The news of Margaret Thatcher’s death brought a tear to my eye, and the demise of no other politician has ever had such an emotional effect on me.
Tributes from politicians and journalists are streaming in, and I’ve been listening to them on Sky News. Any of those people are much better qualified to write a proper obituary than I am, and many of them will do so. Such a task should indeed be entrusted to those who knew this remarkable woman, not to someone like me who only bumped into her at a couple of functions.
I could perhaps attempt an exegesis of Lady Thatcher’s political life, but this would require a less emotional frame of mind than mine is at the moment.
All I’m capable of now is a few sketchy notes on how Margaret Thatcher affected my life. For she was one reason I emigrated from America to Britain 25 years ago.
In those days I was a much more political creature than I am now, or perhaps I was more likely to see politics in strictly binary, us or them, terms. Thatcher was definitely us. A lifelong Anglophile, I would have gone to Britain much earlier had I not been put off by its suicidally socialist policies. It was Margaret Thatcher’s first nine years at Downing Street that convinced me that there was hope for this country yet.
I admired her then and I still do, even though in the intervening years I grew disillusioned with many of her policies and much of her legacy. I could talk in detail about her signing the Single European Act, her ill-advised downgrading of British manufacturing, her contributing to the future mortgage crisis, her general over-reliance on the economy as a sufficient remedy for the country’s ills, her misunderstanding of the process known as ‘the collapse of the Soviet Union’ – but I won’t, not today.
Such gripes may have value on any other day, but today they would be petty. For it is in my view irrelevant that Margaret Thatcher was the only woman prime minister in British history – let those obsessed with newfangled pieties bring that to the fore. What is much more important is that she was unquestionably the greatest post-war prime minister and, right or wrong, possibly the last true statesman ever to occupy that office.
Yes, she was a very womanly woman, with much feminine warmth belying her Iron Lady image. And it was not in spite of her femininity but because of it that she became such an effective statesman. For Maggie brought to the task her talent for good housekeeping that so many women possess, translating it into successful managerial careers.
Margaret Thatcher brought to the service of her country that very talent, which in her was big enough to make her a great manager of her country, not just her family. Come to think of it, the two were inseparable in her mind: her country was her family, and she served it with selfless devotion and self-sacrificial abandon.
She had so much more to give Britain when her political career was cut short by faceless, self-serving nonentities staging a vicious, cowardly coup. That brought an end not only to Maggie’s tenure, but to statesmanship in our government: from then on we’ve been governed by spivocratic pygmies, whose moral and intellectual inadequacy is so much more visible in the bright light she shone and will continue to shine.
I didn’t like some of her policies, though I respected most of them. I don’t think that her legacy is invariably positive, though most of it is. But I loved her as a person, and the country’s loss is also mine, keenly felt and deeply mourned. Our lives were changed by Maggie, and without her they’ll never be the same. God bless her.
Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, RIP.