Political Animal


April 08, 2013 8:32 AM RIP Margaret Thatcher

By Ed Kilgore

So word’s just out that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died of a stroke at the age of 87.

Americans often think of her as Britain’s Ronald Reagan, and there’s some truth to that: she led the ideological takeover of a major political party and a country, and was a symbolic leader of the conservative cause long after she faded from the real political scene. She was also, of course, the first woman to serve as prime minister of the UK (after becoming the first woman to lead one of the UK’s major parties), though hardly an object of affection for most feminists.

Famously dubbed “La Pasionaria of middle-class privilege” by Labour politician Denis Healey, Thatcher died a peer. We’ll have more about her life later today. Feel free to share memories or impressions you have of the Iron Lady in the comment thread.

Here she is making her pitch to the British public just before the 1979 election that elevated her to power.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • martin on April 08, 2013 8:49 AM:

    Oh, we'll give the dead a moment before sharing our memories of what a loathsome creature she was. The best I can say is she made Reagan look not quite as bad. She seemed like his smarter, eviler sister.

  • c u n d gulag on April 08, 2013 9:53 AM:

    What, too soon?

    I don't normally cheer the death of anyone.

    But, I do enjoy reading my share of obituaries.

    And I will relish this one.

  • Daniel Buck on April 08, 2013 9:54 AM:

    Keep in mind that she was pro-choice, and to the left of Obama on health insurance, in favor of a single-payer plan.
    Margaret Thatcher running as a candidate in the US would be scorned by the modern day Republicans.

    It could also be said that she freed Labour from its post-WWII turgidity, allowing it to resurrect itself as a modern party. Dan

  • Rich on April 08, 2013 9:57 AM:

    Do we really need to know anything more about her? The only question I have is whether someone drove a stake into her heart to make sure she was dead.

  • martin on April 08, 2013 9:59 AM:

    Yup, Dan. A European Conservative is called a Socialist in this country;>

  • Daniel Buck on April 08, 2013 10:03 AM:

    Also, while the Reagan administration temporized (UN Ambassador Kilpatrick argued for Argentina & Secretary of State Haig for the UK), Thatcher quickly and adroitly defended her country's interests in the Falkland Islands. The British victory in that small war led to the ouster of the murderous military dictatorship in Argentina and a return to democracy.


  • scott_m on April 08, 2013 10:09 AM:

    Getting ready for and driving to work today, I heard about Baroness Thatcher on the BBC, CNN-I, and NPR. Nobody had the depth of analysis of Dan's concise contribution here. So, thanks for that.

  • Steve P on April 08, 2013 10:17 AM:

    "Thatcher quickly and adroitly defended her country's interests in the Falkland Islands."

    After the Argentines invaded--which one of her defence ministers (John Nott, I believe) warned her might happen if she cut the budget for the RN's patrol vessel based there as a trip wire. She went ahead and did it anyway, and when Nott prediction came true, sacked him as a wet. And played Harry's Daughter At Tilbury, or Victoria Regina, when the Navy--which loathed her--sailed to pull her chestnuts out of the fire.

    One of those times when doubters hope there's an afterlife:

    "But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry all, “We died at such a place,” some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle, for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it, who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection."

  • james on April 08, 2013 10:18 AM:

    The legacy of any public figure with as long a tenure as Mrs. Thatcher is complex, not easily reducible.

    Watching this video, my major impression is how calming and reassuring she is, motherly in her tone of voice and demeanor, and confident about her policies.

    Motherly to the point of communicating, "so please make mother happy by voting for me, because if mother isn't happy, no one is happy. Please remember how I'll punish you if I don't win."

    Of course, a parliamentary system is different from our separation of powers system. When you've got the votes, enough votes to form a government, you've got the votes to pass even very unpopular measures. The need for compromising with the opposition is greatly diminished in a parliamentary system and Mrs. Thatcher, if anything, was uncompromising. That characteristic certainly made it easier to oppose her if you were in the Opposition, harder to oppose her if you were in the Government.

