Forty Years On We Need A New Thatcher


Forty years ago this week Margaret Thatcher swept to power. If she were in power today we would almost certainly have left the EU by now. Photo: Williams, U.S. Military

Love her or loathe her, those of us who remember life under Margaret Thatcher’s premiership could probably agree on one thing: if she was in charge today, then Britain would not be in its current predicament.

It is 40 years ago this week that Margaret Thatcher swept to power in a country suffering a crisis of confidence thanks to a weak and incompetent government (sound familiar?).

Sure, she made a few mistakes along the way, but she did what needed to be done and she fixed our broken economy. History has proven her to have been mostly right and the legacy of the Thatcher revolution fuelled the long boom of the Major and Blair years and laid the foundation for the strong economy that we all enjoy today.

We would have left by now

If Thatcher had been in Downing Street since 2016, then we would have left the European Union (EU) by now on our own terms rather than still trying to negotiate for permission to leave. A Thatcher-led government would be fully functioning and firing on all cylinders and not be bogged down in Brexit paralysis. Our standing in the world would be riding high instead of us being seen as an international laughing stock.

She was a strong leader with a clear vision and a keen sense of what needed doing, but that was not all. There was one extra, vital ingredient in the Thatcher mix: she was an optimist. She believed in Britain and she believed in the people of Britain. She knew that if she unshackled us from the twin yokes of state interference and high taxation then our natural creativity and willingness to work hard would deliver for this country. And she was right.

Thatcher did not see obstacles blocking the path ahead, she saw challenges that needed to be overcome. Inaction was never an option for her. If it wasn’t working, she changed it. So, instead of doling out more cash to uncompetitive state-owned industries, she privatised them. Rather than caving in to the unreasonable demands of over-powerful trade unions, she changed the law and brought them to heel. And, when faced with unreasonable European Commission proposals, she did not meekly accept them, she argued her case in Brussels – and won.

Margaret Thatcher would not have seen Brexit as a problem to be managed as Theresa May does, she would have seen it as an opportunity to be grasped. She would not have allowed herself to become trapped and controlled by the EU’s two-stage negotiating process. She would not have promised to pay out billions in cash without getting anything in return. And she would not have fallen for the ruse that the Irish back-stop is a necessity for continued peace in Northern Ireland; instead, she would have seen it for what it is: a blatant attempt to keep Britain contained.

The no-nonsense Thatcher approach would work well today

So, 40 years on, should we be seeking a twenty-first century version of Margaret Thatcher to get us out of our current mess? Pundits tell us that changing the prime minister would not change the fundamental situation with respect to Brexit. But are they right?

If a leader in the mould of Thatcher were to replace Theresa May tomorrow, does anyone seriously believe that such a prime minister would simply accept the situation as it is? No, a true Thatcher-style leader would seek to change it. Such a prime minister would force the cabinet to sign-up or ship-out, dare parliament to defy the will of the people, and tell the EU that we are leaving – with or without a deal.

Sadly, our current prime minister is not in the same league as Margaret Thatcher and, even worse, no one in the cabinet seems to fit the bill either, while the opposition Labour leadership is just a joke.

The no-nonsense Thatcher approach got us out of a hole 40 years ago and it would work well now. Where is our modern-day Margaret Thatcher?

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