The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher

Posted on August 25, 2012 04:26 pm
           Margaret Thatcher’s The downing street years front cover

My aged capitalist father, Harrison senior was a fan of Margaret Thatcher, the former British premier and Tory party member. As I grew up in 1980s, my father would initiate debates about the political situation in the west at the time, but little did I know who the “iron lady” was until I read a book he bought in 1994 published by the New York Times about Margaret Thatcher memoirs in 2001. The Downing Street Years of Margaret Thatcher provided me with a riveting inside look at her role as a world leader and the events and personalities that shaped her years as Britain’s prime minister and have enough know how why my father was an ardent of her during her reign at downing street.It is also more than 30 years since Margaret Thatcher was elected to office. Lady Thatcher became Britain’s longest serving prime minister of recent times and the West’s first female head of government which was convincing enough to buy this book.

The book has what literary critics call grasshopper approach to subjects, with separate sections following each other without order that is bit confusing. Also, there is too much of her international visits and the account of her first World Economic Summit in Tokyo in 1979 all the way to the twelfth one at Houston in 1990 with weariness. Practically, I found no sense of perspective and there was less a reflective appraisal of “iron lady”own successes and failures, weaknesses and strengths.There is however fascinating insights on how she made tough decisions and upheld them.Like all political memoirs, this is mostly self-serving and its clear that structurally, the weaknesses of the book are threefold that I had mentioned in previous paragraph.

Margaret Thatcher addressing UN in 1989

If you admired Margaret Thatcher, like my father and as I do, and think she was correct, and I do just like my father, then you’ll find the book engaging, enlightening, sometimes entertaining, and, in parts, oddly endearing. What is remarkable about this extensive overview of domestic, European, and foreign affairs is the candid assessments she laid down and gave opinions on other political figures without any diplomatic varnish at all, but she is also willing to acknowledge admirable traits, even of long-standing adversaries. In dealing with economic reforms, effectively explain aspects of Thatcher beliefs that have been twisted or misunderstood and the book gave me an insight that she’s no fan of speculators.

Contrary to what I had known before reading the book, Thatcherism was not a get rich quick scheme and there are some solid moral and economic principles that brokers, business class, bankers especially in London choose to ignore.Whether you like it or not, Thatcher was a giant of post-war politics and a true world-figure and she altered the landscape of British politics and the economy, she was crucial to the defeat of communism in Europe, and she saved the UK from the Euro. This book also provided me with some background information as to why some fairly unpopular decisions were made by Thatcher government and gave background on the Community Charge, the Miners strike and the Falklands War with Argentina.

The back cover of the book

Shamefully, Thatcher doesn’t talk about her children but I was impressed read her admiration and respect for her husband Dennis. There is no doubt that Thatcher was and will remain one of the most remarkable woman who had the courage of her convictions, the integrity to carry the weight of her decisions and the confidence to stand by what she believed even when it was sometimes alone.The book also highlights Thatcher principles of thrift and ‘waste not want not’ which are universal truths for those who believe in sound economics and not the ‘lend to have it now’ philosophy that has ruined European Union member countries of Greece, Spain and Italy. Reading the book, it is clear Thatcher Judging was incredibly accurate taking into consideration the current Euro rescue plans and member states financial crisis.

In one of the iconic images published in the book,this one with Ronal Reagan caught my attention going by the fact that they were not bedfellows

Thatcher’s books is a must read of how by sheer will power, she changed the face of Great Britain domestically and Internationally forever.In my conclusion and having read various state leaders memoirs, I can confidently say that she was one of the most forceful and outspoken British heads of State since Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher earned her reputation through plain speaking and decisive action. One of the reason I say so, is that she was one of the few political world figures who had the courage to suggest that the Western allies bomb Serbian strongholds in the name of humanity.Thatcher wrote her memoirs, The Downing Street Years in her own characteristically forthright and somewhat abrasive manner and provides the much anticipated documentation of her years as Prime Minister,a tenure that spanned more than a decade and three US Presidents namely; Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H Bush.The Downing Street Years makes for politically charged reading because the author deliver full and frank accounts of her dealings with the three aforementioned Presidents and what she thinks of them as well as her own ministers and countless other international political figures, ranging from Giscard d’Estaing, Boris Yelstin, Francois Mitterand, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, Indira Ghandi and former Russian strongman Mikhail Gorbachev.On the downside, the book was written with a scientific detachment and shows Thatcher’s total lack of artistry and appears to be utterly void of emotions. The book has made me realize what a phenomenal leader Margaret Thatcher was.

Contador Harrison