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Margaret Thatcher


  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    John Lancaster: 1979 and All That

    John Lancaster is a British journalist.There are years whose impact on human history is apparent to everyone at the time—1776, say, or 1945, or 2001—and then there are years whose significance seems to grow in retrospect, as it becomes clear that the consequences of certain events are still being felt decades later. Everyone who was an adult in 1989 knew straight away that the fall of the Berlin Wall was a momentous event. What, though, if those events were contingent on things that had happened in another, even more momentous year? Christian Caryl’s book “Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century” (Basic) asks the question, What if the really important year in recent history was 1979?

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Memos reveal six months of planning behind Thatcher's top secret visit to the Falklands

    Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 visit to the Falklands was akin to a military operation in its own right and followed six months of meticulous planning.The prime minister visited the islands for four days in January to mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of a permanent British settlement.The trip, less than eight months after the end of the conflict, had to be kept secret because of the “significant” threat from Argentina, confidential government files show.The documents, released today by the National Archives under the new 20-year rule, include extensive briefings from the Ministry of Defence marked “Secret UK Eyes A” about travel arrangements....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Secret files: Margaret Thatcher planned to use troops to break miners' strike

    Margaret Thatcher secretly considered the use of troops to break a strike by coal miners, according to newly released government papers.Documents released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show the extent of the planning by Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government for the decisive showdown with the miners which helped define her political legacy.The papers show that ministers and officials repeatedly warned that a confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its leftwing leader, Arthur Scargill, was inevitable.Mrs Thatcher, who had been a minister in Edward Heath's government in the 1970s when it was brought to its knees by a miners' strike was only too well aware of the stakes involved....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Confidential files give insight into Margaret Thatcher's view of Northern Ireland

    Previously confidential files from 1983 released on Thursday by the National Archives in Kew shed new light on the ongoing attempts by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to deal with the political and security situations in Northern Ireland and, in particular, the threat by Sinn Féin to overtake the SDLP as the voice of Northern nationalism.Sinn Féin's record 13.4% of the regional vote in the June 1983 election and the return of its President, Gerry Adams, as MP for West Belfast came as a shattering blow to Mrs Thatcher, who had returned to power with a renewed mandate after the Falklands war.Ministers believed that up to a quarter of the Sinn Féin vote was down to impersonation and intimidation.At a cabinet meeting in June that year, Northern Ireland Secretary Jim Prior warned colleagues that the republicans' success could lead to the destruction of John Hume's SDLP....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Margaret Thatcher warned of Pierre Trudeau’s ‘unsound personal views’ ahead of 1983 visit, secret files reveal

    British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was advised that Canadians’ sensitivity “is a fact of life” spurred on by the country’s “ham-fisted neighbour to the south,” in a set of confidential briefing notes prior to her Canadian visit in 1983.Government files from 30 years ago, released this week by the British National Archives, included two telegrams dated Sept. 1 and Sept. 19, 1983 to No. 10 Downing Street to prepare Thatcher for her visit to Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton. In them, Canada is described as a country that is “dominated commercially and culturally by the United States, but is inclined to resent this.”...

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Documents show Thatcher-Reagan rift over U.S. decision to invade Grenada

    LONDON — Thirty-year-old documents newly released by the British government reveal just how severely America’s decision to invade the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983 tested the warm ties between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan.While the two leaders had a strong and affectionate personal rapport, the British official papers reveal how little warning Mrs. Thatcher was given about the pending military invasion, a move that left the British irritated, bewildered and disappointed. They also show how Mr. Reagan justified the secrecy as a way to prevent leaks, and how the British later concluded that the invasion had in fact been planned long in advance. At one point during tense written exchanges, both leaders claimed, in defense of their opposing approaches to the unrest in Grenada, that lives were at stake....

