Thatcherism’s Bellicose Soul

Ultimately, the “Victorian values” that Margaret Thatcher sought to foster fell afoul of the unrestrained celebration of material wealth that her rule brought about. The moral society, based on decent self-interest, that Thatcher hoped to establish became the greedy society, based on coarse self-regard.

LONDON – Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s greatest twentieth-century peacetime prime minister. In the 1980’s, the near-simultaneous crisis of communism in the East and social democracy in the West gave her the opportunity to do great deeds. But it required a great leader to take advantage of it.

Her relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev opened up the way to ending the Cold War; her privatization policies showed the world how to dismantle state socialism. The neo-liberal revival of the 1980’s will always be known as the Reagan-Thatcher revolution.

She was also the most divisive British prime minister of modern times, admired and reviled in equal measure, owing as much to the self-righteous way she pursued her policies as to the policies themselves. She rightly described herself as a “conviction politician.” A conviction is a settled belief that brooks no argument. And she did not deign to conciliate, instead dividing the political world into “us” and “them.” “Where there is error, may we bring truth,” she announced on her entry to No. 10 Downing Street, quoting Saint Francis of Assisi.

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