Margaret Thatcher will go down in history as the greatest post-war prime minister of Britain. Like all great leaders, she evoked both respect and hatred in equal measure. She came on the scene at a time when decades of Labour rule had sapped all the energies of the nation and politicians could no longer think of any economic solution beyond nationalisation. A politician in the classical conservative mould, it was for valid reasons that she was called the Iron Lady. An unalloyed champion of the free market, she diagnosed the ills afflicting the British economy as the result of the blind faith in socialism, Fabian or otherwise.
It is to Thatcher’s eternal credit that she took the bulls by the horns and attempted a major surgery when leaders of lesser calibre would have merely administered palliatives. She curbed the power of the labour unions, privatised huge swathes of British industry, and deregulated London’s financial sector. However, her leadership had a polarising effect with people either loving her or hating her. To be fair to the first elected woman leader of a major Western democracy, she cared two hoots for either praise or criticism and went ahead with her economic programmes with steely determination. She was a true revolutionary, though she would have detested such an adjective like she detested Communism.
During a period few understood the phenomenon of climate change and the havoc it could wreak, Thatcher not only supported the cause but also took the lead in drumming up support for a global initiative to save the earth. Like all revolutions, Thatcherism, too, had its victims. Unemployment surged in Britain and so did inequality. London witnessed rioting and looting, unheard of since the Victorian era. However, all this does not obliterate the fact that Margaret Thatcher had left behind an economy stronger than the one she had inherited.