From 1975: Meeting Mrs. Thatcher

Back in 1975, America contributor Peter Hebblethwaite wrote about the rise of Margaret Thatcher, who passed away this morning:

In its leadership contest, the Conservative party in Britain exhibited two outstanding characteristics: ruthlessness and daring. Without the slightest sign of compunction or compassion, it sacked Edward Heath despite his experience as Prime Minister, his historic achievement of getting the country into Europe and his reputation as a world statesman, which led even Chairman Mao Tse-tung to confer with him. But none of this counted. He had lost two elections within eight months. He had to go. But then, having wielded its long knife, the party showed imagination and chose 49-year-old Mrs. Margaret Thatcher as its leader.


I can almost hear the deep tremors of unconcern sweeping across the Atlantic. OK: she becomes the leader of the Conservative party and so is likely to become the first woman to lead a Western country. There will be exhausted jokes about  “the only man in the government “ and about her sticking her hatpin in people. There is, however, more to Mrs. Thatcher’s victory than meets the eye.

Read the rest here.

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David Smith
5 years 4 months ago
Lovely article. Thanks, Tim, for republishing it. It shows its age, but, nevertheless, it's aged well. I can't imagine America printing anything so even handed today, though. Alas. Or is it possible that under Father Malone, it might? Fingers crossed.
Beth Cioffoletti
5 years 4 months ago
Maybe America's articles will appear more even handed with the passage of time than they do in the heat of the moment, David. Andrew Sullivan, an unabashed Thatcher adorer, notes that Mrs. Thatcher never touched Britain's fully socialized medical system, nor did she undo the welfare state. So ... all things have to be seen in context, and sometimes that context can't be seen until later.
Tim Reidy
5 years 4 months ago

Beth, according to the NY Times obit, Thatcher did try to privatize the health service, but quickly retreated:

Mrs. Thatcher did not fare so well in other battles. In the face of popular opposition, she retreated from plans to privatize the water industry and the National Health Service, replace college grants with a student loan program, cut back pensions and revamp the social security system. Many predicted she would not win a third term. But the economy continued to work in her favor. When she called an election for June 1987, the Tories were returned to power.

5 years 4 months ago
Dear Tim: I seem to recall that it was the UK columnist Paul Johnson, a R.C. of strict observance, who arranged the Thatcher papal visit. Indeed it appears to be Johnson in the photo of Mrs. Thatcher and BXVI. Bravo to all at America for the excellent coverage of the recent events in Rome. Brgds, Steve Fearon
Tim Reidy
5 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the ID, Steve. Catholic News Service doesn't identify the man with Thatcher.

Tim Reidy
5 years 4 months ago

OK, thank you Google:


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