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Local News

April 9, 2013

Local experts: 'Iron Lady' influential, divisive

Margaret Thatcher was remembered Monday by area college professors as an influential figure in recent history, who remained divisive more than 20 years after she left office.

Cherilyn Lacy, chairwoman of the Hartwick College History Department, said Thatcher was “one of the most formidable, long-lasting politicians” in British history. Regardless of how one sees the Conservative party leader’s politics, “she was very influential,” Lacy said. 

Thatcher  was responsible for decreasing the role of the state in the economy. After World War II , industry was nationalized and a comprehensive welfare program was established. When she took office in 1979, she said “the economy couldn’t afford it.” Her solution was to recommend a return to the free market that was unpopular with a lot of people who depended on the system.

When she started to dismantle it there were a lot of complaints, but “she was not a politician to wither under criticism if she felt she had to do it. She did not back down.”

She dealt with a lot of difficult issues besides the economy, this included terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army. She presided over the British recapture of the Falkland Islands that strained relations between Britain and Argentina for quite a long time. By presenting a united front with President Ronald Reagan, she helped end the Cold War.

State University of New York at Oneonta Associate Professor of British History, Matthew Hendley, said she is a very divisive figure who “is a giant with a shadow that haunts the Conservative Party today.”

Her biggest achievement was changing the consensus that formed after World War II that created a big welfare state, with a large role for trade unions. Thatcher upended that, taming the Labor Party. “Becoming the first female prime minister of Great Britain was a big accomplishment in what what was a sexist society,” he said.

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