top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael McClellon

The Lady’s Still Not For Turning

Recently, I came across a popular online quiz known as the “political compass quiz”. Having been familiar with its popularity and also personally self-obsessed like everyone else, I decided to take the quiz with enough motivation to finish it. The questions written by clear political scholars were pretentious and misleading, and I tried my best to answer the intended premise of each one, rather than the actual question itself. After a long ride through the overrated cycle of current political issues, I finished with results that I already knew to be true in the first place, and was then able to reflect upon the stupidity of intentionally wasting 30 minutes of my time with a nice smile on my face. More importantly though, I caught a glimpse of the coordinate plane on my results page that showed the different political ideologies as well as notable figures from history placed accordingly. Joseph Stalin was on the authoritative left, Milton Friedman was on the libertarian right, Ghandi was on the libertarian left, and Adolf Hitler was on the authoritarian right. This does seem accurate enough, but there was another famous individual known for her steadfast and undaunted persistence also present on the political scale. It was none other than the “Iron Lady” herself: Margaret Thatcher. Her very presence on the scale wasn’t particularly surprising, but rather it was her location that was truly extraordinary. She was placed on the authoritarian right, ever so close to the notorious Hitler. Now, I don’t doubt her ideologies alleged by the political scholars, as her history demonstrates a clear lean to the right, with principles such as privatization and marketization being heavily applied to education, banks, and trade unions (a popular issue at the time). Her authoritarian and autocratic leadership was also evident with the fact that Thatcher ardently transposed her ideas upon the minds of her entire party with a radical will for action that spread throughout England. She happily depicted her defiance and control in the famous “The Lady’s Not For Turning” speech, in which she referenced opposing political adversaries and remained confident in her policies despite the dissent. If any more proof needed, she was described as “headstrong,” “obstinate,” and “dangerously self-opinionated” by the personnel at a plastics company she applied for after completing tertiary education. Despite this accuracy however, the combination of her illegitimate placement and ever-lasting controversy effectively saturates the thinking of all participants in this test to one of distanced dislike and even abhorrence of the former Prime Minister. I believe that some more awareness should be brought to her tainted reputation that will ultimately dispel from your mind the act of defining people solely by their political leaning on paper and make you focus on their true historical faults and accomplishments in order to encourage more critical thinking. Born to a middle-class family in a small town in eastern England, Thatcher was exposed to the bottom of half of the country in terms of wealth. Many argue that these roots were one of the factors that lead to her conservatism. After completing primary and secondary education, Thatcher entered Somerville College, Oxford, a women’s college, to study chemistry. A diligent yet opinionated student, she graduated with high marks and also participated in many political organizations within the school, being elected president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. After abandoning her career in chemistry, she rose through the ranks using her innate personality and political talent to eventually achieve high governmental positions such as the Education Secretary and Leader of the Opposition in parliament, serving under both major political parties. Despite decisions that were met with hostility, including the one to ban free milk for school children aged 7-9, dubbing her one of her first nicknames “Margaret Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher”, she never disembodied her views or self-confidence. After her rise in government and popularity, she was finally elected Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 4th, 1979. Her time as Prime Minister was undoubtedly considered most representative of her political ideology and defining character. It began with her directive to repel the invading Argentenian forces from the British controlled Falkland Islands through a successful military campaign. This allowed her approval rating to increase and it cast an optimistic aura upon the future of her tenure to discourage any doubt of her administrative capabilities. Her economic reforms guided by her belief in the free market such as increasing interest rates, lowering income taxes while increasing indirect taxes, as well as privatizing numerous industries to increase competition led to substantial economic growth in the UK. The country was able to lower inflation and lift itself out of the recession by the early ’80s, recovering its legitimacy as a world power well connoted by the historical name “Britannia”. Thatcher’s environmental efforts were also celebrated for being vital to establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and she was able to promote the issues of climate change and acid rain to those of critical status. These domestic and international victories are all examples of how Thatcher brought Britain back to booming. Now, Thatcher is well deserving of this praise, but a failure to recognize her faults as Prime Minister can lead to a loss of independent thinking and a blind reliance and dependence of conscience on an authoritative figure clearly not promoted to sainthood. Unfortunately, there were moments of her time in office that many cite accordingly, such as her overt dislike for trade unions, resulting in a refusal for cooperation. She disbanded many of these unions and shut down hundreds of coal mines and other industries with workers heavily participating in the unions. This led to massive strikes followed by intense violence, and although some admire Thatcher for her efforts in putting down these rebellions, it still remains a low time of betrayal and destruction. Moreover, although her unshakeable conviction can be viewed as a positive attribute, many interpret this as a shield used against opposing political ideas, and Thatcher was widely criticized for being close-minded and even myopic. Her economic reforms, although beneficial for the overall economy and consumers, did result in higher unemployment rates for most of her tenure, which devastated many families. These points demonstrate the dangers of possessing a one-sided view of how a country should be run, and still remain to be the main faults of “Thatcherism”. Although her accomplishments and controversies associated with her history cannot be entirely summarized, I believe that her immense love for her country and thereby action to serve and improve it successfully show that she is undeserving of political generalization and complete mischaracterization inflicted upon her by the previously noted political scholars. The oversimplification of complex ideologies can also lead us to be much more dismissive and narrow-minded when considering Thatcher’s or anyone else’s opinions. This also exposes the danger of misinformation and group-think ever so plentiful in the current political world. Instead of judging someone solely based upon their empirical political ideologies and accordingly defining them as “friends” or “enemies,” we must delve into the much more vast and informative world of history to explore the ideas and actions of individuals presented throughout their entire life so we can truly understand them as a whole, which transcends the box-like thinking of the political compass test. The test should therefore be used more predominantly for entertainment purposes rather than for defining a person with such strict and misleading terms. This will allow us to independently evaluate how influential the positives and negatives of each person were on the world, which makes us become more educated, and more experienced with critical thinking so that we ourselves can enact change. In light of this, I must inspire you to take action by referencing this quote adapted by Thatcher from the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi that started her journey as Prime Minister. “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony; Where there is error, may we bring truth; Where there is doubt, may we bring faith; And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”

bottom of page