
– Nigel Lawson, Bow Group Conference, August 1980
She also claimed anti-socialist ideas and wrote in her memoirs: “I have never forgotten that the unstated aim of socialism – municipal or national – was to increase dependence. Poverty was not only the breeding ground of socialism: it was its deliberate effect.” In a speech to her party”s Central Council in March 1990, she said, “Socialism has the state as its creed. It regards ordinary human beings as the raw material for its projects of social change.” British liberal think tanks such as the Centre for Policy Studies, founded in 1974 by Keith Joseph, pass Thatcher”s ideas on to the Conservative party.
On the other hand, his arrival in power coincided with the start of production of gas and oil deposits in the North Sea. Between 1976 (12.2 Mt) and 1986 (127.1 Mt) British oil production increased more than tenfold, making Britain the sixth largest oil producer in the world. During his term of office, oil revenues contributed to the national budget, with ten billion pounds of revenue in the best years, as well as to the balance of payments, thus limiting the effects of deindustrialization.
Good economic results, but a controversial social record
Margaret Thatcher applied monetarist-inspired theories by fighting the high inflation of the late 1970s with high interest rates and by encouraging the opening up of the economy to foreign capital; she also reduced direct taxes, but without succeeding in limiting compulsory levies: union power remained strong in the public sector, preserving the salaries of the civil servants who remained in office; on the other hand, the implementation of her policy required relays and executors for the responsibilities transferred to civilian services or quangos. After an increase in the first four years of his term, public spending was significantly reduced, partly by ending the state”s financial involvement in supporting the activity of several “historic” industries, including loss-making mines, in contrast to the voluntarism of the United Kingdom”s European neighbors in their attempt to rescue industry in the 1980s.
Margaret Thatcher has often been accused of “deindustrializing Britain.” In reality, this major trend in the evolution of the British economic fabric had already begun before she came to power and continued in the following decades, and, although it continued under her terms, the deindustrialization of the country was taking place at a slower pace than under her predecessors.
The liberation of banking constraints begun by Margaret Thatcher, which accompanied the vast movement of financial deregulation, allowed the London market to benefit greatly from global financialization. This speculative banking economy nevertheless led to the sharp retraction of Black Wednesday (September 16, 1992) and, according to some, like the left-wing democrat Romano Prodi, was the cause of the disturbances that led to the bursting of the debt bubble in the 2000s.
Catherine Mathieu of the French Observatory of Economic Conjunctures (OFCE) believes that the widening inequalities between London and the South East of the country, linked to Margaret Thatcher”s “choice of liberalization of the British economy”, explains that “traditionally Labour regions finally voted for Brexit” in the 2016 referendum.
John Rentoul, a columnist for the Independent, believes that Margaret Thatcher”s actions were necessary because the economy was inefficient before her arrival and the country was handicapped by the omnipotence of the unions. She laid the foundations for the restoration of international competitiveness and growth that Britain experienced, and that other countries enjoyed, in the decades that followed. He believes that his action showed the Labour Party that capitalism was the only possible way forward, but he regrets his dogmatism in terms of monetarism, which led to a very significant increase in interest rates, and the social cost of his policy, whether in terms of unemployment or the dismantling of union power, which he believes is a factor in explaining the current precariousness of many working poor.
Margaret Thatcher received many British honors and decorations: she was, for example, made in 1991 Honorary Citizen of the City of Westminster, an honor that had previously been granted only to Churchill.
The Blairism of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who took over from the Conservative John Major in 1997, marks a continuation of Thatcherism in its liberal framework, but with some changes: a reconsideration of the question of inequality, the renationalization of failing public interest companies, and a less isolated attitude towards the European Union, without however fundamentally challenging the country”s traditional Atlanticism.
Margaret Thatcher polarized the country”s political life around her. More than 15 years after her departure, Tony Blair”s intention in June 2006 to prepare a national funeral for her has led to numerous reactions; the Daily Telegraph devoted its front page on August 9 to the turmoil of the affair within the Labour Party. Several members of the Prime Minister”s party are talking about the possibility of leaving the party if this information is confirmed. National funerals are normally reserved for the British royal family. But there are some exceptions, such as the 1965 death of Winston Churchill, who led the country in World War II. Because of the cost of such a ceremony, estimated at three million pounds, a petition was circulated demanding that, “in keeping with his legacy, the funeral should be privately funded and organized in order to provide the best choice and value for money to users and other stakeholders. Finally, after the announcement of her death, it was announced that she would not have a state funeral, but a funeral at St. Paul”s Cathedral in London with military honors.
Margaret Thatcher has received many recognitions, both British and foreign. She has been awarded the Order of the Garter and the Order of Merit in the United Kingdom and is a member of the Royal Society and the Privy Council of Queen Elizabeth II.
She has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award and is an honorary member of the Heritage Foundation. The American libertarian magazine Reason has celebrated her as a “hero of freedom”.
Several places are named after her in the Falkland Islands, in memory of the 1982 conflict: Thatcher Drive in Port Stanley or Thatcher Peninsula in South Georgia. January 10th is a public holiday in the Falklands, “Margaret Thatcher Day”.