  • Werewolf on April 08, 2013 10:21 AM:

    Thatcher would have done away with National Health if she could have-she was famous for saying that there's no such thing as society, just individual interests. In other words, she was a bloody sociopath. The only good thing that came out of her misbegotten rule was the the end of the military dictatorship in Argentina-and she was just fine with them until they attacked the British colony in the Malvinas (Argentina had a good claim, but war was exactly the wrong way of making it). I didn't wish her death, but I read her obituary with satisfaction.

  • Daniel Buck on April 08, 2013 10:29 AM:

    Excellent book on the Falklands is Max Hastings & Simon Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands (1983). Chapter two, "The Seventeen Years War," gets into detail on the run-up to the Argentine invasion, which was marked by many a misstep on both sides, as is often the case when long simmering conflicts suddenly ignite.

    Not to get detoured here, but I've long thought that the British should return the Falklands to Argentina when the Argentines return Patagonia to the Mapuche.


  • smartalek on April 08, 2013 10:34 AM:

    I'm sure Maggie was more complicated than the cardboard cutout of Teh Evil with which I associate her.
    But until I do more research, I'm pretty comfortable having my impressions of her largely guided, and reflected, by two brilliant songs:
    The [English] Beat's "Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret"
    Mark Knopfler / Dire Straits' "Iron Hand."
    You should find both up at YouTube (unless the lawyers and beancounters have had them all taken down again).
    Mr Kilgore, it would be a fine service if you were to embed one or both of those here over the next day or two.
    There's sometimes a live The Beat performance from an 80s street party up there that is truly awesome, in the original, literal meaning of the term.

  • JR on April 08, 2013 10:39 AM:

    Out of respect for her private life, I will not dance on her gravestone. This memoriam, though, pretty much sums it up. That she called Nelson Mandela a "commie terrorist" is all one really needs to know.

  • Rich on April 08, 2013 10:51 AM:

    The ANC quote, Charlie Pierece's observation of how she continues the oppression of the Irish, etc. and soforth. It all should make us glad she was gaga for the last years o her life rather than some "elder statesperson" continuing to make trouble.

  • monoceros4 on April 08, 2013 11:41 AM:

    NPR has just been horrible this morning about Thatcher. Pure hagiography.

  • benjoya on April 08, 2013 11:52 AM:

    here's a good quote, thatcher in the WSJ in 2002:

    "Saddam must go...It is clear to anyone willing to face reality that the only reason Saddam took the risk of refusing to submit his activities to U.N. inspectors was that he is exerting every muscle to build WMD."

  • ceenik on April 08, 2013 12:05 PM:

    It was her draconian policies against the Irish, her plunder of Scottish and Welsh mineral wealth for the benefit of the rich, her rabid anti-unionism: Margaret Thatcher self-righteously inflicted pain on others and actually set back the agenda of her party in the long run. An excellent post from Daily Kos today:

  • jprichva on April 08, 2013 12:26 PM:

    Paraphrasing Bette Davis:

    You're only supposed to say good things about the dead.
    Margaret Thatcher is dead. Good.

  • Ken on April 08, 2013 3:20 PM:

    I have suggested for years that a single toxic waste site be designated to house the remains of politicians such as tricky dick nixon addled ronnie raygun, beasty barry goldwater and now this human pollutant from across the pond.

    Maybe one of Hanfords waste tanks that way their acolyites cold baste in the glow of the radiation poisioning their leaders denied were a problem.

    These "things" ( I will not demean humanity by claiming they were truly human) have caused untold suffering and death by promoting ignorance, war, bigotry and fear.

    All justified by wrapping in their noble cause of promoting the almighty dollar as the highest and greatest measure of humanity.

    So good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Doug on April 08, 2013 6:05 PM:

    The only thing I can truthfully say I liked, "appreciated" is probably a better term, about Baroness Thatcher was that what you saw was what you got. I was stationed in the UK in the mid-80s and again in the early 90s and, when she apeared on television, I knew *exactly* what her position on the topic being discussed was. One can only wish some politicians here approached politics with the same attitude.
    Other than that, RIP.

  • John Sully on April 08, 2013 8:20 PM:

    The best eulogy I have read so far:


    My British friends are dancing in the streets. The working class in Britain absolutely hated her. Most of them moved here because she destroyed economic opportunity there.