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Book Review: 'Margaret Thatcher'

August 1, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands
By Charles Moore
Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover; $35, 859 pages

Before the Reagan Revolution came the rise of Margaret Thatcher. The improbable story is well told by journalist Charles Moore in “Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands.”

The book is a fine read, though the extraordinary detail, while always illuminating, is sometimes excruciating. This, the first of two volumes, alone comes in at 859 pages.

Margaret Roberts was the younger of two daughters of a middle-class grocer. Her most important personal decision was to marry Denis Thatcher, an older businessman, with whom she had two children.

She became active in politics while attending Oxford University. Politically ambitious women were rare, but she demonstrated intelligence and tenacity. So the Conservative Party used her as speaker and then sacrificial candidate in a solid Labor Party constituency. In 1958, she overcame skepticism from traditionalists to win the Conservative Party nod in Finchley, a Tory stronghold.

After the next election, she received a minor government job — part of what was viewed as a woman’s portfolio in welfare services. She lost that when Labor won a narrow majority in 1964. However, writes Mr. Moore, “in her analysis of the reasons for the Tory defeat, which she developed gradually through the 1960s, she would find the germ of the views which came to full flower ten years later.”

She became education minister when the Tories came back into power in 1970. Thatcher learned the issues and proved formidable in debate. Observes Mr. Moore: “Money and economics, about which women were traditionally held to be ignorant, were her strong suits. Always well briefed, she talked seriously and intelligently, if not always originally, on serious subjects.”

The Conservative government under Prime Minister Edward Heath was battered by turbulent times. Indeed, I lived through much of his premiership, since my Air Force father was stationed in Britain from 1970 to 1973. Unfortunately, Heath lacked the principled beliefs and firm character necessary to challenge the expansive welfare state.

He went to the polls early and lost. The majority of Tory MPs then wanted to defenestrate him, but the obvious challengers hung back. So the lady from Finchley challenged Heath. On Feb. 11, 1975, she piled up an overwhelming majority on the second ballot to become opposition leader.

The weak Labor government limped on for more than four years, but on May 3, 1979, the British electorate demonstrated …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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