Margaret Thatcher’s death – a Christian’s response

Margaret Thatcher’s death – a Christian’s response April 9, 2013

It was hours after the announcement that I heard the news that the UK’s first and only woman Prime Minister had died. In life she was always a figure that inspired love by some and hatred by others. It is alway so with every great leader. I hope that in death her impact on this great nation of mine will be re-assessed by all, no matter what political party we come from.

There is no denying the massive impact this woman had on our politics. The Guardian’s timeline of her life makes the point that she became Prime Minister in 1979 when I was eight years old. She ruled our country with the resilience and determination that got her the nickname “The Iron Lady” for the next eleven and a half years. This makes her the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century. That is quite an accolade, when you consider that we are not very forgiving of our leaders in this country. Despite not having official term limits, it is rare for someone in that office to survive two complete terms (each being a maximum of five years), let alone win a third. Tony Blair didn’t manage it, although he shortened the terms and hence managed to win three elections, he only survived in office ten years and two months. Winston Churchill was rejected by the British electorate, despite having won the Second World War. He did later end up having a second period of office, his first lasted four years and five months, the second five years and two months, hence altogether he was in office for less time than Blair or Thatcher.

In the Seventies it was no small feat for a woman to win highest political office in any nation in the world. Even more so, considering that as the daughter of a grocer she did not have the advantages of familial connections to help her on her climb to the top. Until today there are few women who have reached the highest political office in their nation. There are also very few political figures who get a political philosophy named after them. “Thatcherism” is still widely used as a label today. The only other British political nickname like that with any sticking power in my lifetime was “Blairism”, but use of that term seems to me to be dying away.

In politics I am something of an agnostic. I was broadly supportive growing up of Thatcher, but then I was of Blair too. But one of the striking things about Blair is that he seemed to offer a complete surrender on almost everything that Thatcher had fought against the Labour party for. There were no attempts by Blair to reverse things like the legislation she had passed to reduce the power of the Trade Unions. Thus, thanks in part to Blair, she changed the political landscape of Britain forever.

In a time when our national identity seemed to be embroiled in a sense of terrible decline, she stood up boldly for our nation saying we could be “Great” again. The Empire had gone, but we could still play a significant part in the world. She instilled confidence, that vital task of a leader that few can successfully achieve. Her patriotic love for our Nation was obvious to all, and Cameron’s description of her as “lion-hearted” seems apt. She prescribed difficult remedies, including cuts to public spending (as a percentage of GDP) and flexibility in the labour market. She forged a strong personal alliance with Reagan, and history suggests that it was their resilience that helped to see off the threat of Communism in Europe. The effects of all this were hugely controversial at the time, but Cameron is probably right when he said, “Margaret Thatcher didn’t just lead our country – she saved our country.”

Not everyone in my own family was as politically agnostic as I have tended to be. My paternal grandmother, who was born as Muriel Driver was a passionate supported of Thatcher. For me, the two were always entwined in my mind. My Nanny embodied the thrift and hard-working ethic that Thatcher promoted. She was not afraid to splurge rather a lot on food when family came to visit, however. The prosperity that unrestricted access to food indicated was much more meaningful for those who had lived through rationing (which, of course, outlasted the War).

My Nanny also subscribed to the opinion that we should not simply leave the State to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. Into her eighties she would help the “old people” of her village, many of whom were younger than she was! Thatcher would have been proud of my Nanny, for when Thatcher was alleged to have said “there is no such thing as Society” she meant that individuals within a country make up Society and should act for the good of everyone. In an age where the Welfare safety net will increasingly have holes in it, we do well to heed that advice. Indeed, on the day that my Nanny eventually died in November 1990, she had gone shopping for food for some of the ladies in the village. She would have heard the news that very day Thatcher had been forced by her own party to resign. Like Thatcher personally, she would have seen that as a huge betrayal. Her blood pressure was already known to be high, the news would have sent it higher still. An aneurism in her ascending aorta that was not known about burst in response. It seems my Nanny felt a tinge of upper abdominal pain, believed she was hungry, and decided to make herself a scone and tea, that very English snack. Still propped up at the kitchen table, my Nanny died, glad not to have had to end her days dependent on the Nanny State which both indomitable women so despised.

As a side note, this is one area where the US political system could teach us a thing or two. Because of the term limits, the US Presidents are usually able to ride off into the sunset as their political capital is still intact, or fading. Both Blair and Thatcher would have been spared regicide by their own parties if this was our system too. It is sad that Thatcher’s political retirement like so many of our politicians was marred by the thought that she had been betrayed. Perhaps the most fitting memorial to her would be to add to the newly fixed-length terms of parliament that no British Prime Minster should serve more than two complete terms (ten years).

