The Iron Lady, The Grocer’s Daughter, The Candidate of Character
December 29, 2011 - 5:20 pm
In 1977, two years before she became prime minister, Margaret Thatcher gave a speech titled “The New Renaissance,” which presaged the themes she would use in her campaign two years later:
In spite of our present difficulties, Britain’s future need not be at all gloomy. For the very ills which beset us seem to be creating their own antidotes. People of all backgrounds are casting off socialist illusions in the light of socialist reality, and are coming round to our viewpoint. This is the end of the trend to the Left, and the starting point of a new renaissance. …
We need a free economy not only for the renewed material prosperity it will bring, but because it is indispensable to individual freedom, human dignity and to a more just, more honest society. We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the State is responsible for everything …
Then Thatcher gave her view of “the fundamental change in direction which I believe is about to occur”:
I bring you optimism rooted in present-day experience. … It is becoming increasingly obvious to many people who were intellectual socialists that socialism has failed to fulfill its promises, both in its more extreme forms in the Communist world, and in its compromise versions. The tide flows away from failure. But it will not automatically float us to our desired destination. There have been tides before, which were not taken, opportunities which were lost, turning points which came and went. I do not believe that history is writ clear and unchallengeable. It doesn’t just happen. History is made by people: its movement depends on small currents as well as great tides, on ideas, perceptions, will and courage. … If we fail, the tide will be lost. But if it is taken, the last quarter of our century can initiate a new renaissance matching anything in our island’s long and outstanding history. …
[T]hough important, [material prosperity] is not the main issue. The main issues are moral. …The economic success of the Western world is a product of its moral philosophy and practice. The economic results are better because the moral philosophy is superior. It is superior because it starts with the individual, with his uniqueness, his responsibility, and his capacity to choose. … We have a ready audience … ready to examine our arguments on their merits. The opportunity is ours if we can grasp it instead of meeting the Socialists half-way.
During her 1979 campaign, Thatcher gave a speech that reached back to the Bible to inspire her supporters:
The Old Testament prophets didn’t go out into the highways saying, “Brothers, I want consensus.” They said, “This is my faith and my vision! This is what I passionately believe!” And they preached it. We have a message. Go out, preach it, practice it, fight for it – and the day will be ours!
How likely was it that a female in a male-dominated political world, a lower-middle class person in a class-controlled society, someone who learned her economics from her father’s grocery business (and whose policies were thus based “not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up on”), would successfully transform a socialist country, through free markets, deregulation, lower tax rates, reduced government spending, and privatization, defeating the stranglehold on the economy held by powerful unions, ultimately serving eleven years and living to see successors in both parties continue her policies? The Iron Lady gives a hint at what caused this result: her character.