BAYHAM: The Legacy Of The Iron Lady

Near Parliament and the River Thames there is a statue of Boudica, who was queen of a tribe of inhabitants of Britain who rebelled against the Roman occupiers around 60 AD. The monument is impressive, the warrior queen riding a chariot with one of her hands holding a spear.

I’ve always considered it the unofficial memorial to Margaret Thatcher, the steel-willed former prime minister who passed away on Monday at the age of 87.

The lady with the double-strand of pearls proved willing to fight, taking on Britain’s socialist establishment, the unions, an Argentina junta, domestic terrorists, the Soviet Union and even members of her own Conservative Party.

The reason why the Falklands Islands are not called Islas Malvinas was due to her determination to retake the islands despite the distance of 7900 miles that separated the UK from the Argentinian occupied territory. For Thatcher it was a matter of Britain reclaiming something that had been stolen and protecting their citizens.

The British military triumph demonstrated that though the empire was no more, Great Britain was still indeed great, possessing both the military capacity and more importantly the will to defend its interests.

Thatcher was a key player in the west’s confrontation with the Soviet Union through cooperation with the United States’ European missile positioning strategy. Though the move led to domestic protests from peace activists, Thatcher’s decision to allow the US to park cruise missiles in England put increased pressure on Moscow.

While conservative Republicans rightly honor Ronald Reagan for his steadfast leadership in bringing an end to the Cold War, there is little doubt that having Thatcher, an equally resolute opponent of Communism, at his side made the Gipper and the west that much more formidable.

Thatcher should be counted amongst the Marquis de Lafayette and Winston Churchill as one of America’s most important friends and allies.

Thatcher understood the limitations of the state and the necessity to create economic opportunity through deregulation, lowering taxes and ending the domination of the British economy by unions that had become too powerful.

Thatcher was a conservative not because it was popular (often it was not) but because she believed conservative/free market policies work.

Though her accomplishments as a female leader are dismissed by feminists who are socialist first and advocates for the advancement of their gender second (if at all), Thatcher proved that not only could a woman be tough enough to guide her country through hard times, but could do so well and with elegant strength.

I’d like to close with a personal anecdote about two brief encounters with the British leader.

I had the privilege of attending a speech that Baroness Thatcher delivered on LSU’s campus in the early nineties about the fight against Nazism and Communism. In a gesture that was a trademark of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Thatcher’s limousine stopped in the midst of the crowd of students shuffling out of the Pete Maravich Assembly Arena and out popped the Iron Lady herself, wading into the masses and shaking hands with stunned co-eds. As luck had it she exited her vehicle right where I was walking.

Later that evening Baroness Thatcher spoke at a dinner at the LSU Union where she was presented with an LSU cap and baseball jacket. I was hanging out in the common area when I saw one of the most important world figures of the 20th century sporting a purple satin jacket and a hat tottering on top of her bouffant.

High profile politicians regularly receive such parochial tokens of appreciation with a forced smile, raising the items up so their hosts can see and then dispose of said gifts to a nearby aide.

Apparently such an insincere act was not in her DNA as member of the House of Lords Thatcher wore them in the ballroom and out the building.

As Thatcher walked past me in her new purple and gold sports gear I overheard her remark to nobody in particular “I feel like a tiger”, a reference to the university’s mascot. I had the opportunity to meet her again where she graciously shook my hand and posed for a picture (granting my request with a Thatcher-esque exclamation “but of course!”) that to my eternal disappointment ended up not being developed due to a camera issue.

In those moments I saw how this remarkable lady and leader who was a pioneer in politics and an icon never ceased being the grocer’s daughter.

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