Sunday, April 17, 2016

Margaret Thatcher -Britain's Iron Fighting Lady

Margaret Thatcher: The Autobiography Paperback – April 9, 2013 by Margaret Thatcher, Harper Perrenial
The Path to Power,Hard Copy,by Margaret Thatcher, Harpercollins
Downing Street Years Hard Margaret Thatcher ,HarperCollins

Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first woman Prime Minister in 1979, a post she held for eleven and a half years. She was leader of the Conservative Party for fifteen years, from 1975 to 1990. She was the only British Prime Minister of the twentieth century to win three consecutive general elections. Her partnership with President Ronald Reagan was the driving force of a conservative revolution that transformed the political landscape of the West, achieved a crushing defeat of Communism, and so brought liberty and prosperity within the grasp of millions who had never known them.Since leaving office, Mrs. Thatcher has written two volumes of memoirs -- The Downing Street Years and The Path to Power. She has traveled extensively in America, Europe and Asia, delivering lectures on international issues and keeping in touch with world leaders. She also plays a continuing role in British political affairs.

These books are some of the most interesting political autobiographies I have read (and I've read many of them).It begins with the 1979 General Election, and carries forward to her resignation as Prime Minister a decade later. In this volume are her perspectives on all the various Cabinet intrigues, shuffles and reshuffles; her attempts to find civil servants and other helpers who were not of the old guard but of a new mentality, often asking, 'Is he one of us?' by which she meant, not is he a Conservative, but rather, will he get something accomplished, is he a do-er?

Thatcher's perspectives on the various scandals and inter-Cabinet fighting makes for interesting reading -- she is candid in her likes and dislikes among her Cabinet colleagues. Her final row with Geoffrey Howe, who delivered a scathing speech in the HoC that mostly prompted the leadership crisis, is enlightening. She was very disappointed at the end when she thought she had the continued support of the party, but each of her ministers and 'friends' told her in turn that while he supported her, others would not. She saw the writing on the wall, and after having won the first ballot for party leadership but not by a sufficient majority to avoid a second ballot, she resigned in favour of John Major (whose autobiography, recently issued, is also well worth reading, particularly for his comments about how Thatcher tried to maintain a controlling influence over him from behind the office).
Image result for margaret thatcher prime minister 1979Margaret Thatcher arriving at Downing Street in 1979 after winning the General Election.
The Iron Lady tells all. Well, not exactly all; her memoirs reveal little of her personal life and, chronologically, cover only those years during which she was prime minister. Her book has already caused a stir in the U.K. and will be read with great enthusiasm on this side of the Atlantic not only by people involved in government, but also by general readers keen on foreign affairs. The first woman prime minister of Britain was never known for sugarcoating, and her remembrance of her 11-year tenure at No. 10 Downing Street is defined not only by its wealth of details about her activities as head of the government, but also by her unequivocal opinions about world-important events she participated in and history-changing individuals she encountered. Would we expect anything else but outspokenness from Thatcher as she reviews, analyzes, explains, and defends her policies and procedures, domestic and foreign, during her controversial presiding over Britain's disestablishment of socialism and resurgence as a world power? Highlights of her recollections include her comments on the Falklands War ("The significance . . . was enormous, both for Britain's self-confidence and for [its] standing in the world") and the reunification of Germany ("Germany is . . . by its very nature a destabilizing rather than a stabilizing force in Europe"). One has to admire her for her honesty, integrity, and stick-to-her-guns attitude.

You might be tempted, if you're not really into politics and not reading this for scholarly purposes, to skim over various minor issues that are gone into great detail. Historians are appreciative, but I seriously ask myself how many non-political scientists and historians will read through all the detail of what are now minor bits of history?

In all, a brilliant career, the first woman head of government in a major Western democracy, and well worth reading both volumes of her autobiography..
  • The Path to Power,Hard Copy,by Margaret Thatcher, Harpercollins
  • Downing Street Years Hard Margaret Thatcher ,HarperCollins
Image result for the path to power margaret thatcher

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