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Corey Robin: If You’re Getting Lessons in Democracy from Margaret Thatcher, You’re Doing It Wrong

    Corey Robin teaches political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.Here’s a photo of a letter Margaret Thatcher sent to Friedrich von Hayek on February 17, 1982, in which she draws a comparison between Britain and Pinochet’s Chile.  I wrote about the letter in chapter 2 of The Reactionary Mind.It now turns out, according to Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell, that there is no preceding letter from Hayek to Thatcher, as many of us had assumed. So we don’t know what exactly it was that Hayek said that elicited this response from Thatcher. Caldwell speculates, in an email to John Quiggin that I was copied on, that Thatcher may have been remarking here upon comments that Hayek might have made—about the need for Thatcher to abolish the “special privileges” of trade unions in Britain (as Pinochet had done in Chile)—at a dinner on February 2....

  • Originally published 05/19/2013

    Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Carter: Political BFFs?

    Credit: Wiki Commons.Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are commonly portrayed in the media as close political and ideological allies. Both were conservatives who reinvigorated their parties and transformed politics in their respective countries, both took on the entrenched welfare state (Thatcher moreso than Reagan, but then the British welfare state was larger and more politically popular), and both were firm anti-communists.The "special relationship" between the United States and Great Britain never seemed more special when Reagan and Thatcher were in office. But it's worth remembering that Thatcher, who became prime minister in May 1979, nearly two years before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the fortieth president.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Jon Meachem: Ronnie's Friend Maggie

    Jon Meachem is the author of "Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."The phrase, inevitably, is Winston Churchill's. Long an advocate of Anglo-American alliance, the wartime British Prime Minister often spoke of what he called the "ties of blood and history" between the two nations. For Churchill, a "special relationship" with the U.S. had been a matter not of choice or convenience but of life and death. Faced with Nazi Germany's blitzkrieg across Western Europe in 1940, the new Prime Minister had no doubt about which way salvation lay. No lover, Churchill later remarked, had ever studied the whims of his mistress as he did those of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was "the New World, with all its power and might," Churchill declared in the wake of Dunkirk in 1940, that one day would come "to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Ken Livingstone: Throw Out the Myths about Margaret Thatcher

    Ken Livingstone is a former mayor of London.It is a truism that history is written by the victors. As Margaret Thatcher's economic policies were continued after she left office, culminating in economic catastrophe in 2008, it is necessary to throw out the myths peddled about her. The first is that she was popular. The second is that she delivered economic success.Unlike previous governments, Thatcher's never commanded anything close to a majority in a general election. The Tories' biggest share of the vote under her was less than 44% in 1979, after which her vote fell. The false assertions about her popularity are used to insist that Labour can only succeed by carrying out Tory policies. But this is untrue.The reason for the parliamentary landslide in 1983 was not Thatcher's popularity – her share of the vote fell to 42% – but the loss of votes to the defectors of the SDP and their alliance with the Liberals. Labour's voters did not defect to the Tories, whose long-term decline continued under Thatcher....

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Bill Keller: Maggie and Gorby

    Bill Keller is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. Prior to this role he was the executive editor of The Times, a role he held since 2003.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Thatcher Funeral Draws Dignitaries and Complaints

    LONDON — A horse-drawn gun carriage bore the coffin of Margaret Thatcher to St. Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday for a ceremonial funeral that divided British opinion, much as the former prime minister known as the Iron Lady stirred deep and conflicting emotions during her lifetime and, in death, triggered an equally passionate debate over her legacy.With hymns and prayers and biblical readings, dignitaries from around the world and from Britain’s political elite gathered in the cathedral for a service regarded as austere and devout reflecting her Methodist upbringing as bells pealed over the city and a gun salute boomed from the Tower of London.Some 700 military personnel from three services — the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force — lined the streets, including guards in scarlet tunics and distinctive black bearskin hats on the 24 cathedral steps as the gun carriage processed along Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill from the church of St. Clement Danes in a closely scripted display of ceremonial precision honed over centuries....

