On a wonderful April evening in 2013, hundreds of people took to the streets of British cities. They did not hide their excellent mood, congratulated each other, drank champagne.
"Margaret Thatcher is Dead - LOL"
The reason for the celebration was the death of a man known far beyond the kingdom. In the London borough of Brixton, the crowd climbed to the roof of the Ritzy cinema and folded letters on a billboard with the inscription "Margaret Thatcher is dead - LOL". British MP from Bradford George Galloway joined the crowd by posting on social media: “Thatcher called Nelson Mandela a terrorist. I saw it myself. Let her burn in hell! " The authorities had no time for jokes. The body of the deceased was placed under special protection, fearing that the most zealous "admirers" would wish to outrage the hated politician posthumously.
In Russia, this attitude towards the "iron lady" came as a surprise to many. Throughout the 1990s, the inhabitants of the post-Soviet space were inspired by the idea of genius Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who, by betting on an ultra-liberal model in the economy, defeated the socialist bloc in the financial competition between the two systems.
But from the inside, everything did not look so rosy.
The dressmaker's daughter, "spoiled" by von Hayek
Surprisingly, the one whom the British would later call the "witch" and "oppressor of the working people" did not come from the ranks of the aristocracy.
Margaret Roberts was born on October 13, 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Her father kept a grocery store, and her mother was a dressmaker. One of the grandfathers of the future prime minister earned his living as a shoemaker, the other worked as a switchman on the railway. After graduating from primary school, the girl received a scholarship to study at the Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School. Margaret understood her place in life very well - she could not hope for someone's help. Therefore, she was a diligent student, went in for sports, attended a circle of poets.
However, her hopes of receiving a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford University were initially dashed. But luck was on the side of Margaret - one of those who were approved for the scholarship refused, and young Miss Roberts was accepted, as they say, as a “lucky loser”.
In 1944, the young lady got acquainted with the book Friedrich von Hayek The Road to Slavery. The author argued that the regulation of the economy inevitably leads to the curtailment of democratic freedoms and totalitarianism. Hayek's work, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in the 1970s, is today at least skeptical. The failure of his theoretical models in Latin America, and in the post-Soviet space, made me wonder whether his work was worth the Nobel.
However, Hayek died in 1992 when it seemed that he was 100 percent right. And his fan Margaret became one of those who brought the scientist's theories to life.
She joined the ranks of the Conservatives while still at Oxford. After university, Margaret worked as a research chemist at BX Plastics in Colchester. Having joined the active party activities, at one of the dinners she met a businessman Denis Thatcher... The divorced wealthy man soon became Margaret's life partner.
The young conservative party members "threw under the tanks" - in the general elections of February 1950 and October 1951, Roberts took part in the parliamentary elections from Dartford County, where Labor traditionally won. Of course, she did not succeed in winning, but she was able to win about 7000 votes from the enemy, which was considered a great success. After that, Margaret married Denis, having received a surname by which the whole world recognizes her.
In the 1959 elections, she gnawed out a seat in the House of Commons, after which she did not give it up until the end of her political career.
At that time, even political opponents did not hate her - rather, curiosity. Hate will come in the early 1970s when in the conservative cabinet Edward Heath she will become the Minister of Science and Education.
In her tenure, Thatcher has marked a course to reduce spending on public schools and, in particular, the abolition of free milk distribution to schoolchildren aged seven to eleven. The "grateful" British gave Maggie her first loud nickname "The Milk Thief" in her career. Even after Thatcher's death, bottles of milk were carried to her house, recalling the deeds of the 1970s. In her autobiography, Margaret describes this episode of her career as follows: “I learned a valuable lesson. Has incurred the maximum of political hatred for the minimum of political gain. "
"You can't give money to the poor"
The newspaper of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR called Thatcher the “Iron Lady” back in 1976, when Her Majesty’s opposition leader in one of his speeches issued: “The Russians are set up for world domination, and they are rapidly acquiring the funds necessary to become the most powerful imperial state, which the world has ever seen. People in the Soviet Politburo did not need to worry about the rapid change in public opinion. They chose cannons instead of butter, while for us almost everything else is more important than cannons. "
This will turn out to be a lie, because it is in Thatcher's own career that the guns will prove to be a decisive factor in success.
In 1979, becoming the first female prime minister in British history, Thatcher will begin to implement his economic postulates. The "Iron Lady" started from the ideas of monetarism, in every way relying on the notorious "invisible hand of the market, which will regulate everything by itself." The policy, which later became known as Thatcherism, proceeded from the following logic: “You cannot give money to the poor, they will squander it all. It is necessary to give money to the rich, who will invest it, after which the funds will “trickle down” to the poor. "
Thatcher's fetish was the fight against the budget deficit, for the sake of which everything was sacrificed: subsidies to state enterprises, spending on health care, education, housing and communal services, assistance to depressed regions. An ardent anti-communist, Thatcher did everything during her reign to lower the social status of skilled English workers, whom she considered an obstacle to the success of her reforms.
Little victorious war
In the 1983 elections, the Conservatives were not given a broken penny. Thatcher's social devastation was to bury her career. Only a small victorious war could save the prime minister.
On April 2, 1982, Argentine special forces landed in the British-controlled Falkland Islands. The Argentine military junta was sure that the "mistress of the seas" would be lost, since she was no longer able to fight for overseas territories.
But here Thatcher showed that it was not in vain called the "Iron Lady" - the fleet sent to the Falklands completely defeated the Argentines, returning control over them to London on June 14. The prestige cost more than 250 human lives and seven lost ships and boats.
Ordinary Britons in this sense turned out to be like Russians - having defended state prestige, Thatcher received forgiveness for her social experiments, regained her former popularity and won the elections.
Fighting the "inner enemy"
This did not soften her line in any way - on the contrary, she almost brought the country to civil war. In 2014, a draft of her speech was published, which she had to give thirty years earlier. The British premier planned a policy statement with extremely harsh criticism of the main figures of the opposition Labor Party, including its then leader Neil Kinnock. The prime minister's draft speech even featured such a phrase as "internal enemies", at times reminiscent of the Soviet "great terror" and the American "witch hunt". Thatcher was going to denounce and accuse "destroyers of democracy, leading the country to anarchy, and then to inevitable tyranny."
The situation in the country at that time was extremely tense. Thatcher's speech could have led to the transition of the confrontation into an acute phase. But less than 12 hours before the scheduled performance, there was an Irish Republican Army bombing at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where Thatcher and other Conservative leaders stayed. Five people died, another 31 were injured. After that, the Prime Minister completely rewrote the speech, deciding that attacks on Labor in such a situation could turn into disaster.
But she really waged a war against the working class. During the British miners' strike lasting a year, Thatcher said: “We had to fight the enemy outside the country, in the Falkland Islands. We must always be aware of the enemy within the country, which is more difficult to fight and which poses a greater danger to freedom. " She won by breaking the unions. Mines were closed or privatized en masse, tens of thousands of workers were thrown out onto the streets without a livelihood.
"Head tax" was the last straw
To cope with the strikes, she began to encourage the arrival of "guest workers" to the country, ready to work for a pittance. The fight against unemployment resulted in the reduction of benefits, the removal of state regulation of prices for rental housing and other measures that often turned yesterday's successful workers into "homeless". As a result, Thatcher's reign turned the "workshop of the world" into an oasis of financial speculators who make money out of money.
The "Iron Lady" still managed to get hold of her compatriots. She promoted the so-called "poll tax". Instead of a tax proportional to the cost of housing, the British had to pay tax to the local budget based on how many adults live in the apartment. That is, a lonely billionaire living in a luxurious 15-room apartment paid less than a large family huddled in a "one-room apartment". In 1989 this type of tax was introduced in Scotland and in 1990 in England and Wales.
Even party members warned Thatcher that this time she was over the top. But Maggie just brushed it off. And on March 31, 1990, in London, the police had to brush them off with rubber truncheons. More than 70 thousand angry British people went to a demonstration against the "poll tax". In Trafalgar Square, real street battles unfolded, in which more than a hundred people were injured.
The level of support for the conservatives declined dramatically. Polls showed Labor had a 15-18 percent margin, but Thatcher said she was not going to back down.
And then in her own party there was actually a coup, the purpose of which was to remove the "Iron Lady". On November 28, 1990, Thatcher, finding herself alone against all, resigned from the post of prime minister. New Conservative leader John Majorby abandoning the "poll tax", he was able to lead the conservatives to victory in the 1992 elections.
"Ding-dong, the witch is dead!"
In retirement, Thatcher did not change at all - she called for the use of military force against the Serbs in the Bosnian War, stood up for the Chilean ex-dictator arrested by the Spanish authorities Augusto Pinochetdemanded overthrow Saddam Hussein...
In 2004, the "Iron Lady" had to rescue her own offspring. Her son Mark Thatcher was arrested on charges of involvement in a coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. The sponsors of the coup hoped to get access to oil production from the new authorities on preferential terms. But in the end, Mark almost sat down and only thanks to the intercession of his mother got off with a fine and suspended sentence.
After the story with her son, doctors who observed the ex-prime minister diagnosed her with progressive dementia. There was no longer any husband or loyal friend and ally in the fight against communism, Ronald Reagan. Despite the veneration at the state level, the end of Thatcher's life was unenviable - an elderly woman, increasingly talking with ghosts, was surrounded by only paid nurses.
For health reasons, the "Iron Lady" was unable to attend either the celebrations in honor of her own 85th birthday, or the royal wedding of the prince William and Katherine Middleton...
The last months of her life, Thatcher shuttled between the hospital and the apartments of the London Ritz Hotel - they did not risk taking her further from medical care. On April 8, 2013, a stroke put an end to her biography. "Ding-dong, the witch is dead!" - the British sang a song from the movie "The Wizard of Oz". The hit picture, which was released in 1939, in the spring of 2013 reached # 2 on the British music charts.