Filipinos can only make wistful remarks about the greatness of the late former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who died yesterday aged 87. This is a lady who busted Britain’s paralysing unions, sent Her Majesty’s warships sailing thousands of miles south to take back the Falkland Islands from the Argentines, and stared down scores of politicians who stood in the way of her efforts to institute reforms in British industry.
She is the leader Filipinos talk about aspiring to be led by but in practice fear being subject to. Indeed, Thatcherism exacts the very sorts of commitments Filipinos are renowned for srhinking away from when push comes to shove…
[…] by the time she left office, the principles known as Thatcherism — the belief that economic freedom and individual liberty are interdependent, that personal responsibility and hard work are the only ways to national prosperity, and that the free-market democracies must stand firm against aggression — had won many disciples. Even some of her strongest critics accorded her a grudging respect.
Suffice to say, one cannot expect the sorts of results delivered by Iron Ladies when in the habit of electing flaccid doofuses in every election. Filipinos have yet to learn that simple reality.
Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition and became the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.
After moving into 10 Downing Street, Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives to reverse what she perceived to be Britain’s precipitous national decline.[nb 1] Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Thatcher’s popularity during her first years in office waned amid recession and high unemployment, until economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her re-election in 1983.
Thatcher was re-elected for a third term in 1987, but her Community Charge (popularly referred to as “poll tax”) was widely unpopular and her views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990, after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership. Thatcher held a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords.
Back in the 1976, when the Soviet Union loomed large as global bogeyman, Thatcher issued these scathing words to her Cold War foe:
The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen.
The men in the Soviet politburo don’t have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns.
They know that they are a super power in only one sense—the military sense.
They are a failure in human and economic terms.
The Soviet Union has since fallen but China, itself a powerful relic of the Cold War but far more adept at reinventing itself to suit the changing times, now fits the very same profile and is now as relevant to Filipinos as the USSR was to Thatcher’s Britain. It just takes a leader with even just half of the Iron Lady’s man-nerves to issue the same words.
Indeed, so long as Filipinos apply the same sort of thinking with regard to the exercise of their “hard-won” democratic powers, the late Margaret Thatcher will remain the sort of leader Filipinos can only dream of following to greatness.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Margaret Thatcher” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site. Photo courtesy NPR.org.]