No time for much commentary this morning, as I’m in transit, but I’ve just learned that Margaret Thatcher has died. She was a grocer’s daughter who rose through the male clubbiness of British politics to becme one of the most powerful women in the world, and an icon both beloved and despised. The Telegraph’s obituary is masterful. Right or wrong about , Maggie Thatcher had guts and she had vision, and she damn sure had character.
Though I love the moment from her Iron Lady speech, in which she accepted the Soviets’ insult as a compliment, this might be my favorite Mrs. Thatcher moment:
UPDATE: The FT’s obit is terrific. Excerpt:
She changed us all. We went from being a people who saw ourselves as eternally on the downward slide to a nation that was proud to be British again. On the world stage too, she made Britain count once more. She was a startling presence who brought a strong and controversial style to our diplomacy after years of Foreign Office blandness.
The words are those of Charles Powell, one of the closest aides of the “Iron Lady” during her time in power. Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday aged 87, not only revolutionised the social order in her own country but did much to reshape world politics amid the crumbling of the Soviet empire.The UK’s first woman prime minister transformed a sclerotic British economy, all but neutered the trade unions and endeavoured “to roll back the frontiers of the state” with a policy of offloading the great nationalised industries and selling council houses to their occupants. Abroad, she was the indomitable leader who won victory over Argentina in the Falklands war, who decided that Mikhail Gorbachev was a Soviet leader she could “do business with” and who inspired a respect for “Thatcherism” as a political philosophy that was never quite matched on the domestic front.
The flip side of her courage, toughness and radicalism was an arrogance, obstinacy and remoteness that became more marked the longer she clung to office. She centralised power to a degree not seen before in modern Britain. One result of the way she dominated government was her failure to heal the wounds opened up in her own Conservative party over her plans for a poll tax and her negative approach to the UK’s role in Europe. Yet such was the force of her presence that what came after her was defined in terms of her absence.