Wednesday 10 April 2013

Maggie Thatcher “The Best Man Britain ever had” 1925 - 2013

Having been born in 1972 in London to immigrant parents, I am what some refer to as “a child of Thatcher”, coming to age during her premiership (1979 – 1990). So I have watched, read and listened to the media coverage of Baroness Thatcher’s recent death with keen interest.

As is customary when someone dies people reflect and eulogise. For some their memories of her are fond, for others who celebrated in Brixton, Liverpool and Glasgow they are bitter (though some celebrants seemed so young they were possibly not even born in 1990?).
A shop keeper’s daughter who rose to lead the male dominated Conservative party, winning three general elections, is itself worthy of historical significance. That she became known as the “Iron Lady” (two opposite terms conflated into one?) and has historical terms such as “Thatcherism”, “Thatcherite years” demonstrate the impact of her premiership.
To reflect on the ‘Thatcherism years’ is to reflect upon my own early life, because if leadership is anything, it is influence. Therefore by extension National leadership is also National influence (for good or for bad).
Several things her story has caused me to reflect on:
Leadership      - How true Leadership is divisive – We see people mourning her loss and others celebrating her loss.
Once you make a leadership decision you polarise people. Many will point to her leadership over the Miners strikes, the Falklands, the right to give council tenants’ rights to buy their own home as positives. Others will look to the devastation caused to Mining Communities, tough financial legislation, and stopping free milk for school children!

Maybe this is why many Leaders, political or otherwise shy away from decision making?
Longevity       - How long should a Leader stay in leadership? – Was Thatcher a victim of her own success?

Thatcher never actually lost a general election and her record of political demise has echoes of Tony
Blair being forced by his own cabinet to step down, who coincidently also won three elections.

Several dangers successful leaders face:

1).         They know better than anyone else – Thatcher appears to have ignored the advice of those closest
              to her and in so doing, isolated herself from the very people she needed the most.

2).         Treat people with indifference – Thatcher appears to have hurt and offended those most loyal to her and appears to have took their loyalty for granted (Geoffrey Howe, Nigel Lawson, et al).

3).         They believe their own pressThatcher was highly thought of both home and abroad. Is it possible that she thought herself invincible politically? She actually seemed surprised and hurt that she was forced out.
Legacy            - How will history remember you? -  Leadership legacy is often defined around the memorable events of your tenure. Whether it’s George Bush at a kinder garden school first being told of the 9/11 attacks, John Prescott punching a guy for throwing an egg at him or Gordon Brown calling a woman a ‘bigot’ with his lapel mike still on, these are the ‘things’ history remembers.
Loyalty           - How leaders need to be able to be influenced by the right people – You cannot take the loyalty of those who serve you faithfully, for granted. People can get hurt and offended and as a consequence change their minds about you. It seemed those who were the most loyal to Thatcher inflicted the most damage.
Whether you liked her or not, I think it is fair to pause and reflect upon her leadership in a balanced (if possible) manner. My own view having watched a number of her parliamentary debates is that “they don’t make them like that anymore”.
My prayers go out to her loved ones who may be grieving during this time, may God be merciful to all.