EADT ‘Letter from Brussels’ : She Saved our Country

This letter from Brussels talks about the overwhelmingly positive legacy Baroness Thatcher has left our country.


As I sat beneath the magnificent dome of St Paul's last Wednesday morning, I felt honoured to be able to offer my grateful respects to Baroness Thatcher. Our national homage gave us all a chance to reflect on her leadership. I have no doubt that she saved our country.


I cast my mind back to the 1970s. Remember, if you wanted to go on holiday abroad, you'd only be allowed £50 worth of foreign currency. Think of our economy sliding hopelessly downhill, crippled by strikes, regarded as the basket case of Europe. Imagine living under the constant threat of IRA terrorism and nuclear war, with a dozen European countries and over 200 million people living behind communist barbed wire - not including Soviet Russia itself.  That was the situation that confronted Margaret Thatcher in 1979.


When she came to power there were 29 million working days a year lost from strikes.   This was down to 4 million by the time she left. She broke the power of the Marxist union barons - not all, but most - and that enabled our economy to begin to prosper once more. Arm in arm with President Reagan, she faced down the Soviet threat, identified Gorbachev as a man to do business with, and was key to defeating communism and ending the Cold War. She was instrumental in the release of Nelson Mandela. And, against all odds, it was Margaret Thatcher's principled leadership that led to the liberation of the Falklands - and Argentina!  She gave us back our national self-confidence and international prestige.


She believed in our country. She had confidence in our future, built on our proud history, enduring institutions and the common sense of our people.  She began to release whole sectors of the economy from the dead hand of socialistic state control - the effect was to double income per head. She also believed in duty and personal responsibility. Enabling people to buy their council houses  and own shares, she felt, would give them both personal freedom and a stake in the economy. Home ownership rose massively to 66% of the population. Ownership of shares went from 7% to 20%.


She had great concern for the weakest and poorest. The answer to their plight was a more successful overall economy, not redistribution of a shrinking budget.


So what about all the black propaganda - the malicious myth of Thatcher as a destroyer, callously closing mines and wreaking havoc on industry. Harold Wilson's governments closed 290 pits, Maggie just 154. Industrial output was 7 % up by 1990 compared with 1979.


Her vision of Europe was set out in her Bruges speech of September 1988 -  a community of sovereign nations, encouraging enterprise, removing barriers to trade, defence through NATO, and a strengthened Atlantic community.


Margaret Thatcher's instincts and vision, and her faith in our country, remain appropriate today and over this past week resonated across our country and around the world.


Geoffrey Van Orden is the Conservative MEP focusing on Essex and Suffolk. He can be contacted at geoffrey.vanorden@europarl.europa.eu and at www.geoffreyvanorden.com



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