I am grateful to God for Margaret Thatcher. You don’t have to agree with everything that she did in order to join me in giving thanks for her life.






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  • As a Christian I find it hard to consider her life and political contribution without considering her beligerent support for Apartheid. Her support for the Khmer Rouge. Her support for General Pinochet. Her opposition to German reunification. The way she armed Saddam Hussein, refused to allow Ireland to be part of the Northern Ireland peace process, and helpied keep Zia in power which contributed massively towards Pakistan being the hotbed of Islamic extremism it is today. You don’t have to touch on right wing / left wing in the UK to throw up some very real concerns about her premiership. I don’t want to be “lion hearted” as an English patriot if it means I say things like ‘The ANC is a typical terrorist organization … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land”.

    As a Christian all of those things are in my mind as I consider her life and contribution, even before I consider what happened in this country. People having street parties and dishonouring her in death is absolutely abhorrent though. I sit n the middle, the eulogy and vitriol making me uncomfortable in equal measure.

    • Absolutely agree with you here. Thatcher represents for me a symbol of leftover colonial oppression. I left Hong Kong as an immigrant to the US just when she made all British “subjects” second-class citizens after they all served her “Empire.” She bent over too easily for China too, for whatever reason. In so doing so, Hong Kong i still suffering the after burn of her administration today.

  • Ben Thorp

    She is not well loved north of the border, I’m afraid.

  • I fear to say too much about someone who undoubtedly has left her mark on the country. As with all of us, it is easy to assess her contribution in terms of black and white. One of the sad things about people’s reactions to her death is that everybody wants to take sides. Some will talk of her greatness, wishing to call her the saviour of our country, whilst others will see her as the destroyer of communities. My own perception is generally negative, and I find it hard to justify the idea of a ceremonial funeral for one who caused so much pain and division in some communities. On the other hand I deplore the idea that some held parties last night to celebrate her death. One of the issues which the film “The Iron Lady” brought to the fore was that she was human, and in the end it we are all – Prime Ministers, kings and rulers as much as the weakest child – in the hands of God. He measures our days, and we will all have to face His assessment one day. Maybe there is room for assessing her contribution, but we should not be quick to take sides.

  • Andy Williamson

    I’m personally ambivalent towards Lady Thatchers’ “achievements”. Yes she stood up to tyranny in the South Atlantic but she also helped destroy many communities related to the mining industry (amongst others). One thing she did not do was to put the “Great” back into Great Britain. it never left. The reason is that the word “great” has nothing to do with anything Britain may or may not have done it simply refers to the larger area of the Britons as opposed to the smaller area, AKA Brittany.

  • I am very struck by your article – I am sure the reasons will be clear. Yesterday was my birthday. On my 17th birthday in 1982 our family were attending the funeral service for my dear grandmother. I wrote a brief tribute to both yesterday, being generally positive about Mrs Thatcher’s achievements. Certainly the left wing has no monopoly over claiming Christian principles, and the “big state” has big dangers through reducing personal and family responsibility and making work seem less worthwhile through low pay and high taxes. The celebrations of some at her death are most unfortunate and misguided.

  • James Petticrew

    I give thanks for life because she did more for the cause of Scottish independence than anyone since Robert the Bruce

  • Steve Smith

    Interesting article Adrian. However, I would suggest that the success of many of her actions say more about the country than her. Maggie did not change the country. The country changed mostly through consent. When the people did not consent – the poll tax most obviously – then there wasn’t change.

    A small point to make perhaps, but I think to say otherwise obscures the roles that people play.

  • Gavin Dixon

    I come from a family who were divided politically. One of my parents would vote Labour if only to counter the other voting Tory. Ours was a household where occasional teatime discussion was politically and philosophically informative and sometimes a tad edgy – all good fun for a young teen growing up trying to find out what he believed to be the right way for society. One thing that always jarred to me was the selling off of public utilities… back to the public. Some called Maggie the ultimate saleswoman. She sold back to us something we already owned. However it was not long before Tory minsters responsible for industries being sold off were finding themselves becoming chairmen of those companies now in private hands – and the profits being made were huge. It could have been invested back into the nation – but we sold the crown jewels. Not enough council housing today? No, thanks to the Tory policy of home ownership. I am all for home ownership, but not at the cost of public housing. That one is now coming home to roost. Maggie had guts and conviction as a leader, something that is lacking today. But she was also belligerent and arrogant too. The Spitting image of her developing into a dictator, over-ruling the thoughts of others was an extreme caricature – but not perhaps totally inaccurate. “What will the Prime Minister have?” the House of Commons waiter asked. “I’ll have the chicken.” she answers. “And what about the vegetables?” he adds, “They’ll have chicken as well.” was her response.
    I certainly abhor the celebrations of her death. It is obscene. But I cannot find it to remember her legacy with great fondness. I suggest that many communities around this nation will not shed any tears, remembering the tears they shed as jobs and livelihoods were wiped out -destroying families and societies. No,sorry, in my thinking Maggie encouraged greed, selfishness and fed the worst of human nature with a “me, me ,me” attitude which gave birth to the worst of financial imbalance and social breakdown. It is always sad when people die, but I will not be remembering her with fondness at all.

