She Never Turned

Margaret Thatcher, RIP

Posted: April 10, 2013

We mourn not just the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but that this mortal coil, as columnist Michelle Malkin wrote, produces few leaders of her steadfastness, her conviction, and, yes, her undaunted courage. Courage that was the wellspring of action ever since Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher, a daughter not of privilege but of humble shopkeepers from Grantham in Lincolnshire, entered politics.

Britons owe a great debt to Mrs. Thatcher. Every bit as much as Winston Churchill in World War II, she rescued a nation and restored its pride. “She didn't just lead our country,” said current Prime Minister David Cameron, also a Tory, “she saved our country, and I believe she’ll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister.”

In a genuine sense, Mrs. Thatcher — later Baroness Thatcher — saved Great Britian from sclerosis, self-imposed. Less than a century removed from outright world dominance, the “scepter’d isle” was an economic basket case of nationalized industry and crippling, labor-induced general strikes when Mrs. Thatcher rose to leadership of the nominally conservative Tories in 1975. She had a vision for Great Britain, and four years later, her countrymen, sick of the malaise, were ready for it — or so they thought. Sow the wind, reap a whirlwind.

But Mrs. Thatcher — defender of free markets, scourge of socialism (and all its attendant -isms), and true believer in the virtues of “a property-owning democracy” and how to achieve it — was a whirlwind of positive force. She answered the question: Who should govern Great Britain, the people’s elected representatives or the labor unions? She vowed to return industry to private hands.

“A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master, these are the British inheritance,” she said famously upon accepting the Tory reins on Oct. 10, 1975. “They are the essence of a free economy. And on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.”

These words proved a portent of a philosophical indefatigability that would mark her 11 years in power, a decade that neatly dovetailed with the presidential tenure of her equally freedom-loving ally and kindred spirit, Ronald Reagan.

The last we saw of Mrs. Thatcher was in 2004 when, in ailing health, she attended Mr. Reagan’s funeral and then insisted upon helping to escort the remains of her beloved friend and soul mate to his final resting place in California.

But Mrs. Thatcher did not simply love Ronald Reagan. She loved America and all it stands for. She had a soft spot for Virginia. Twice, she ventured
across the Atlantic for speaking engagements in the Old Dominion — in 1992 at the Virginia Military Institute as the keynoter to a symposium about “Thatcherism,” and in 1995 before the General Assembly. For seven years, she served as chancellor of the College of William & Mary.

Over the next few days, stories about Mrs. Thatcher’s grit, fortitude, and determination — particularly relative to her steely response to Argentina’s seizure of the Falkland Islands — will abound. What follows is a short vignette that speak to the character of this remarkable leader.

Consider her speech at the 1980 Tory conference during which Mrs. Thatcher served notice she would not be a go-along-to-get-along conservative. Urged by other Tories to reverse course just a year after being elected, she wowed her audience with a punch line inspired by a popular English play, “The Lady’s Not For Burning” by Christopher Fry. To wit:

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to —

“The Lady’s not for turning.”

And “turn” she never did, much to Great Britain’s benefit, and the world’s. But then, why “turn” when you know in your heart, as Margaret Thatcher did, that “the facts of life are conservative”?