Amidst the economic, political and humanitarian carnage this week, International Women’s Day came and went.
It was pointed out to me by a digital sage that Margaret Thatcher (latterly Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven), the first woman ever to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is “never” (at least not to our mutual recollection), spoken of in reverential terms on this key date for women on these shores and beyond.
In the same week that one of her most loyal lieutenants, Lord Tebbit, paid his final visit to the Palace of Westminster, it is appropriate to commemorate her brilliance, which bordered on genius, whilst avoiding regurgitating unnecessarily much of what is already well documented elsewhere.
You didn’t have to like Margaret Thatcher and sure enough not everyone did. She never courted popularity. However, she indisputably transcended sex in an era when women were thin on the ground in the House of Commons and with her wit, intellect, attention to detail and sheer determination, she was respected, revered, admired and often liked.
Those identitarians currently attempting to expunge the word “woman” from the dictionary would have been verbally eviscerated.
Unlike Keir Starmer, Boris Johnson, Ed Davey (all live on television) and this week alone Shadow Cabinet members, Yvette Cooper and Anneliese Dodds, Margaret would have fired off the words “adult human female” or “has a cervix” and avoided any equivocation over it whatsoever. Rightly so, for this is a settled issue.
Stonewall, which was founded during Lady Thatcher’s third term in office, was initially formed to campaign for equal rights for gay men and lesbians. It has been hijacked by a small but extremely vocal minority of transgender “activists” who wish to assert the primacy of gender over sex, despite the virtual immutability of the latter. I repeat, this is a settled issue and no amount of threats of cancellation would have convinced Lady Thatcher otherwise, anymore than they do me.
It is rarely recalled as time dulls the memory but Lady Thatcher wrote to the families of every member of the UK’s armed forces who passed away in the Falklands War. By hand. She eschewed sleep, which was treated as a necessary evil.
Few Prime Ministers are spoken of in the same breath as Winston Churchill. Fewer still win 3 successive General Elections. Fewer still inherited a country on its knees economically after 15 years of Wilson, Heath, Wilson again and Callaghan had succumbed to the might of the Trade Unions replete with wildcat strikes that repeatedly decimated our economic prospects and turned it around through sheer force of will. Not for nothing was she called “The Iron Lady”.
Strategically, Lady Thatcher transformed the United Kingdom from a declining power, “the sick man of Europe” into a property owning democracy that more than punched its weight on the world stage. Her relationship with Ronald Reagan was a high watermark for the “special relationship” between the UK and the US and undoubtedly helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.
Whilst the Poll Tax was her Waterloo, many around her, including Sir John Redwood and Michael Portillo urged her to fight on after she fell just short of the majority needed at the first time of asking in the 1990 leadership challenge from Michael Heseltine.
In the 31 years that have elapsed, the Conservative & Unionist Party has had a long but relatively undistinguished list of leaders.
Sir John Major, arch Europhile, was doomed from the day the UK crashed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday (16th September 1992) and his full term in office, which still had over 4 and a half years to run, was a long, slow march to the Tories’ annihilation at the ballot box in 1997, keeping them out of office for 13 years.
From William Hague through Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard to David Cameron (who was in the wrong side of history in the Brexit Referendum), in 2016, the Tories elected (unopposed) Theresa May as their second female Prime Minister. The less said about her time as PM the better.
All of which brings us back to Lady Thatcher. As Mrs May found out, 41 years after the former grocer’s daughter from Grantham became leader of the Tory party, sex remains immutable but leadership, strategy, charisma and yes, a little bit of luck are either instinctive and inherent (in Lady Thatcher’s case) or ephemeral, in hers.
These are just some of the qualities exhibited by Lady Thatcher that mean the United Kingdom should continue to cherish, commemorate, champion and revere Margaret Hilda Thatcher, a truly international woman and a political giant who deserves to always be spoken of, alongside Churchill, as the greatest Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the last 100 years.
© justchrisdavies 2022