Margaret Thatcher Essay

Margaret Thatcher Essay

Margaret Hilda Thatcher was born on 13th October 1925 and served as the leader of the conservative party and as the British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. The reason why I picked Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is because she was the only woman to have served in both the above posts. She also did remarkable things during her term such as taking a hard line stand against unions, opposing the Soviet Union and surviving an assassination attempt. Her hard-line character earned her the nickname ‘Iron Lady’. As the Prime Minister she was very significant historical figure not only in UK but the world as whole. Apart from being the only woman to serve as the prime minister of the United Kingdom, she was one of the longest serving leaders and also one of the longest continuous periods in the Prime Minister’s office. She became the first woman to head a major political party in the United Kingdom, and the first of only three to serve one of the four great offices of the state. Baroness Thatcher also life peerage as Baroness of Kesteven, Lincolnshire and is entitled to sit in the House of Lords. (Letwin 101)

Character

Firm and decisive

Margaret Thatcher gained her nickname the iron lady after she made a scathing attack on the USSR. In a Kensington Town hall speech she made on January 1976, she declared the Soviet as bent on world dominance. She remarked that “Soviet men put guns before butter whereas in her own country men are putting everything before guns” (Hugo 1989). The Russian Defense Ministry newspaper labeled her the ‘Iron Lady’, a name she took delight in. She was robust in giving the United Kingdom a new economic direction and during her campaign, she vowed to reduce state intervention and bolster free markets and entrepreneurship. After being appointed the British Prime Minister, she remained true to her words and privatized state owned enterprises and also sold public housing to tenants.

Determined

Margaret Thatcher was an ambitious, hardworking, and committed woman who never backed down from fulfilling any of her plans and dreams. At Grantham and Kesteven Girls’ school, it is said that her reports show a high level of commitment and hard work rather than education brilliance. Despite this, she went on to Somerville College and studied natural sciences. She kick-started her leadership career at this college by becoming the President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. She also studied crystallography, achieved an MA advanced degree, and received a postgraduate Bachelor of Science degree. She also trained as a barrister and specialized in taxation. She begun her political career in 1950 by vying for the Safe Labor seat but lost. Her determination would not waver even after a number of rejections and defeats in the subsequent years. Her determination paid off when she won the Finchley Member of Parliament seat, close to a decade since she made her political debut. (Evans 66)

Organizational behavior

The former Prime Minister organizational character is not a typical one. Shortly after joining the parliament, she went against her party by voting against its official position. She also supported a bill seeking to decriminalize homosexuality despite majority of the Conservative Party members opposing the bill. This means that she had a high degree of independence when it came to decision making and was not particularly influenced by her ‘team’s’ line of thinking. Does this mean she was not a team player? She did not shy away from voicing her opinion or discontent. After the loss of the Conservative Party in the 1974 elections, Thatcher decided to challenge her superiors and give the party a new direction. She challenged Edward Heath for the leadership of the party. She was successful in this and appointed her rival, William Whitelaw, as her deputy. Does this make Thatcher’s organizational behavior disloyal or cooperative because she challenged her party leader and picked her rival as her deputy? Because Margaret Thatcher had won the leadership of the Conservative Party as an outsider, she appointed many of the former leader’s supporters to the cabinet. (Young 51)

Leadership

Margaret Thatcher was a reformist leader who was interested more in change than retaining the status quo. After taking over power, she introduced the following changes:

  • She decreased state intervention. She did this by introducing the free market economy in the United Kingdom.

  • She introduced monetarist economic policies.

  • Her administration privatized state owned enterprises and industries in line with reducing state intervention in the economy.

  • She was openly opposed to trade union movements. During her administration, trade unions powers were reduced albeit gradually. The earlier administration did not use this approach.

Her reformist approach to leadership and her broader economic plan benefited the economic state of the United Kingdom. (Evans 66)

Margaret Thatcher is at times referred to as an autocrat. As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher centralized a great deal of power and authority to herself. This could partly be due to the fact that Britain in the 1970s was regarded by some as ungovernable and due to her personal approach; she was regarded as a tough woman. This idea of toughness resonated among the British and still continues to date. She had absolute determinism and believed that if one keeps his or her team tightly knit together then success will be guaranteed. In 1982, Thatcher sent the military to the occupied Falkland Islands to force the Argentinean military out of the Island. This move and the eventual success bolstered her public approval ratings. She had a do it alone approach to leadership and plans. She did not seem to consult or change her opinion on policies. Her leadership style and economic policies gave her ‘ideology’ the name Thatcherism. She almost single handedly implemented her economic reforms such as increasing interest rates, putting restrictions on trade unions, and reducing government spending on social services such as housing. (Andrew 87)

Relevance

Her ideology and style of leadership has continued to influence United Kingdom’s political and economic life to date. In general, Margaret Thatcher influenced the United Kingdom to move to the right. Due to her strong capitalistic beliefs and tendencies, Britain reduced state intervention, privatized state owned enterprises, and embraced the free market model. Even the leftist Labor Party policies were substantially harmonized to reflect modern realities. The incumbent Labor government and especially the Blair one was at times described as neo-Thatcherite. Critiques considered the Labor Party as mimicking Thatcher policies. Most politicians approve most policies supported or introduced by Margaret Thatcher. These include:

  • Legislations against trade unions.

  • Privatization programs.

  • The free market model.

No major party in Britain shows any interest in changing her government and economic reforms. (Beckett 35)

Conclusion

To her supporters, Margaret Thatcher was a revolutionary character who transformed United Kingdom’s stagnant economy. They also credit her for silencing trade unions and reestablishing United Kingdom as an important world player and a major world power. Her contribution towards ending the cold war cannot be ignored. As a close confidant and friend of the United States President Ronald Reagan, she contributed a great deal in ending the cold war. To critics, Margaret Thatcher led the United Kingdom to social unrest, high unemployment, and industrial strife. They claim that Britain is still feeling the negative effects of her administration’s divisive policies. They also claim that type of leadership led to a culture of selfishness and greed.

References

Andrew, Gamble, (1994).The Free Economy and the Strong State: The Politics of Thatcherism (Palgrave Macmillan, 1994)

Beckett, Clare (2006). Margaret Thatcher. Haus Publishing Limited.

Evans, Eric (2004). Thatcher and Thatcherism. Routledge.

Letwin, Shirley Robin (1992) The Anatomy of Thatcherism (Flamingo, 1992).

Young, Hugo (1989). The Iron Lady: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher. Farrar Straus &

Giroux.

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