Lady T was one of history’s most remarkable groups of leaders. Blessed are we who lived at a time of giants, starting with her, Reagan and John Paul II, and onward to Walesa, Havel, Lee Kwan Yu, Deng Xiaoping, Bukovsky and Sharansky. Scour the world today with that group in mind and your heart sinks. Such moments are very rare, and she was surely in the front of the amazing assemblage of world-historical figures. Even the second-raters, like Gorbachev and Mitterrand, look very impressive.
She saved British capitalism, and she gave Britain another generation as an important country. She spoke magnificently, and she had great courage. When she told Bush The Elder “Don’t go wobbly,” they both understood that she would certainly not. It must have frustrated her no end to have to deal with a pale reflection of her pal Ronnie, as it must have annoyed her no end when the Conservatives removed her in favor of their own pale reflection, John Major. So far as I could tell, they purged her because they just felt it was time to do something different.
She was the first Western leader to say that “we could do business” with Gorbachev, by which she meant he was the ideal gravedigger of his own system. And she was by far the most clear-eyed of the “Europeans” when it came to the creation of the Eurozone. Here, take off a few minutes and listen to her. Pay attention to the remarkable clarity of her language, of her delight in political debate, of her sure command of the issues.
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Unlike the Germans, who wanted the euro because they despaired of their own future, fearing it would too much resemble their past, Lady T gloried in her country’s history and traditions, and did not want to see them dissolve in a federal Europe that would use the euro to impose its failed vision on the member states. Over and over again, she warned that the euro would mark the beginning of the end of national sovereignty for the members, including Britain. She was right.
Whatever slim hope still exists for British leadership is due to her battle to retain the pound sterling and to assert her political and moral vision. Very slim indeed. But then, before she took over, it looked hopeless. You never know.