Baroness Margaret Thatcher
Baroness Warsi, Senior Foreign Office Minister & Minister for Faith and Communities
With a career as long, as impactful and as world-changing as that of Baroness Thatcher, there is a danger that we might overlook many of her important achievements.
For instance, in the days following her very sad passing, little has been said of her attitude towards Britain becoming an increasingly diverse place. She set out her stall about the changing face of the UK when she opened the Ismaili Centre back in 1985.
“Britain is now, more than ever, a multicultural society,” she said. “We need not be afraid that these new influences will somehow threaten the ‘British way of life’: on the contrary, a new resilience derived from diversity can only strengthen Britain.”
In those words she asserted that a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith Britain would be a stronger Britain. They are words I quote very often when arguing that in the global race – in which we are pitted against the world’s rapidly expanding economies – we have a secret weapon: the races from around the globe which make up our diverse nation.
Mrs Thatcher, as she was then, backed up this belief by creating opportunity for people, regardless of their background. Her policies unleashed people’s enterprise and independence – be it by allowing them to buy their council house or enabling them to start their own business, as my father did.
Through her own story – the journey from living above her family shop to Number 10 Downing Street – she demonstrated that one’s past should never determine their future. It was something that really resonated with me as a young Muslim girl growing up in West Yorkshire, and inspired me to go into politics.
Many years later, when Mrs Thatcher was no longer Prime Minister, another of her actions really struck a chord with me: her stance on the conflict in Bosnia. As early as 1992, she was crying out for international action. She clearly argued that a massacre of the Bosniaks in the besieged territories was only a matter of time.
It is quite remarkable now to read her article for the New York Times from that time – entitled ‘Stop the Excuses. Help Bosnia Now’ – in which she argued: “Hesitation has already proved costly. The matter is urgent. There are perhaps a few weeks left for a serious initiative before it is too late and a Serb victory is accomplished, with terrible long-term consequences.” With the hindsight we have now, knowing the horrific events that swept across the town of Srebrenica in 1995, in which 8,000 Bosniaks men and boys were murdered, we know just how prescient those words were.
So as we reflect upon the career of our the first woman to lead our country – our greatest peacetime Prime Minister – it is important to remember those points in her career which might otherwise be forgotten.’
Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham
I was saddened to hear about the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher who led the country for eleven years as Prime Minister – one of the longest serving leaders in British history.
Margaret Thatcher will always be remembered as one of the 20th Century’s most transformative Prime Minister, who fundamentally changed the country and introduced the necessary reforms that were needed at the time.
She championed family values and had the courage of her convictions which should be greatly admired. As she said herself, “I am not a consensus politicians but a conviction politician.
Lady Thatcher will always be well regarded for her decisive leadership qualities. She also played an important international role and is remembered for her promotion of freedom around the world as well as her pivotal role in ending the cold war and defeating communism.
I had the opportunity to listen to the many moving tributes from Members of Parliament on Wednesday in the House of Commons and as the Prime Minister David Cameron said on that day, Margaret Thatcher defined and overcame the great challenges of her age. I believe that this is her legacy which will always be remembered in Britain and across the world.’
Sajid Javid, MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury
I was first introduced to Baroness Thatcher in 1999. On hearing that I might one day enter politics she told me, “Protect this Emerald Isle.” I will.
During this sad week millions will mourn our greatest peacetime Prime Minister and a patriotic Briton; not just Conservatives, but ordinary people whose lives were transformed by her policies.
I was aged 9 when Mrs Thatcher entered Downing Street and just shy of 21 when she left; my formative years were the Thatcher years. Watching the Nine O’clock news, my Dad, would point out her conviction and ability to get things done. I became a Thatcherite long before I was a Conservative.
Perhaps her conviction was clearest in economic policy. Her determination to champion freedom, of the individual and the economy, was inspired by the writings of Friedrich Hayek – whose writings inspire me today.
She championed liberty, through home ownership and ownership of shares – as a teenager I saved to buy shares, as did 94% of British Steel workers when it was privatised.
Today, Thatcher’s legacy still resonates and helps Britain remain prosperous. She rescued Britain from a permanent sense of decline, and gave hope and opportunity to millions like me.’
Rt Hon Sadiq Khan, MP, Shadow London Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor
Winning three successive General Elections and being so far our only female Prime Minister are real political achievements that stand tall in British post war history, whether you are a Conservative supporter or not.
And there’s no doubting that because of the positions she took, the policies she pursued and the manner of how she pursued them, she managed to motivate many to become a new generation of political activists, many of whom are today still campaigning and working to make this country better, on both the political left and the right. And as one of that generation, with my formative years during her political heyday in the 1980s, I would not have joined the Labour Party, or now had the privilege of being the Member of Parliament for my home community of Tooting. It was my anger and frustration at what her Government was doing that made me join the Labour Party.
Although it’s 23 years since she left 10 Downing Street, her legacy does live on. Debates about her and what she represented will continue for many years to come. Many people like me disagree with many of the things she did while PM and the way she did them. To say that there is no such thing as society was short-sighted and wrong. In London, her decision to abolish the Greater London Council represented a step back for democracy. On a national level, mining and manufacturing communities across the UK still feel anger today for the way she treated them. And on the world stage, she made the wrong judgement about Nelson Mandela and about how to deal with apartheid in South Africa.
But while I profoundly disagree with many of the policies she pursued, this does not diminish the remarkable achievement of being Prime Minister of this country for over eleven years.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Shadow Minister for International Development
Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and only woman Prime Minister will be remembered as a unique figure who polarised the country and reshaped the politics of a whole generation. As one of the few women leaders of her generation, Thatcher was a huge figure in the international stage, but not all of her influence was positive – for example in relation to her stance on Nelson Mandela and about sanctions against Apartheid South Africa.
Growing up in the East End of London in the 1980s, I witnessed the effects of her Government’s policies in education, health and unemployment on our local community. The boom in the nearby City of London and the Canary Wharf development did not ‘trickle down’ and result in opportunities for communities across the East End. What we witnessed was soaring unemployment, rising poverty and inequality and lack of hope and opportunity with a generation of young people’s talents going to waste because of the failure of her Government to invest in schools and raise educational standards.
While school buildings and hospitals were crumbling across the East End, at the other end of the scale we began to witness the lavish excesses and greed of the ‘so-called yuppies’ in places like nearby St Katherine’s Docks.
An enduring legacy of Margaret Thatcher has been to provoke passionate debates and strong feelings. It was, in fact, the overriding sense of anger and injustice I felt towards the effects of her Government’s policies on my local community that led me to join the Labour Party as a seventeen year old. The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also recognise her political achievements and her personal strength.
Anas Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Andrew Marr in the BBC TV series based on his book A History of Modern Britain, described Baroness Thatcher as “a one woman revolution” who went on to “transform Britain more radically than any other prime minister since the second world”.
That revolution came at a huge human cost in my city as it did in many other parts of the UK.
Margaret Thatcher’s policies destroyed Glasgow’s manufacturing base and with it the livelihoods of so many hard working people. The fact that within a year of her taking office as Prime Minister, nearly 50,000 jobs were lost in Glasgow alone highlights the impact her Government had on ordinary people living in my city. Whilst at the same time huge amounts of public monies were pulled out of Glasgow’s local economy, resulting in large infrastructure projects being left unfinished and thousands cast from work to the scrap heap.
However, now is not the time to debate the policies of this towering political figure who not only won three successive general elections but reshaped the entire political landscape of our country. As well as being Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher was also a mother and grandmother; our thoughts should be with them during this difficult time.