Margaret Hilda Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (born on 13 October 1925) is a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in office from 1979 to 1990. She was leader of the Conservative Party from 4 May 1975 until 28 November 1990.
At the 1950 elections, Margaret Roberts was at the time the youngest ever female Conservative candidate for office. While active in the Conservative Party in Kent, she met Denis Thatcher, whom she married in 1951. Thatcher then began to look for a safe Conservative seat and was narrowly rejected as candidate for Orpington in 1954. She had several other rejections before being selected for Finchley in April 1958. She won the seat easily in the 1959 election and took her seat in the House of Commons.
She was given early promotion to the front bench as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in September 1961, retaining the post until the Conservatives lost power in the 1964 election. When Sir Alec Douglas-Home stepped down Thatcher voted for Edward Heath in the leadership election over Reginald Maudling, and was rewarded with the job of Conservative spokesman on Housing and Land.
Thatcher was one of few Conservative MPs to support Leo Abse's Bill to decriminalize male homosexuality, and she voted in favour of David Steel's Bill to legalize abortion. She supported retention of capital punishment and voted against loosening the divorce laws. Thatcher made her mark as a conference speaker in 1966, with a strong attack on the high-tax policies of the Labour Government as being steps "not only towards Socialism, but towards Communism". She won promotion to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Fuel Spokesman in 1967, and was then promoted to shadow Transport and, finally, Education before the 1970 election.
When the Conservative party under Edward Heath won the 1970 general election, Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science. In her first months in office, forced to administer a cut in the Education budget, she was responsible for the abolition of universal free milk for school-children This provoked a storm of public protest, and led to one of the more unflattering names for her: "Thatcher Thatcher, Milk Snatcher".
Her term was marked by support for several proposals for more local education authorities to close grammar schools and adopt comprehensive secondary education, even though this was widely perceived as a left-wing policy. Thatcher also saved the Open University from being abolished. After the Conservative defeat in February 1974, Heath appointed her Shadow Environment Secretary. In this position she promised to abolish the rating system that paid for local government services, which proved a popular policy within the Conservative Party.
Margaret Thatcher as Leader of the Opposition in 1975
On 19 January 1976, she made a speech in Kensington Town Hall in which she made a scathing attack on the Soviet Union. The most famous part of her speech ran:
"The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. The men in the Soviet Politburo do not have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns."
In response, the Soviet Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda ("Red Star") gave her the nickname "Iron Lady", which was soon publicized by Radio Moscow. She took delight in the name and it soon became associated with her image as having an unwavering and steadfast character.
Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979, with a mandate to reverse the UK's economic decline and to reduce the role of the state in the economy. Thatcher was incensed by one contemporary view within the Civil Service, that its job was to manage the UK's decline from the days of Empire, and she wanted the country to assert a higher level of influence and leadership in international affairs. She was a philosophic soul-mate of Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980 in the United States, and to a lesser extent Brian Mulroney, who was elected in 1984 in Canada. Conservatism now became the dominant political philosophy in the major English-speaking nations,
In 1981, a number of Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the prison Long Kesh went on hunger strike to regain the status of political prisoners, which had been revoked five years earlier under the preceding Labour government. Bobby Sands, the first of the strikers, was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) a few weeks before he died.
Thatcher refused at first to countenance a return to political status for republican prisoners, famously declaring "Crime is crime; it is not political." However, after nine more men had starved themselves to death and the strike had ended, some rights relating to political status were restored to paramilitary prisoners.
As a monetarist, Thatcher started out in her economic policy by increasing interest rates to slow the growth of the money supply and thus lower inflation. She had a preference for indirect taxation over taxes on income, and value added tax (VAT) was raised sharply to 15%, with a resultant actual short-term rise in inflation. These moves hit businesses -- especially the manufacturing sector -- and unemployment quickly passed two million.
Political commentators harked back to the Heath Government and speculated that Mrs. Thatcher would follow suit, but she repudiated this approach at the 1980 Conservative Party conference, telling the party: "—I have only one thing to say: you turn if you want to; the Lady's not for turning." That she meant what she said was confirmed in the 1981 budget, when, despite concerns expressed in an open letter from 364 leading economists, taxes were increased in the middle of a recession. In January 1982, the inflation rate had dropped back to 8.6% from earlier highs of 18%. Unemployment continued to rise, reaching an official figure of 3.6 million — although the criteria for defining who was unemployed were amended allowing some to estimate that unemployment in fact hit 5 million. By 1983, manufacturing output had dropped 30% from 1978.
On 2 April 1982, a ruling military junta in Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory that Argentina had claimed. Within days Thatcher sent a naval task force to recapture the islands. Despite the huge logistical difficulties the operation was a success, resulting in a wave of patriotic enthusiasm and support for her government at a time when Thatcher's popularity had been at an all-time low for a serving Prime Minister.
