Celebrants of the Thatcher era often point to the fact that she won three successive General Elections, even though many of her government's policies were highly unpopular, leading them to claim that these electoral successes were a sign of her inherent "greatness". Any such claims though, overlook the obvious fact that the Conservative "brand" and most of its various constituency MP's were far more popular individually than Margaret Thatcher was as a national party leader. Even her more favourable standing today, some 20-odd years after she left finally office is thought to be due to the fact that her modern successors are so dire in comparison to her, in terms of their personalities, their ideas and their convictions, rather than reflecting a general desire for the country to return to a more "Thatcherite" era. In fact, the only recent politician to have come close to achieving Thatcher's political stature has been the New Labour leader, Tony Blair, who successfully managed to re-package and re-cast many of the earlier free-market, monetarist policies of Thatcher for a new generation of British voters. Blair's and New Labour's great illusion was to convince a vast majority of the electorate that what "walked like a duck, quacked like a duck and looked like a duck", was in fact anything but a duck; and with much of the country desperate for a change after 18 years of Tory rule, most of us missed the fact that rather than being dead, Thatcherism had just been revamped for the 21st century.
In a funny sort of way, had Margaret Thatcher been a police officer and her two greatest "successes", the Miners Strike and The Falklands Conflict been law enforcement operations, then the chances are that they would have been thrown out of court on the basis of one of them being a case of deliberate "entrapment", whilst the other was the result of her own sheer personal vanity. According to some historians, with the previously mentioned Ridley Plan in place, it has been suggested that Thatcher purposefully and wilfully picked a fight with the NUM, knowing that they and their leadership would willingly oblige, bearing in mind that not only their jobs, but the lives of their communities were at stake. Like poking a highly irascible guard-dog with a sharp stick, Thatcher and her ministers picked the time and the place for their defining battle with the Trade Unions, confident that their newly introduced Employment Acts, the secretly collected coal stocks; the highly discriminatory benefit rules; and the thousands of highly motivated police militia's that had been put on standby at highly attractive pay rates, would be more than sufficient to effectively crush any union opposition to the government's plans.
Bearing in mind that such events tumultuous events took place before the dawn of the internet and the 24-hour-a-day news that it allows us today, most of us were informed by the same MSM that exists today, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Express, The Sun and The Mirror, most of which had a strong right-wing bias, simply because of their owners personal and commercial ties to the Conservative Party. So it was never going to be the case that the general public were told the whole truth about the causes of the Miners Strike, only a politically slanted version of the truth, one where the Miners and their causes were bad; while the government and their reasoning were good.
Although nobody would suggest that unionised labour should have the right to usurp a democratically elected government, modern thinking suggests that consensus, rather than conflict is the equitable way to move forward. Unfortunately, neither Thatcher, nor the Miners leadership of the time were in any mood to compromise, even if that had been the right thing to do. It goes without saying that the most successful European economy, Germany, has built much of its economic and social success around consensus politics, in the country and in the workplace, something that Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill were obviously unwilling to do, perhaps suggesting that both in their turn were completely unsuitable for their roles and for the times that they lived in. It is often an unknown fact that in reality Arthur Scargill had little power to hold a national ballot amongst Britain's coalminers, simply because he had no right to demand one. Apparently, under the terms of the NUM's rules, each region operated as an individual representative body, meaning that any strike ballots were supposed to be held locally, not nationally, as was being commonly reported by the UK's MSM of the time. It also appears to have been the case that just like in the best spy novels of the time, the Thatcher government and its allies were more than content to use police and security service personnel to both infiltrate and monitor various branches of the NUM, whilst at the same time individual members of the Conservative Party were reportedly carrying out their own covert operations against the miners, in order to guarantee the government some form of winning strategy. Clearly then, Margaret Thatcher was determined not to suffer a similar fate to her political predecessors, of having her government brought down by elements of Britain's Trade Union Movement, some of the same people who would later go on to nominate and support Tony Blair, first as Labour Party leader and then later as Prime Minister.
No doubt many would look back on the years of our country's industrial unrest, with the lights going out, the rubbish not being collected, factories being forced to work a 3-day-week and the dead not being buried; and would come to the conclusion that Thatcher was right to crush the power of our apparently out-of-control Trade Union Movement. Most of us who lived through that period believed that to be the case, largely because we either believed the distorted truths that were being published in most of the MSM of the time, because we didn't agree with the often strident and confrontational politics of some of the more high profile union leaders, or because we simply didn't believe the stark warnings of some within the TUC movement that the Thatcher regime was not only intent on the wholesale de-industrialisation and privatisation of Britain's manufacturing base, but would go on to create the basis for one of the most unequal, divided, mistreated and surveilled societies in Western Europe, if not in the world.
That other great event of Margaret Thatcher's period of office was undoubtedly the Falklands Conflict, which not only cost hundreds of lives on both sides of the conflict, but also cost millions of pounds to both country's economies. Britain's overall attitude to the Falklands was generally one of indifference; and although a minimal amount of expense and resources were spent on the islands, as per their status of an Overseas British Territory, it was only when the Thatcher government came to power in 1979 that events began to transpire that finally brought these faraway windswept islands fully into the British public's consciousness. As part of a large scale financial reorganisation of the Armed Forces, including the Royal Navy, the Thatcher administration planned to withdraw HMS Endurance from the region, leading the ruling military junta in Argentina to believe that the UK had little strategic interest in the islands. In the same year, 1981, Thatcher and her ministers also introduced the British Nationality Act, which reduced the rights and entitlements of the Falkland Islander's, further adding to the Argentine leader's belief that any military seizure of the disputed territory by their Armed Forces would be largely ignored by a British government, 8,000 miles away in London.
Serious miscalculations by successive governments, lead by both James Callaghan and later Margaret Thatcher almost guaranteed that a highly unpopular Argentine military junta would attempt to seize the islands at some point in time, in the hope that Britain would simply shrug its shoulders, or agree to negotiate away the island's sovereignty, rather than send its naval forces halfway across the world. Clearly, those avid supporters of the cult of Thatcher would have us believe that the "Iron Lady" had absolutely no idea that a planned withdrawal of HMS Endurance and a proposed downgrading of the Falkland Islander's citizenship status would result in an Argentine invasion, which as it turned out happened to be a fatal miscalculation by the supposedly "great" British Premier. As she was to prove on a number of occasions, in other areas of government policy, it was often her own personal conceit which lead to instances of conflict and adversity that might well have been avoided; and proven to be a whole lot cheaper, had she been a little less dogmatic.
With hindsight, it is perhaps also worth remembering that despite the distances involved, our own Armed Forces, who are some of the very best in the world; and with some of the best equipment devised, were not actually facing a similar professional army, but rather a rag-tag collection of poorly lead conscripts, who had little interest in conquering anything, never mind a collection of windswept islands in the South Atlantic. This is not to diminish or undermine the role of our soldiers, sailors and airmen who risked and occasionally sacrificed their lives to restore the principles of international law; and protect the rights of the Falkland Islander's to self-determination over their future rights. All too often our servicemen and women are called upon to pay the price demanded by the policies of some or other misguided British politician, who have little knowledge of or interest in the "cost in British blood" that their adventurism will require, as we have subsequently discovered to our cost in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Britain was right to confront the Argentine Junta, over their illegal military seizure of the Falkland's in 1982, a "great" political leader would never have allowed a foreign state to believe that our country was so weak, or so unprincipled, in the first place.