Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died
The first female prime minister in her country’s history, Thatcher came to embody a turn toward a free-market political program that sought to unleash economic dynamism through an aggressive program of privatizations and tax reductions. Thatcherism — as her political program became known to both her supporters and detractors — would throw off the heavy hand of the state and seek a Britain with greater vitality. Her perhaps defining moment came in 1984 when she broke a major strike launched by the miners union, a victory that consolidated her political power and represented a triumph over the country’s strike-prone unions.
The woman who came to be known as the Iron Lady matched her pioneering domestic agenda with a muscular foreign policy that saw Britain come to blows with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. And just as she refused to cede British sovereignty in the South Atlantic, she remained deeply skeptical toward the European project and laid the groundwork for Britain’s taciturn relationship with the European Union and its decision not to adopt the euro. Together with Ronald Reagan, a man who would become a close friend, she emerged as a canny leader in the Cold War, recognizing early on that Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms presented an opportunity for the West.
But to her detractors, Thatcher’s free-wheeling market ideology came to embody an uncaring political philosophy, one willing to sacrifice at the altar of economic dynamism a state apparatus directed toward the common good.
Regardless, she is likely to go down in history as Britain’s greatest post-war prime minister.