Trump’s Road Ahead Is Lit by Biography Of Margaret Thatcher
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
WASHINGTON — I am rounding the last turn of Charles Moore’s magisterial biography of Margaret Thatcher. It is no sprint. It is not even a distances race. It is a marathon of a literary work, three think volumes. Yet, as I have said, it is a masterpiece.
Charles loves Thatcher. That is not to say he lets her off easy. Charles is too fine a biographer for that, and Thatcher is too complicated a subject to escape his critical eye. So he has given us three volumes on the lady who returned Britain to economic health and to world significance.
Yet, one thing attracted my eye in reading volume two and it continued to attract my eye in reading volume three. Her enemies hated her. They still hate her. A rising generation of young Brits hate her now. How curious.
Liberals hate her. Socialists hate her. Even a few moderates or Tories hate her. Why do they hate her with such singular intensity? I believe it is because she diminished the one thing on which all of the above groups have generally agreed. What is it? Government.
To those who hate Thatcher, government was always there to help. To Thatcher it was usually there to harm, with its inefficiencies, its sclerotic bureaucracies, its grand projects that were usually not needed.
Thatcher pretty much believed as Ronald Reagan believed: Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. How many times did he say the most terrifying words he could imagine were “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
The Iron Lady had her own variation of this line. Ronald Reagan and Thatcher got along swimmingly, and, come to think of it, only Ronald Reagan shares a place with her in the bien-pensants’ pantheon of hated figures. Donald, your pathway to greatness is clearly marked.
When I first began to visit Britain in the 1970s it was like visiting an attic in an old mansion belonging to an over-the-hill family. It was quaint, but one could never count on things working. British automobiles, for instance, malfunctioned; usually it was the electrical system. The workers were always on strike.
The gentlemen’s clubs were open in the late morning, and an astonishing number of gentlemen were in their cups by 2 pm. They were very amusing in their cups, but by 3 pm they were snoozing. That all changed as the 1980s rolled along, and Britain was made Great again, all under Thatcher’s premiership.
The hatred for Thatcher — and Reagan too — is quite startling to anyone familiar with what they achieved. Through similar policies they revived two stagnant economies and won the Cold War. In Britain, Thatcher beat back Arthur Scargill’s unions. One can sympathize, for instance, with a rank and file Laborite who had become used to long vacations and even longer strikes, but actually it is not the union worker who hates Thatcher the most.
No, the greatest labor union of the era, Solidarity, which cracked Soviet rule in Poland, hailed Thatcher when she visited Gdansk. It is the Labour Party’s leaders, the liberal members in politics, the educators, the government bureaucrats, and the malcontents. It is those who think ideologically in Britain and some Tory members who do not think at all. Some merely hate Thatcher because she was a woman.
Hate after all has become a matter of pride on both sides of the Atlantic. Some angry-faced punks think it has become a mark of authenticity. Borrowing from Descartes they might say, “I hate, therefore I am.” It is seen as a genuine emotion. This is not to say one has to be male to be proud of one’s hates. Surely Senator Warren is proud of her hates, and Hillary Clinton is a stupendous hater.
Now, of course, hate is not a particularly helpful thing to have. It does not clarify one’s vision. Nor increase one’s determination to get things done. Certainly Mrs. Thatcher is nowhere on record bragging about hating Arthur Scargill though she did beat him like a drum. Moreover, if one is consumed with hate one often loses control of events. Think of Hillary Clinton, again.
How long people will hate Margaret Thatcher or for that matter Ronald Reagan I do not know. All I do know is that I have long admired both politicians, and after spending three volumes with Mrs. Thatcher I too have come to love her.
An edition of this column appeared in The American Spectator at spectator.org. Drawing by Elliott Banfeidl, courtesy of the artist.