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THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER

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Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013) is a titan of world politics. A conservative heavyweight who effectively championed the conservative ethos in the public sphere and, in doing so, managed to transform her country for the better.

Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13th, 1925 above a green grocer’s store in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Thatcher was an ambitious and driven student who won scholarships to Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ school and Oxford University. After university, Thatcher worked as a chemist but abandoned it to study for the legal bar after meeting her husband Dennis Thatcher (1915 -2003), whom she married in 1954. Thatcher became a fully qualified lawyer that same year. Thatcher became the Conservative member for Finchley in 1959.

During her rise to power, Thatcher was not massively popular. Facing oppositions because of her gender – when she was elected she was one of only twenty-four female Parliamentarians (out of six-hundred members) and, even more unusually, was the mother of twins – and her social class. The Conservative Party had not changed its structure since the 19th century. She was often denounced as the “grocer’s daughter”, one conservative politician even commented that she was “a good-looking woman without doubt, but common as dirt.” In spite of these barriers, Thatcher managed to rise through numerous junior ministerial positions to become the shadow education spokeswoman in 1967. She became the Secretary of State for Education and Science when Edward Heath (1916 – 2005) became Prime Minister in June of 1970. Thatcher became the leader of the Conservative Party in 1975.

Margaret Thatcher was conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990 and in her time, she changed Britain and helped define the times she lived in. Thatcher became Prime Minister after defeating James Callaghan (1912 – 2005) with a seven percent majority. There were many reasons for the conservative victory, the main ones being economic failure and the lack of union control. Thatcher was seen as aggressive but also as something of a paradox. She was the first scientist in Downing Street and was enthusiastic in pushing Great Britain’s technological innovations forward, but was an anti-counterculture revolutionary who opposed trade unions and the socialism they represented.

During Thatcher’s first term, however, it was the economy that needed the most attention. By the late 1970s inflation in Great Britain had peaked at twenty percent due to rising oil prices and wage-push inflation. The once mighty nation had become known as the ‘sick man of Europe’. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, by 1980/81 Britain was suffering from downward trends in employment and productivity. The great industrial cities were in decline. Glasgow, for example, had seen a decline in its population from 1.2 million following World War One to eight hundred thousand in the early 1980s. In some areas of Glasgow, male unemployment would remain at between sixty and seventy percent throughout the 1980s.  The director of the Department of Applied Economics, Wayne Godfrey, stated on the prospect of the 1980s: “it is a prospect so dreadful I cannot really believe there won’t be a sort of political revolution which will demand a basic change to policy.”

Inflation, particularly cost-push inflation, was seen as the biggest enemy. However, Thatcher knew that tackling inflation would require restricting the flow of money and causing mass job losses. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make. The government had a three-step process for tackling the issue. First, they increased interest rates. Second, they reduced the budget deficit by raising taxes and cutting government spending. Third, they pursued monetarist policies to control the supply of money. Despite great job losses, the economy slowly improved over Thatcher’s first two years in power.

In 1981, however, her policies caused a recession and unemployment peaked at three million. In fact, unemployment would remain a characteristic of the 1980s. Following the recession, Great Britain saw a period of economic growth with inflation dropping below four percent, although unemployment soared to 3.2 million before easing off a little. It is also of note that despite the mass unemployment, average earnings were, in fact, rising twice as fast inflation and those in employment had it better than ever. The Secretary of Transport, David Howell (1936 – ), stated in 1983: “if the conservative revolution has an infantry, it is the self-employed. It is in the growth of the self-employed, spreading out to small family businesses, that the job opportunities of the future are going to come.”  Thatcher’s biggest achievement in her first term, and the one which endeared her most to the British public was the Falklands War. Following the Argentinean surrender in 1982, Thatcher stated: “today has put the great back into Britain.” The Falklands War rekindled the British public’s pride in her navy and in the nation, itself.

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The Conservative Party won the 1983 election by an overwhelming majority. Thatcher had become the uncontested leader and saviour of the Conservative Party. Thatcher used the victory as an opportunity to change the configuration of the Conservative Party and reshape it in her image. She fired Foreign Secretary, Francis Pym (1922 – 2008) and sent the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw (1918 – 1999) to the House of Lords. Having ended the ancien regime, she refilled the front bench with dedicated Thatcherites. Only one old Etonian remained: Lord Chancellor Hailsham (1907 – 2001), who was eighty-five at the time. Thatcher then embarked on a policy of privatisation and deregulation with the intention of decreasing dependency on the government and encouraging personal responsibility.  Critics accused Thatcher of attempting to dismantle the welfare state and refusing to provide a base safety net for those down on their luck.  Unusually for an anti-socialist, Thatcher established the Greater London Council along with six metropolitan councils in an attempt to control local councils from Whitehall.