  • You might have a slightly different take if you live in the North Nottinghamshire former mining community.

  • Mike Taverner

    Margaret can be likened to Marmite….you either love it (her) or hate it (her)… I love it even if the taste is potent her!

  • Well said David Matthias!
    She is not well loved in the broad North of England, the Midlands or the South West and inner cities like London.

    Something I think and say a lot these days is that the measure of a decent civilised, dare I say it moral (?) society is how well it treats the weak, poor, vulnerable, the disabled, the immigrant, the old, the young etc.

    So how well does Margaret Thatcher nee Roberts measure up?

    Is Mammon worshipped more or less? Money is a good servant but a poor master, so?

    Dare I say our Monetary Sovereignty (something we CAN thank Margaret Thatcher for and Gordon Brown, but not Nigel Lawson) should be used to serve ALL of the people, not the rich few as blatantly shown by austerity budgets taking money from the poor/est and giving them to the rich/est millionaires, even the £5 or 6 million pound royal “pay rise” ?

    Old Testament/Levitical Economics advocated strong control/redistribution of Land and Lending via the Jubilee principle particularly and fair prices, how is Thatcherite rip-off Britain & Northern Ireland doing on this score?

  • James Bernard

    I lived through and remember it well. I am really surprised at the strength of feeling that people still have!
    I am sorry so many people haven’t moved on. What’s done is done and can’t be change. I don’t rememberher with fondness or the times particularly with happiness, but through living those times I know she did things that did not work and we should learn from those mistakes to make society better.
    May she rest in peace.

  • I am not sure it is a case of having not “moved on”. But rather, a feeling of slight outrage at the attempts this week to canonise someone who was at best the most divisive leader our country has had since Charles 1st!

    Plus many of the criticisms of Thatcher’s premierhsip only come with the passing of time. We did not know then the banking system she created would melt down. We did not know the housing bubble would burst. We did not know what multi-generational worklessness would do to local communities affected by her industrial reforms. It’s only the passing of time which has shed light on some of the darkest inheritance we have from her policies.

    • James Bernard

      Please don’t get me wrong but a lot of “we did not know…” and the passing of time etc is just 20/20 hindsight. At the time these issues were debated and the problems people thought would happen – and did – was raised at the time. Some people have what I’d call selective memory!
      I know wounds run deep but dwelling in the past doesn’t help or heal. Forgive, learn and move on – and yes it is easier said than done but with God’s help anything is possible.

  • Hoptoad

    So Margaret Thatcher, is dead, I will not judge her she faces a better judge than me. For what effect she had on my life, I forgive her and hope she rests in peace. I am from the north and yes she was hated, hated worse than Hitler at one time, me to, I hated her too, long ago. The people that got hurt where ordinary people, people like you and me who only wanted to live there lives and raise there children.

    Left Right Centre the false gods of politics are all painting the pictures they want you to remember, more illusions to cloud the truth. She was a woman who did, what she thought was for the best, but she divided the house against it’s self. What is a country if not it’s people, trees and rocks have no say in the matter. An economic system, just a easy way to get the things you need to live. The whole thing is only held in place by the power of belief, that £10 note in your pocket, it’s a forgery now what’s it worth. If she had understood that, then there may have been a better way out of the troubles of that time. Still it’s water under the bridge now.

  • I loved that woman!

    A real beacon for freedom!

    We need more like her. Many, many more.

  • Mason

    As an American, I find it amusing, yet sad, to read comments from Christians in the UK regarding Margaret Thatcher. While imperfect like we all are, Lady Thatcher saved your country from the utterly ruinous path it was on. Your country’s current ills (as are ours in the U.S.) are from returning to many of the same failed social policies, enlarged entitlements and regulations that Ms. Thatcher fought against.

    I feel compelled to also note the South African situation mentioned above. A very dear South African evangelist friend of my family’s, who has since gone to be with Jesus, provided a unique perspective on the fall of Apartheid. We had only received the media’s version of these things in the U.S.

    Many white South Africans knew that while Apartheid wasn’t ideal, it was a necessary system to keep the tribes from waring with each other, as well as between blacks and whites – needed to maintain an effective, stable government. Certainly there were overreaching abuses associated with Apartheid, so I do not make light of that. Now, whites are the persecuted minority group, and the ANC does virtually nothing to stop the violence against peaceful citizens who happen to be victimized for their white skin. This is so much better, though, now. At least it’s a true democracy where everyone can vote and elect corrupt, incompetent people of their own skin color!
    The ANC, through their incompetence, foolishness and neglect, have destroyed a once great country.

