The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

July 22, 2013

A woman in full: Thatcher gets her due in new biography

Washington — The first volume of Charles Moore's authorized biography of Margaret Thatcher, covering her life up to Britain's victory in the Falklands, is out, just weeks after her death. It takes its place among the finest political biographies of all time.

Thatcher gave Moore full access to her papers and to all her friends and relatives, on condition that she never see the book. It was a wise precaution.

Moore is a conservative, more traditionalist than Mrs. Thatcher (as he always calls her) and broadly sympathetic to her causes. But he was able to get frank responses from relatives, friends and colleagues that might never have been forthcoming had they thought the book would be published in her lifetime.

Moore catches her in some lies and omissions. She had four boyfriends, a cache of letters to her sister showed, before she married the rich businessman Denis Thatcher. She always wanted to wear fetching clothes and have her hair done.

The most important single fact about her, he says, is not that she was a conservative but that she was a woman, ready to use her charms as well as her intellect in dealing with men.

That's not quite in sync with the common understanding of her in this country, particularly among conservatives, who saw Thatcher as the Iron Lady, fearlessly putting her ideas into effect, eschewing compromise and never flinching from principle.

Such an approach, Moore indicates, would have been doomed to failure and was usually not her way. Her ideas developed slowly and changed over time. She waited to fight for many of her great victories -- over the coal miners and in privatizing government entities, subjects for volume two -- until she had laid the groundwork and was fully prepared. Hers was a strategy of conviction tempered by prudence, compromise in pursuit of later success.

Consider her early parliamentary career, unfamiliar to American admirers. As education secretary, she acquiesced in the phasing out of the grammar schools, which provided upward mobility to brainy lower-class children.

She didn't like the policy, but support was too strong. She ended up being cheered by the teachers union.

Nor was she was an early opponent of the European Union (then called the Common Market). Like most centrist politicians of both major parties, she supported British entry.

As a tourist I watched debate on the issue in the House of Commons in October 1971. West Country gentlemen with plummy pronunciation and Scots and North of England Laborites in incomprehensible regional accents spoke out against the Common Market. Thatcher may well have been in the hall, but I have no recollection of her speaking.

Four years later, after Edward Heath led the party to defeat, Thatcher was elected Conservative Party leader. Most senior party leaders voted against her.

In four years as leader of the opposition, Thatcher was a strong debater but not always a propagator of new ideas. Then Prime Minister James Callaghan made the miscalculation to delay the election until May 1979.

The 1979 Winter of Discontent -- strikes by coal miners, public employees, garbage men, even gravediggers -- turned voters away from Labor. The Conservatives ran a negative campaign, with the slogan "Laboor isn't working," and won a solid majority.

As prime minister, Thatcher did not always spur her colleagues to go as far as she liked. She acquiesced in tax increases until she got a budget with deeper spending cuts in 1981.

She started the process of privatizating pubic housing and privatized one public company by time of the June 1982 Falklands victory. She stocked up on coal and gave the miners union a lavish settlement; confrontation would come later.

Argentina's capture of the Falklands in April 1982 came as an unwelcome surprise at a time when Conservatives were running third in polls, far behind the new Social Democrats, led by four former Labor ministers.

Moore shows how she made the decisions that led to victory. And contrary to American conservatives' assumptions, she was angered at times by Ronald Reagan's support of U.S. mediation efforts and by the pro-Argentina stance of Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Charles Moore leaves off with Thatcher speaking at a dinner of 120 all-male officials celebrating victory in the Falklands. Spouses were in another room. At the end she rose and said, "Gentlemen, shall we join the ladies?"

"It may well have been," he writes, "the happiest moment of her life."

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

 

1
Text Only
Viewpoints
  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Compromise is not that simple

    It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
    The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency

    Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
    Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jack Strauss-BW.jpg The case of the ghostly neighbor

    Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
    Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
    So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

    Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
    I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
    I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.

    March 8, 2014

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg 50 years makes a world of difference

    I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
    But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 02.23 Mike Duncan mug.jpg Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter

    This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.

    March 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer

    Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
    Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Making plans for spring planting

    My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
    Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort

    Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery

    Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
    We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.

    February 20, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

Yes.
No
     View Results