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    UK bids farewell to Margaret Thatcher

    LONDON Thousands of Britons lined the streets of central London on a grey Wednesday morning to see the hearse pass by carrying former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's body to her funeral ceremony.Britain's Iron Lady is being laid to rest with a level of pomp and protest reflecting her status as a commanding, but polarizing political figure -- an elaborate affair with full military honors culminating in a service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London attended by world leaders and dignitaries from 170 countries.The first part of Wednesday's elaborate proceedings saw Thatchter's casket removed from a chapel inside the Houses of Parliament, where it spent Tuesday evening -- per her request -- and loaded onto the hearse for the ride to the St. Clement Danes chapel. It was just the first stop on Baroness Thatcher's final journey....

  • Originally published 04/09/2013

    The Secret to Margaret Thatcher's Success

    Image via Wiki Commons.The death of Margaret Thatcher, the former leader of British Conservative Party and Britain’s only female prime minister, will intensify the continuous debate over her legacy. No other modern British political leader has proved so controversial. She divided -- and continues to divide -- academic and public opinion more than any of her recent predecessors.

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female PM, dead at 87

    Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a towering figure in postwar British and world politics and the only woman to become British prime minister, has died at the age of 87. She suffered a stroke Monday, her spokeswoman said. A British government source said she died at the Ritz Hotel in London. Thatcher's funeral will be at St. Paul's Cathedral, with full military honors, followed by a private cremation, the British prime minister's office announced. Thatcher served from 1975 to 1990 as leader of the Conservative Party. She was called the "Iron Lady" for her personal and political toughness....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Iain Martin: Margaret Thatcher Had a Point about Germany

    Iain Martin is one of Britain's leading political commentators. A former editor of The Scotsman and deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph, he's currently writing a book about the financial crisis....In Graham Stewart's superb history of Britain in the 1980s (Bang!), he captures the sense of outrage when Margaret Thatcher expressed grave reservations about the reunification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall....When Charles Powell, Thatcher's private secretary, summoned a group of leading historians to Chequers, on 24 March 1990, to discuss the implications of reunification, the news leaked. Powell had prepared a paper for the occasion which summarised the German national characteristics as "angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotism, inferiority complex (and) sentimentality." The historians were generally appalled. In her public and private utterances the Iron Lady, a creature of the Cold War, seemed incapable of adapting to historic changed circumstances. Many Tory MPs were horrified that their leader and her inner circle seemed so out of step with mainstream continental opinion....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Thatcher papers show Falkland doubts

    Some of Margaret Thatcher's closest policy advisers voiced strong concerns that the Falklands Islands were not worth the fight, from the earliest days of the campaign, according to the latest release of files from the former Conservative prime minister's personal papers.The papers show that, contrary to the jingoistic spirit at the time, the divisions over the Falklands went to the very heart of Downing Street with both Thatcher's senior economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters, and her chief of staff, David Wolfson, proposing schemes offering to buy-out the 1,800 islanders rather than send a taskforce to the South Atlantic. The scepticism extended to the head of the Downing Street policy unit, Sir John Hoskyns, who voiced the fear of making "almighty fools of ourselves" and worried that an essentially minor issue could precipitate the downfall of the Thatcher government.

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Tristram Hunt: Review of Gillian Shephard's "The Real Iron Lady: Working with Margaret Thatcher"

    Tristram Hunt is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central."I voted quickly and went over to stand at the exit from the No Lobby. Mrs T as usual was the last one out. She timed her exit so that colleagues wishing to lobby her could do so. 'Shall I follow you, Prime Minister?' I asked. 'People usually do,' was the reply."So Labour MP Frank Field describes one of his regular tete-a-tete's with Margaret Thatcher at the apogee of her pomp and prime. This is a book about those glory days of Gloriana. Crafted as a response to Meryl Streep's portrayal of the former prime minister as a dotty old pensioner in The Iron Lady, it is a set of reminiscences to remind us of Thatcher as a world-historic figure. As such, it is part of the beatification of the blessed Margaret as Britain's finest postwar premier and, when the sad hour arrives, a leader worthy of a state funeral.

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