. Thatcher's political and economic philosophy emphasized reduced state intervention, free markets, and entrepreneurialism. Since gaining power, she had experimented in selling off a small nationalized company, the National Freight Company, to its workers, with a surprisingly positive response. After the 1983 election, the Government became bolder and, starting with British Telecom, sold off most of the large utilities which had been in public ownership since the late 1940s. Many people took advantage of share offers, although many sold their shares immediately for a quick profit and therefore the proportion of shares held by individuals rather than institutions did not increase. The policy of privatization, while anathema to many on the left, has become synonymous with Thatcherism
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at Camp David, 1986.
In the Cold War, Mrs. Thatcher supported United States President Ronald Reagan's policies of deterrence against the Soviets. US forces were permitted by Mrs. Thatcher to station nuclear cruise missiles at British bases, arousing mass protests by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Her liking for defense ties with the United States was demonstrated in the Westland affair when she acted with colleagues to allow the helicopter manufacturer Westland, a vital defense contractor, to refuse to link with the Italian firm Agusta in order for it to link with the management's preferred option, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of the United States. Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine, who had pushed the Agusta deal, resigned in protest after this, and remained an influential critic and potential leadership challenger. In 1985, as a deliberate snub, the University of Oxford voted to refuse her an honorary degree in protest against her cuts in funding for higher education. This award had always previously been given to all Prime Ministers who had been educated at Oxford.
Thatcher had two notable foreign policy successes in her second term.
· In 1984, she visited China and signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration with Deng Xiaoping on 19 December, which committed the People's Republic of China
· At the Dublin European Council in November 1979, Mrs. Thatcher argued that the United Kingdom paid far more to the European Economic Community than it received in spending. She famously declared at the summit: "We are not asking the Community or anyone else for money. We are simply asking to have our own money back". 1987–1990
By leading her party to victory in the 1987 general election with a 102 seat majority, riding an economic boom against a weak Labour opposition advocating unilateral nuclear disarmament, Margaret Thatcher became the longest continuously serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since Lord Liverpool (1812 to 1827). Most United Kingdom newspapers supported her—with the exception of The Daily Mirror, The Guardian and The Independent—and were rewarded with regular press briefings by her press secretary, Bernard Ingham. She was known as "Maggie" in the tabloids, and her opponents chanted the well-known protest slogan "Maggie Out!".
Thatcher, became publicly concerned with environmental issues in the late 1980s. In 1988, she made a major speech accepting the problems of global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain. In 1990, she opened the Hadley Centre for climate prediction and research.
At Bruges, in 1988, Thatcher made a speech in which she outlined her opposition to proposals from the European Community for a federal structure and increasing centralization of decision-making. Although she had supported British membership, Thatcher believed that the role of the EC should be limited to ensuring free trade and effective competition, and feared that new EC regulations would reverse the changes she was making in the UK.. She was specifically against Economic and Monetary Union, through which a single currency would replace national currencies, and for which the EC was making preparations.
Thatcher's popularity once again declined, in 1989, as the economy suffered from high interest rates imposed to temper a potentially unsustainable boom. She blamed her Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, who had been following an economic policy which was a preparation for monetary union; in November 1987, Thatcher claimed not to have been told of this and did not approve. At a meeting before the Madrid European Community summit in June 1989, Lawson and Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe forced Thatcher to agree to the circumstances under which she would join the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a preparation for monetary union and the abolishment of the Pound Sterling. Thatcher responded by demoting Howe and by listening more to her adviser Sir Alan Walters on economic matters. Lawson resigned that October, feeling that Thatcher had undermined him.
That November, Thatcher was challenged for the leadership of the Conservative Party by Sir Anthony Meyer. As Meyer was a virtually unknown backbench MP, he was viewed as a "stalking horse" candidate for more prominent members of the party. Thatcher easily defeated Meyer's challenge, but there were sixty ballot papers either cast for Meyer or abstaining, a surprisingly large number.
Thatcher's new system to replace local government taxes was introduced in Scotland in 1989 and in England and Wales in 1990. The rates were replaced by the Community Charge (more widely known as the "poll tax"), which applied the same amount to every individual resident, with discounts for low earners. This was to be the most universally unpopular policy of her premiership and had the effect of limiting the number of people on the electoral register.
Additional problems emerged when many of the tax rates set by local councils proved to be much higher than earlier predicted
One of Thatcher's final acts in office was to put pressure on US President George H. W. Bush to deploy troops to the Middle East to drive Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Bush was somewhat apprehensive about the plan, but Thatcher famously told him that this was "no time to go wobbly!"
On the Friday before the Conservative Party conference in October 1990, Thatcher ordered her new Chancellor of the Exchequer John Major to reduce interest rates by 1%. Major persuaded her that the only way to maintain monetary stability was to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism at the same time, despite not meeting the 'Madrid conditions'. The Conservative Party conference that year saw a large degree of unity; few who attended could have imagined that Mrs. Thatcher had only a matter of weeks left in office.
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