    And another related point…Mandela is lauded by most in the West as a tremendous role model of graciousness and forgiveness. After assuming leadership of the country, it is of course much easier to behave in such a manner. However, character is forged under duress, and when times were hard for him, Mandela was the mastermind behind the terrorism that so many white South Africans endured for so many years prior to his ascent.

  • David Matthias

    Hey Mason – trying to keep it gracious here but what you just wrote about South Africa is racist propaganda. It was not that there were abuses within Apartheid, it is that Apartheid itself was the abuse. It is now a democracy, one person one vote. Surely an American would appreciate the value of that? Or are you still hoping for a return to the 1950s in the South? Of course South Africa is in a mess. It’ll take several generations to overcome the problems created by apartheid. I don’t think you will win many votes in support of Thatcher while espousing view like that.

    • Mason

      David – concerning your comment about democracy, that would probably be a good stereotype of American sentiment. However, adding nuance to the debate, Democracies in and of themselves are neither good, nor bad. The underlying values of the people, the governing structure, government transparency and accountability (or lack thereof), are just of few of the determining qualities that determine whether a democracy is a good form of government or not. The revolutionaries of our country declared independance stemming from abuses of power under King George III (or at least, so they felt), yet many leading American politicians for decades after the conclusion of The Revolutionary War felt that a form of monarchy was the best and most stable form of government. Personally, I think a monarchy is perfect, but only when King Jesus begins his reign. However, monarchies this side of The New Heavens and the New Earth can be a tremendous form of government under a wise and righteous king or queen.
      This takes me back to to my point regarding South Africa – my point was that they have traded one form of social injustice for another form of social injustice. That they have an “every vote counts” democracy doesn’t make it a morally sound government! We can note many totalitarian regimes in the form of a supposed republic in this world (Iran, China, Cuba, Venezuela to name a few). I’m not saying the National Party’s apartheid government was ideal or particularly desireable in terms of it’s discriminatory policies, so you misunderstand me there.
      One man’s “racist propaganda” is another man’s reality, I suppose. I was adding some insight as one who had a dear evangelist friend who loved black people (he spent his life traveling to tribal areas in the bush to share the Gospel and also equipping both white and black pastors to do the same), but he was grieved at what his country became after the fall of a stable government. His children had to leave South Africa to find jobs due to the reverse racism via racial quotas, and he endured violence and a perpetual state of threat after the ANC took power, as they effectively allowed black militias to terrorize so many white South Africans (especially outside of Johannesburg and Cape Town) with virtual impunity. As with the majority of American media, I’m certain the media in the UK only presents a one-sided, Mandela and ANC friendly viewpoint that ignores these realities of life in South Africa the past ~ 20 years, as well as the documented terrorism that led to the fall of Apartheid. Anyone who disagrees is clearly a “racist.” Have you considered that racism doesn’t have a color? You must acknowledge and call-out black against white racism (or any form, whatever it may be) if you are going to be intellectually and morally honest. It’s easy to play the intolerant card as to your comment related to American civil rights injustices suggests, but these are two very different situational contexts. Removing the particulars makes it easy to insinuate such claims, but it merely stands as a straw man without intellectual debate.

  • sailor1031

    I wonder how many of those tories who have shed crocodile tears over her death were actually terrified of her in life. After all it was her own party that eventually deposed her.

  • Barry de Vaal

    As a South African, I am thankful to Mrs. Thatcher for her opposition to economic sanctions against SA in the 1980’s.
    She was one of very few international politicians who showed some understanding of the apartheid system.
    (The system was in instituted to protect the identity of all of SA population groups; and to ensure self-determination for all of them. It became impractical in the end, but created and tried to ensure civilized standards of living for all. )
    Mrs. Thatcher’s judgment of the ANC as as a terrorist organization, is very controversial.
    The fact is that Mr. Mandela was the founder and leader of the armed wing of the ANC.
    Backed by Communists, they wanted to overthrow the SA government, using violence.
    The ANC was therefore banned and Mr. Nelson Mandela sent to prison in 1963.
    Ex-president P.W. Botha wanted an early release of Mr. Nelson Mandela, if he was willing to denounce violence as an option for change. (Botha consulted with Mrs. Thatcher in the early 1980’s about this).
    Mr. Mandela never wanted to do it and was only released by pres. F.W. de Klerk in 1990.
    (We had the same ugly and unchristian-like comments and reactions in SA with the death of pres. P.W. Botha in 2006, as there were with the death of Mrs. Thatcher.)