Editorial: Prosperity, division and resolve

Apr. 09, 2013 @ 05:38 PM

Divisive and strong, successful despite long odds, Margaret Thatcher died Monday, remembered as one of the strongest leaders in modern politics.

Her choices were often eschewed, but the results were unmistakable. Her conservative approached put more separation in Britain’s classes, but the country rose from the depths of the third tier among world powers to be an economic player.

Free market thinking wasn’t just her leadership; it was also the saving grace for a country in financial shambles.

“Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader,” said Tony Blair, who led the Labour Party back into power seven years after Thatcher was ousted.

They clashed on many issues. And yet, Blair adopted some of her ideas on the way to winning.

Thatcher had an 11-year run in power. They coincided with Ronald Reagan leading America for eight. The friendship was genuine, the cooperation on major world issues transformative globally.

And yes, even they had disagreements on what was best.

The best leaders don’t get where they are with a bunch of “yes” men — or women.

Britain’s welfare state and socialist traditions crumbled under her persistence. So did a famous coal miners’ strike of 51 weeks ending in 1985, in which the union gained nothing.

Thatcher learned from her father, a green-grocer, and from watching as a child as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain failed to confront Adolf Hitler.

“I knew from my father’s accounts that the free market was like a vast sensitive nervous system, responding to events and signals all over the world to meet the ever-changing needs of peoples in different countries, from different classes, of different religions, with a kind of benign indifference to their status,” she wrote in her memoirs.

London grew to rival New York as a financial center. With it came the hardships of such a risk — critics say she has a link to the 2008 financial crisis.

But all agree, she had the fortitude to stand her ground, to carry out her beliefs. She wanted the best for her country, and she let nothing stand in her way.