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The great navigator


In 2011, Margaret Thatcher was voted the most competent British Prime Minister of the last 30 years. Though some critics will claim she divided the country with her hardline policies of privatization and anticommunism, her country now realizes that she represented the most successful British government in the Post-War years. There was a reason Thatcher was elected Prime Minister three times.
But beyond that, Thatcher goes down in history as the leader of Britain as it descended into, suffered through, and emerged from the economic crisis of the early 1980s. She was at the helm of a British economy that turned out of its downward spiral – a trajectory present since the end of the Second World War. Thatcher led Britain through the end of the Cold War, brokering deals between United States’ President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev. Most importantly, “the Iron Lady,” a name she graciously accepted from a Soviet critic of her policies, recreated a British enthusiastic nationalism. For better or worse, Thatcher’s policies united an otherwise divided Britain; she even managed support among union members, a demographic she consistently denounced during her tenure, attracting 61 percent of union support in her third reelection effort.

The criticism of Margaret Thatcher is not completely undeserved though. During her tenure, approval of the Prime Minister hit an all-time low in Britain at about 23 percent, comparable only to Americans’ hatred of their Congress. Thatcher reversed political tides that had been in motion in Britain since the early 1900s. Her choice to replace nominal property tax with the Community Charge spelled the downfall of her government.

But some of the greatest moments in British history and policy also occurred under the Thatcher government. Privatization led to massive increases in profitability and worker productivity in the British steel and energy industries. She deregulated British exchanges and stock markets leading to one of the biggest upturns in financial history in 1986.

And her accomplishments don’t even begin to summarize her stellar foreign policy record. She successfully navigated the Falkland Islands War against Argentina, retaining the archipelago for Great Britain; recently, this choice has been vindicated by a referendum in the Falklands where nearly 92 percent of voters agreed to remain a British territory. She negotiated the partial sovereignty of Hong Kong after it was relinquished to the Chinese. And most importantly, she deftly maneuvered Great Britain into the center of the communism debate in the 1980s, acting as an ally to both Reagan and Gorbachev and a staunch advocate for the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

When asked to compromise in the face of seeming political suicide, Thatcher quipped that she would not. She was “a conviction politician.” Consensus politics were meaningless to her. If Ronald Reagan is to go down in history as the “Great Communicator,” it is seems proper to label Thatcher the “Great Navigator,” a label fitting her hardline approach to reform even in the face of immense, though navigable, opposition.

Thatcher relied instead, throughout her years, on a vision of the mobile, self-sufficient, energetic middle class. Thatcher’s goal in her premiership was not to create a government-mandated prosperity for everyone, but for every person to pursue prosperity. One could only achieve wealth and prosperity through hard work, loyalty, commitment to labor, and energetic, adventurous gumption.

Prior to the rule of Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain, and the rest of the world, appeared to be sliding towards moral relativism, dependency, defeatism, and to a social welfare state. After her rule, the world was on a different path. Now independence, adventure, and ambition dominate the “feel good stories.” Communism has fallen, and capitalist markets dominate.

Thatcher stands as the most ideologically significant and politically important prophet of classical liberalism and economic free market capitalism. Her image as a reformer dominates the background of every conservative thought process. Her steering of the world away from collectivism, away from communalism, away from relativism, stands as the most triumphant and successful realization of conservative values in the modern era.

“To fight for the right without question or pause, To be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause…and the world will be better for this” This quote, as Thatcher-esque as it sounds instead comes from The Man of La Mancha, a Broadway show from decades past. “The Impossible Dream” stands as a beacon of hope, a sort of motivation to stay the course, reinvigorate oneself, to reach the final goal. This was truly the lifelong motto of Margaret Thatcher.

Despite opposition and threats, despite seemingly indefatigable enemies in Britain and abroad, despite questioning from her own party, she remained on course, navigating the perils ahead of her. And the world is better for it.

Andrew Breland is a sophomore planning to triple major in Political Science, English, and History. At CWRU, Andrew serves as the Vice President of the Case College Republicans and the treasurer for the Case Western Mock Trial Team. After graduation, Andrew plans to attend law school and pursue a career as a civil litigation attorney specializing in Tort defense.

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