Mrs Thatcher died in London on 8th April, aged 87, following a stroke.
The event of her passing will consume Fleet Street’s scribblers and the Tory tabloid press for weeks. We have no desire to emulate their efforts.
We provide, here, a brief outlook of Mrs Thatcher’s career as Prime Minister from 1979-90, in which role she was undoubtedly the most prominent office holder since Winston Churchill.
Ostensibly, a ‘conviction’ politician, she was respected internationally both by Britain’s allies and detractors.
With determination, she put into effect political and economic policies that those on the left of the Conservative Government – often known as ‘wets’ – lacked the resolve to implement. For good reason, she was described as the ‘toughest man’ in her Cabinet – a Cabinet for the most part of effete, decadent Tory ‘handwringers’. Whilst we would take issue with certain of her economic and social stand points, her rhetoric on immigration, the Falklands, the EU, trades union militancy and law and order struck a popular chord. The three-day week, black-outs, prices and incomes policies, and inflation as high as 27% (albeit a by-product of the ‘73 ‘Barbour’ boom) set a fertile backdrop.
She was not hesitant to display intransigence or controversy; her opposition, for example, against Commonwealth sanctions against South Africa placed her in a minority of one, creating ill-feeling amongst the ‘new’ Commonwealth members.
Ignoring Conservative Central Office’s policy advisors, she relied upon the radical advice of John Hoskyns and his external policy unit.
Her election in 1979 was, to a significant degree, a reaction to the 1978-9 ‘Winter of discontent’ and the resentment, hatred and loathing generated amongst many within the electorate for the trades union bosses who had done so much to undermine the British economy and British manufacturing capacity with strikes, restricted practices, secondary picketing and political intrusion into the workplace.
Her election success, to a considerable degree, also owed itself to her famous ‘swamping’ interview on ‘World in Action’ in January 1978. So important is this interview in terms of its reference to immigration, that we quote from it beneath.
Mrs Thatcher: “…By the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.
“…We must hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration (except for compassionate cases) because at the moment it is about 45,000 and 50,000 people coming in a year. Now, I was brought up in a small town, 25,000. That would be two new towns a year.
Mrs Thatcher continued by describing the cutbacks following implementation of the Tory Immigration Act in 1973 whereby “everyone coming in no longer had the right to settle permanently in this country” or bring their families. “ Now, the interesting thing is we are in 1978, some of them, therefore, will have been here for five years”…So, either you go on taking in 40 or 50,000 a year, which is far too many, or you say we must hold out the prospect of a clear end to immigration and that is the view we have taken and I am certain that is the right view… to keep fundamental British characteristics. “
When asked about the support haemorrhaging to the National Front in by-elections Mrs Thatcher stated she hoped this could be reversed and the voters won back.
Within weeks of her election in 1979, Mrs Thatcher permitted entry into the UK of some 15000 Vietnamese – doubtlessly justified on ‘compassionate’ grounds. Within the first three years of her office, immigration into the UK had exceeded that of the last three years of the Callaghan Government.
This, however, was not the first ‘U turn’ she was about to make, notwithstanding her famous statement that ‘the lady is not for turning’ at her party conference.
Despite her promise to recognise the Government of the black moderate leader, Bishop Abel Muzorewa during the Rhodesian transition to ‘majority rule’ in 1978-9, Mrs Thatcher allowed her Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, to begin negotiations with the murderous terrorist leaders which, a year later, led to the creation of ‘Zimbabwe’ under former terrorist, Robert Mugabe. Since 1980, Zimbabwe has collapsed, its infrastructure has crumbled, her people are starving and it the state is dependent upon Western aid. Such decay was well forecast but routinely ignored by the BBC and the Foreign Office, amongst others. Rhodesia, by contrast, had been a net exporter of foodstuffs.
Three years into Mrs Thatcher’s premiership, the Falklands’ crisis emerged – a group of islands in the South Atlantic of which few Britons had heard.