She was awarded the Clare Boothe Luce Award (en) by the Heritage Foundation.
Margaret Thatcher is an inexhaustible source of cultural representations (cinema, theater, music, etc.), being much more present in the media and popular culture than any other current or past European political leader, in a dimension of fascination-repulsion of artists. Thus, the image in the artistic presentation of her record across the Channel is often very biased, as it overlooks her popularity and the successes of her economic policy, insisting on the most negative aspects of her action or representing her as hysterical. Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the few writers to claim an admiration for Thatcher.
Several singers have dedicated songs to her, like Renaud in 1985 with Miss Maggie in the album Mistral gagnant. Initially written to denounce the Heysel disaster, the song takes the form of a hymn for women and a fierce charge against Margaret Thatcher (“I”ll turn into a dog if I can stay on earth, and as a daily lamp post I”ll offer myself to Mrs Thatcher”). The French singer Sapho, in her 1982 album entitled Passage d”enfer, also sings a song about Margaret Thatcher: Thatcher Murderer. In 1982, Roger Waters (singer, bassist and composer of Pink Floyd) published a concept album, The Final Cut, in which Margaret Thatcher is mentioned several times. He widely criticizes her politics of the time (the album is based on the Falklands war), his name is mentioned several times: “Oh, Maggie, Maggie, what have we done? Galtieri took the Union Jack
In his biographical work My Education: A Book of Dreams, writer William S. Burroughs dreams of George W. Bush: “…and then we could look at Bush, that bitch with Thatcher”s sewn-up ass.”
She is also a favorite target of the punk movement, with songs like I”m In Love With Margaret Thatcher, by The Notsensibles in 1979, Maggie, by Chaos UK in 1981, Let”s Start A War (Said Maggie One Day), by The Exploited in 1983, Maggie You Cunt, by the same group in 1985.
The name of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, although it refers to an instrument of torture (the iron maiden), is reminiscent of the nickname “Iron Lady”. In 1980, they released the single Sanctuary, the cover of which depicted Margaret Thatcher being stabbed by Eddie (the band”s mascot) for ripping down one of their concert posters. On the illustration of the first edition, the eyes are masked by a black bandage to make believe in a censorship decision. The following year, the single Women in Uniform was released, in which the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom appeared again, this time armed with an L2A3 machine pistol and watching Eddie.
The song Shipbuilding (en) whose lyrics were written by Elvis Costello is a pamphlet against Margaret Thatcher and “her” war in the Falklands Islands. According to the song, the war provides work in the abandoned shipyards. But, as soon as the ships are built, the young workers will go into battle to be killed. Shipbuilding was created in 1983 by Robert Wyatt before being taken over by Elvis Costello, himself then accompanied by Chet Baker.
In 1988, Morrissey also dedicated a song to her, Margaret on the guillotine, in his first solo album Viva Hate. In this song, Morrissey addresses Thatcher and asks her when she is going to die (“When will you die?”), because people like her exhaust him and make him feel bad.
When Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, a campaign led by opponents managed to get the song Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead to #3 on the official charts. Taken from the film The Wizard of Oz, the song gleefully celebrates the death of a “wicked witch,” which is tantamount to portraying Thatcher as evil. The move was seen by some as legitimate and in the nature of a song of revolt, while others found it inappropriate or in bad taste.
The Britain of those left behind by the Thatcher era is the subject of many films such as Stephen Frears” My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Mark Herman”s The Virtuosi (1996), Peter Cattaneo”s The Full Monty (1997), Danny Boyle”s Trainspotting (1995), Stephen Daldry”s Billy Elliot (2000), Shane Meadows” This Is England (2006) and most of Ken Loach”s films, notably Raining Stones (1993). In 2008, in the film Hunger by Steve MacQueen, the character of Margaret Thatcher is present through archives of her hostile speeches to IRA activists. In 2009, the BBC broadcast on its channel a TV movie, Margaret, which traces the fall of the Prime Minister played by Lindsay Duncan.
In 2011, a biographical film, The Iron Lady, was released, starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, and Jim Broadbent as Denis Thatcher, her husband. If this film is praised almost unanimously for its acting by critics, it is not the same for the representation of politics and the personal portrait of the “Iron Lady” that emerges. Some newspapers, such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and The Spectator, believe that it does not reflect, or does not reflect well, the Thatcher years and Thatcherism. Several political figures, including former ministers of Margaret Thatcher, insisted on the “very emotional” side of the film, either by praising Meryl Streep”s performance, as Nigel Lawson did, or, on the contrary, by condemning the image of a “half-hysterical” woman that emerges, as Norman Tebbit did. David Cameron, in an interview with the BBC, criticized the film for being “really a film about age, about dementia, rather than about the actions of an extraordinary former prime minister.
In the film Just for your eyes (1981), his role is played by Janet Brown (en), in the TV movie Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley (en) (2008) by Andrea Riseborough and in the TV series The Queen (2009) by Lesley Manville.
In 2020, in season 4 of the series The Crown, the actress Gillian Anderson plays her role.
She appears as Lesley-Anne Down in the American film Reagan (2021) by Sean McNamara.
: document used as a source for the writing of this article.