Margaret Thatcher, baroness of Kesteven, died on Monday, from a stroke at the age of 87. The iconic leader of the Conservative Party, Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 up to her resignation in 1990.
The Soviet Press gave her the nickname the “Iron Lady” for her toughness, and she led what some scholars have dubbed a “paradigm shift” in both British and world political affairs. Historians, politicians and economists will continue to debate whether the epochal changes were for the better, but she won't soon be forgotten. Here are five pillars of her legacy:
1. Neo-liberalism The three decades following World War II were paved with social policies, fashioning a robust welfare state. But Thatcher considered that the State had to disappear as much as possible, so that citizens take care of themselves. Hence, a proudly neo-liberal agenda of tax reductions and spending cuts. “There is no alternative,” she declared. In 1986 she triggered the so-called “Big Bang,” that deregulated the City, allowing the London financial industry to boom in the years to come. Yet such unencumbered capitalism, some would say, is one of the sources of the current global economic crisis.
2. Alliance with Ronald Reagan It was perhaps the best expression of the “special relationship” that has united post-War UK and the US since WWII, resting on three key points: a shared vision of a strong executive leader, of neo-liberal economics and, in the context of the Cold War, unblinking anti-Communism.
3. The Falklands After the invasion of the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory, in 1982 by the Argentinian junta, Thatcher declared war and won. In two months, 255 British and 650 Argentinians died, in order that London could maintain this faraway, barely inhabited remnant of the former Empire. The former colonial Empire. The old grievances are still alive today: Cristina Kirchner, the Argentinian President, still claim possession of the archipelago, yet last March, residents of the islands overwhelmingly voted to remain British in a referendum.
4 The “Enemies Within” The IRA, to begin with was a violent enemy that Thatcher set out to defeat. In 1981, nine terrorists imprisoned were left to die from a hunger strike they had started in order to be considered as political prisoners. Secondly, trade unions, which, after a year-long strike, capitulated -- and have never recovered their influence.
5. Euroscepticism Under Thatcher, the United Kingdom was “the awkward partner” of the European Union. Trying, with little success, to turn the union into a free trade area, and nothing else, she grew disillusioned. In September 1988, she gave a speech in Bruges opposing further European integration, which remains a blueprint for Conservative Euroscepticism. Last January, the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, pressed by his party allies and Thatcher's disciples, made a speech evoking the possibility of leaving the Union altogether if Britons decided so in a referendum by 2015.
6. A Woman Of Her Times Though she would never belabor the point, and was no friend to the Feminist Movement as such, Thatcher will certainly be remembered by history as the first woman to be Prime Minister in Europe. In winning her first campaign for Prime Minister, she put it this way: "Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country..."