With customary treachery, the Foreign Office had encouraged Argentina to believe the UK would not seek to protect or recover its Southern Atlantic colony in the event of invasion. To this extent, the Endurance naval vessel had been recalled, the Marines’ contingent defending the islands had been reduced to a small unit of less than 100 men and the Foreign Office ignored the invasion of the South Sandwich Islands, south of the Falklands. Later, it protested weakly at the invasion of South Georgia – a disused coaling station and whaling base.
Despite the protest of the British resident population, the Foreign Office also entertained discussion with the Argentinian dictatorship of a sale and leaseback arrangement for the Islands – a stance supported by many of Mrs Thatcher’s own Ministers .
Encouraged, therefore, to believe the UK would ignore an invasion, the Argentinian junta duly acted.
Mrs Thatcher regained the islands for the Crown, safeguarding the future of the British islanders and enhancing for herself a reputation that would secure her premiership throughout the decade. It must be reflected, however, that but for the weakness of the Foreign Office, the facilitation of Argentinian demands by Government Ministers and the withdrawal of Britain’s military deterrent, the Falklands’ war would never have been necessary.
More U Turns
Despite the tough reputation Mrs Thatcher earned for her negotiating stance with what had yet to become known at the European Union, Mrs Thatcher ‘U’ turned again with the enactment of the Single European Act in 1986 – encompassing a major surrender of sovereignty from the UK.
The same year she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, providing the Irish Republic with oversight into the affairs of British sovereign territory. The result in Ulster was swift: the contingent of Ulster Unionist MPs resigned, causing a flurry or by-elections in which the same MPs were re-elected en masse, in what amounted to a decisive referendum within the province.
Before her resignation in 1990, Mrs Thatcher oversaw the UK’s entry into the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the forerunner of the Euro currency.
Politics has been described as the art of the possible. Who can tell whether Mrs Thatcher’s many U turns were caused by the fundamentally treacherous nature and internationalist philosophy of her own colleagues (or those of her own), by weakness or by other causes?
The intelligence services must have been fully aware of the end destination of the budding EU – that of political and economic union, in line with Heath’s negotiations – as the Cabinet Papers of that time attest.
There is no known evidence to suggest that Mrs Thatcher used her position as leader of the Conservative Party to introduce a tougher, patriotic strain of candidate into Parliament, of a Powellist outlook.
Is there any purpose in political involvement if the end result secures the reverse of one’s stated principles and policies? No more so was that the case than with immigration, where Mrs Thatcher not only failed to carry out her implied objectives but where, simultaneously, she hoodwinked the electorate into believing that action would be forthcoming.
We cannot avoid drawing the same parallels with the current pale shadow of the Conservative Party, in the form of the ex-Tories who today run the UKIP. Its current leader lacks Mrs Thatcher’s testosterone but, like her, hints at action over immigration.
This article would be incomplete without a comment on the miners’ strike in 1984. We hold no affinity with Arthur Scargill, his Marxist colleagues or the manner in which the strike was mismanaged, with excesses, violent picketing and much else. It is a fact, however, that many of the moderate trades union miners’ leaders were prepared to reach an accommodation with the Government. Single-mindedly, the Government embarked upon the closure of the British coal industry and sought deliberately to humiliate those who worked in that sector of the economy.
Military leaders are aware of the advantages of magnanimity in victory; instead, Mrs Thatcher’s Government created ill-will in areas of the country that have caused the Tory party to remain loathed for a generation – a loathing which shows no sign of abatement thirty years later.
Meanwhile, the UK totters on the verge of energy insufficiency, power cuts and black-outs.
Had Mrs Thatcher commenced her career today, certain of her views – as stated at the time – would be considered revolutionary; such is the extent by which political-correctness has conditioned the thinking of millions within the electorate.
On the other hand, her disastrous philosophy in respect of the free market and her laissez-faire economic vision have become embraced by the Labour Party and those who run the EU. Our opposition to globalism is beyond the scope of this brief article.