MARGARET THATCHER. SUPER ADVANCED COURSE LESSON 18
Margaret Roberts was born at Grantham in 1926. Her family was South British but she was one eighth Irish. Her father owned three corner shops. He had grown up working class and left school. He was very hardworking and parsimonious.
The Roberts family was Methodist. They were cloyingly respectable. Mr Roberts was elected an alderman (councillor). He later became mayor. Mr Roberts had been a Liberal. He then left the Liberal Party because it was becoming collectivist. He was elected as an independent. Mr Roberts had close relations with the Conservative Party but never joined the party.
Margaret was clever and studied very hard. She worked in her family business and had no time or money for entertainment. Margaret later wrote, ”there was little colour or sparkle in my childhood.” She was not close to her mother or sister who were not as brainy as she was. Margaret only needed to sleep four hours a night. This gave her more time for study.
The family hardly ever left Grantham. Her father knew what it was to be poor. He was parsimonious. He insisted that they wash in cold water to save money.
Alfred Roberts taught his daughter Victorian values. He believed in self-reliance, hard work, thrift and responsibility. He strove to behave respectably.
Margaret did not have the time or money for fashion, dating or entertainments. Her schoolmates laughed at her for being a swot. Margaret had to spend much of her free time working in the family shop.
In 1944 Margaret went to Somerville College, Oxford. Very few females went to university then. She studied chemistry. Margaret was active in the Conservative Association. She later wrote ”there was an ugly streak of contempt towards the middle class among the patrician undergraduates in the association.”
Upon graduation Margaret applied for jobs. One interviewer wrote ”the woman is dangerously headstrong.” She got a job doing the chemistry for Mr Whippy Ice cream.
Margaret was called to the bar. She met a divorced man ten years older than her name Dennis Thatcher. She married him. They had twins name Mark and Carol.
Margaret was elected to Parliament for Finchley. She was soon made a minister. In the 1970s she was Education Secretary. She abolished free school milk. People called her ‘Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher.’
In 1975 there was a leadership contest in the Tory Party. To general astonishment Thatcher won. Mrs Thatcher was scornfully dubbed the Iron Lady by a Soviet magazine. She embraced it with relish.
In the late 1970s the Labour Government was performing badly. But Callaghan was still more popular than Thatcher. In May 1979 an election was held. The Conservatives won. The Queen appointed Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister.
On the steps of Number 10 Downing Street Mrs Thatcher quoted the words of St Francis Assisi, where there is discord may we bring harmony. Her policies were anything but harmonious.
Mrs Thatcher had told children in the early 1970s that there would never be a woman prime minister in her lifetime. Just 5 years later it had happened.
Thatcher was cautious at first. Some of her cabinet did not respect her. They were older than her and upper class. She was the only woman in the cabinet. Those who were against her she called Wet. They were pathetic and no on board with her monetarist policies. However, she was not strong enough to sack them all.
Unemployment got worse. She prioritised keeping inflation down over tackling unemployment. Scotland and northern England were badly hit by unemployment.
There was a miners’ strike. Thatcher folded quickly as she could not beat it.
Labour was then led by a loony left Worsel Gummidge called Michael Foot. He was not credible.
In 1981 some terrorists committed suicide by starving themselves in prison. Thatcher did not give in to lies and threats. She did not make the concessions that the terrorists wanted.
In 1982 the Argentines invaded the Falklands. Thatcher chose to fight. The British prevailed. Her ratings soared.
The Social Democratic Party broke away from Labour. The SDP enjoyed excellent ratings.
In 1983 Thatcher called an election. The Tories polled 44% and won a landslide victory. Labour was reduced to a paltry 209 seats. The SDP won many votes but only 25 seats.
Thatcher was far more confident. She purged wets from her cabinet. The words Thatcherism and Thatcherite were coined.
In 1984 the miners went on strike. Thatcher was ready for them. She wanted to close a few pits to keep mining viable. The government won after a year.
Unemployment was still high. Tax even went up.
In 1987 there was another election. The Tories won. There was a stock market crash later that year.
Thatcher signed the Single European Act. She then became eurosceptic.
In 1989 the community charge was introduced. This was commonly called the poll tax. It was very unpopular and many refused to pay. There were protests and riots.
In 1989 Thatcher gave her Brouges Speech. She denounced the EEC’s excessive and growing power. ”We have not rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at the European level.”
There was talk of joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Thatcher was against. But most of her cabinet was in favour.
In 1989 an unknown MP stood against her for the leadership. Sir Anthony Meyer won 20% of the votes. It was still far more than anyone expected.
In 1990 Thatcher was suspicious of German reunification. She eventually agreed after chivvying from George Bush senior.
In November 1990 the Deputy PM Sir Geoffrey Howe resigned. Thatcher was challenged for the leadership. She stood against Michael Heseltine. 55% of Tory MPs voted for her. That was not enough to save her. She was worried that if she lost on the second ballot Heseltine might become PM. He was a wet and a europhile. She was persuaded to resign. This would let her dries take over. Mrs Thatcher was driven away from Downing Street. For the first time she wept in public. It was 22 November 1990.
Thatcher stood down from the Commons in 1992. She became Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. She was Chancellor of Buckingham University: the only private one in the UK. She continued to speak out on political affairs.
In 2013 Thatcher died. She was the first commoner since Churchill to get a state funeral.
- When was Margaret Thatcher born?
- What was her maiden name?
- What was her home town?
- What subject did she read at university?
- What profession did she qualify in?
- Which university did she attend?
- What was her party?
- Name her children.
- When did she become PM?
- When did she cease to be PM?
- When did she die?
- What is your opinion of her? Five marks.