May 10, 2009
Margaret Thatcher's Victory: Then and NowBy Christopher Chantrill
If you like counting "firsts," here's one for you. It was just 30 years ago when the British first elected a grocer's daughter to be Prime Minister. Yes, for thousands of years the oppressive British political system had denied not just grocers, but the spawn of grocers the highest political office in the land.
But finally, on Thursday, May 3, 1979 Margaret Thatcher, daughter of Alderman Roberts, grocer from Grantham, Lincolnshire, shattered the so-called "spice ceiling" and became Prime Minister.
In those days the media did not automatically swoon over ceiling shatterers. In the London Telegraph Simon Heffer tells us how the satirical Private Eye portrayed the hectoring new Prime Minister Thatcher in a cartoon.:
Today, people are remembering her many kindnesses.
Today, Simon Heffer is a crusty columnist, the Voice of Middle England, railing away at the shallowness and timidity of David Cameron's Conservative Party. But on May 3, 1979, he was a lad of 19, and he recalls
As President Obama cranks up his administration with plans for increasing union power and bailing out failed smoke-stack industries, and as he staffs up with Artful Tax Dodgers, you realize that "cool misty dawns" don't last forever.
We conservatives like to think of ourselves as down-to-earth people, but we have our delusions, just like our liberal friends. We thought that the lesson of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution would live forever. But we were wrong. On the contrary. There will never be a time when conservatives can sit back and say that our work is done.
President Obama and his team prove it. The way they act, you'd think they remember nothing about the 1970s, the years before Margaret Thatcher's great victory at the polls.
Stupid expansion of government programs? Check. Truckling to union power? Check. Stupid mega-projects on energy? Check.
Of course, Obama and his pals were just teenagers in the 1970s. They really don't remember the 1970s!
The current Mayor of London, Conservative Boris Johnson, asked an intelligent 15-year-old, born after Thatcher left office, what she associated with Margaret Thatcher. "Billy Elliott," she replied, creature of her government schoolteachers and BBC news.
Billy Elliott is a great movie, and no doubt a fabulous musical. But it is just a movie, and if its creators want to tell a story about striking miners as the victims of a cruel Thatcher rather than dupes of left-wing union thugs, hey, it's a free country.
But the intelligent 15-year-old who associates Thatcher with Billy Elliott reminds us that the battle is never over. If you believe in limited government then you will have to fight for it, today, tomorrow, and forever. Because every day brings another fresh young activist, some young kid literally born yesterday whose understanding of the past was formed by an agitprop movie. And what is that young kid proposing? He is proposing some crude program of government compulsion and calling it visionary.
We must challenge the narrative of the left-wing film-maker, and we must do our best with the intelligent young people who have only heard half the story.
But the biggest challenge for conservatives will always be politicians and their lust for power. Politicians are seldom like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who used their power to roll back government and restore freedom. Most politicians are like President Obama. Their self-interested vision of change cannot comprehend anything that does not increase the power of government and build them a patronage system.
Back when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, Barack Obama was about 18 years old. You can imagine what his mentor, the left-wing poet Frank Marshall Davis, and his college instructors said about her. No doubt a year later they were a bit confused about Ronald Reagan, calling him at once a mad bomber and an amiable dunce.
But we can be sure that the intelligent young Obama, son of a liberal anthropologist, got the point.
And where in his cloistered life from Ivy League to community organizing to liberal foundation governance to bare-knuckle Chicago politics would President Obama ever have heard anything about Margaret Thatcher, the grocer's daughter, that was not accompanied by a sneer?