From Iron Lady to Iron Legend
Today the Union flag is flying at half-mast over Downing Street following the announcement that one of its most famous residents has passed away aged 87.
Baroness Thatcher achieved many things in her distinguished political career: the first woman to lead a British political party and then the country, the longest consecutively serving Prime Minister and the first premier to win three decisive election victories under universal suffrage, and the first UK premier to see their life story turned into an Oscar-winning Hollywood biopic.
She played a pivotal role in bringing about the end of the Cold War, secured Britain a huge rebate from the European Union, and her decisive leadership during the Falklands crisis in 1982 safeguarded the liberty of the Falkland Islanders and helped bring democracy to Argentina (not that they seem very grateful about it these days).
On the domestic front, she cured ‘the British disease’ of economic decline and militant unionism, privatised a number of key industries and allowed tenants to buy their council homes for the first time.
As a plethora of documentaries and obituaries will no doubt acknowledge over the coming days, her legacy remains controversial and she has as many critics as she does devotees. As Conservative Leader, Thatcher set the bar so high that subsequent leaders have struggled to live up to expectations, and public attitudes to her premiership and policies have been both a boon and a hindrance to the party in the 23 years since she departed Downing Street.
David Cameron today said of Baroness Thatcher: “She didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.” One thing is certain; in death, as in life, she will continue to cast a long shadow over British politics and to provoke impassioned debate on both sides of the political divide.
James Ford was an aide to Mayor of London Boris Johnson (2010-12) and is an expert on London politics. He currently works as an adviser to both PLMR and the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry.