International Women’s Day 2023 – Who Inspires You?
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, Trainee Solicitor, Michael Radze-Constable discusses who inspires him…
To celebrate International Women’s Day, my colleagues and I take the time to consider who inspires us. I have decided to choose the inspiring Margaret Thatcher. I have chosen the most admired, most hated, most idolised and most vilified public figure of the second half of the twentieth century.
Why Is Margaret Inspirational To Me?
Her Challenging of Patriarchy
“I don’t think there will be a woman Prime Minister in my lifetime” stated Margaret Hilda Thatcher in 1973. 6 years later on 4th May 1979, Thatcher arrived at 10 Downing Street to commence her reign as the longest-serving Prime Minister of the 20th Century.
Her path to power stood in stark contrast to your typical Prime Minister of the period. Four of the previous five Conservative Prime Ministers were educated at the expensive, exclusive and illustrious Eton School. Thatcher, born to a humble greengrocer, displayed a hard-working and aspirational mindset, winning a scholarship to study Chemistry at Oxford. After working as a research chemist to produce ice cream, she stood as the Conservative candidate for Dartford in the 1950 and 1951 elections. She was the youngest and only female candidate. This did not deter her; prospective candidate Bill Deeds noted that “once she opened her mouth, the rest of us began to look rather second-rate”.
Her Determined Spirit
Thatcher saw 1945 to 1979 as 34 wasted years. Governments subscribed to a system of “consensus politics”; no major variations regarding economic policies, regardless of which political party was in power. This system was considered ineffective, yet provided a safe, cautious and uncontroversial agenda for the 7 prime ministers that preceded Thatcher. She bravely began dismantling the decades that proceeded her, seeing those times as “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead”.
Her new style of government was initially deemed a failure, with her job approval rating falling to 23% in December 1980 (lower than ever recorded for any previous Prime Minister). Thatcher persisted; “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning”. Thatcher was acronymed TINA (There Is No Alternative). Her policies gained traction, and her resolute leadership led to victory in the 1982 Falklands War. She was dubbed “The Iron Lady” and considered the most powerful woman of the 1980s. Dominant election wins followed in 1983 and 1987, making Thatcher one of the most electorally successful Prime Ministers of all time. Rather than U-Turning, the British people U-turned on her. Policies such as the Right to Buy (in which council house tenants could purchase their house from the Local Authority at a discount) and deregulation of the stock market led to a growing number of working class Thatcherites, who saw Thatcher as a provider of equal opportunities for those seeking social mobility.
Her Legacy and Ability to Achieve True Change
The odds were against Thatcher in 1979. The First Female Candidate running for office stood against a then dominant force in British Politics; The Labour party having won the largest number of seats in four of the previous five elections. However, by the time Labour regained power in 1997, the success of Thatcherism as an ideal forced the party to adapt in dramatic fashion. Tony Blair believed his job was to build on Thatcher policies, stating she was a “towering political figure” who left a worldwide legacy. Following Thatcher’s death in 2013, graffiti in Trafalgar Square hoped that she would “rot in hell”, street parties were held across Britain, and celebrations took place in Glasgow, Brixton, Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds, Belfast and Cardiff. Thatcher would most likely not have been too troubled. Following an assassination attempt by the IRA in 1984, in which her hotel was subject to a detonating bomb, Thatcher, who had already been working through the night, continued with her planned conference in the morning with a coolness which personified her life as a lady who overcame extreme adversity to achieve ambitions which she thought not even possible as a 1970s woman in a world dominated by Etonian men. After her resignation in 1990, it would take another 26 years for another Female Prime Minister to surface in the UK.
Margaret Thatcher didn’t see another female Prime Minister in her lifetime. She was ahead of her time and this is why I chose ‘The Iron Lady’ to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.