The conservatives won the 1987 election having lost twenty-one seats, but with a majority of more than one hundred. Thatcher focused on social issues and embarked on a program for social engineering. This was a seven-step process. First, the program actively encouraged women to stay at home and look after their children rather than join the workforce. Second, the program suggested putting the care of the old, unemployed and disabled into the hands of families. Third, the program suggested helping parents set up their own schools. Fourth, the program suggested providing support for schools with a clear, moral base, including religious schools. Fifth, the program suggested creating a voucher system to encourage parents to send their children to private schools. Sixth, the program suggested training children in the management of pocket money and the setting up of savings accounts. Seventh, the program wished to alter the way the public viewed wealth creation so that it would be seen as an admirable pursuit. Thatcher’s tenor as Prime Minister ended when she stood down from cabinet after her party refused to support her in a second round of leadership challenges. She was replaced by John Major (1943 – ).

After leaving office, Thatcher wrote two memoirs: The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995). Thatcher was known as many things, including ‘The Last of the Eminent Victorians’, ‘New Britannia’, and, most famously, ‘The Iron Lady’. However, despite her many years in politics and her eleven years as Prime Minister, Thatcher was never a populist. This was probably because of her deep personal convictions which were stronger than her fear of the consequences. Thatcher did, however, demand and receive respect from the public. Satire almost always focused on her husband Dennis rather than on her. It is also worth noting that in her time Thatcher never lost an election. As a politician, Thatcher revolutionised political debate, transformed the Conservative Party, and altered many aspects of British life that had long been deemed permanent. Paul Johnson (1928 – ), a prominent English journalist, stated on Thatcher’s abilities as a politician: “though it is true in Margaret Thatcher’s case, she does have two advantages. She did start quite young. She does possess the most remarkable physical stamina of any politician I’ve come across.” In her time, Thatcher was determined to curb government subsidies to industry and to end the power of the trade unions. She made the trade unions liable for damages if their actions became unlawful and forced the Labour Party to modernise itself. Margaret Thatcher was an impressive and important Prime Minister whose political career and personality helped change Great Britain for the better.

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TERRORIST ATTACK IN LONDON

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Terrorists have detonated a bomb on the eastbound district line train at the Parsons Green Tube in West London.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing loud bangs coming from a bucket, possibly an improvised explosive device, located towards the rear of the train around 8am, British time. One eyewitness told Sky News that they reported seeing a “white builder’s bucket” with a “foiled carrier back” (possibly a Lidl supermarket carrier bag). This bucket has also been described as having “wires hanging from it and a strong smell of chemicals… a chemical smell more than a burning smell.”

One witness told BBC 5:

“I heard a really loud explosion – when I looked back there appeared to be a bag but I don’t know if it’s associated with it. I saw people with minor injuries, burnings to the face, arms, legs,  multiple casualties in that way.  People were helping each other.”

Another witness said:

“There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood. One guy I saw, his face was covered in blood – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes of the blast. The explosion and subsequent stampede caused injuries to twenty-two people. Fortunately, no one has been killed and none of the injuries have been described as life-threatening or critical.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through their Amaq News Agency on Friday evening. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has raised the UK’s terror threat level from severe to critical.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has raised the UK’s terror threat level from severe to critical. May offered her thoughts to “those injured Parsons Green emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident.” Scotland Yard, meanwhile, has confirmed that they are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

Over in the US, the Trump administration stated that President Trump’s:

“Sympathies and prayers for those injured in the terrorist attack today in London.  The president pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks  worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism.”

President Trump stated in a speech at Joint Base Andrew that he expressed:

“America’s deepest sympathy as well as our absolute commitment to eradicating the terrorists from  our planet.”

NORTH KOREA TESTS HYDROGEN BOMB

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South Korean officials have confirmed that a blast at a North Korean nuclear testing site was caused by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

According to the South Korean newswire service, Yonhap, officials observed a 5.7 magnitude seismic event near the Punngye-ri nuclear testing site at about 12.30pm, local time. Tremors could even be felt in north east China.

North Korean state television announced the test to be ‘a perfect success’ and even published photographs of Kim Jong Un directing the test.  North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodogon Sinmun, reported on Sunday:

“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ranging from the production  of weapons-grade nuclear materials to precision processing of components and their assembling  were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as  many as it wants.”

The United Nations has issued a statement, passed by all fifteen members, condemned North Korea and has accused them of “deliberately undermining regional peace and stability and [having] caused grave security concerns around the world.”

Donald Turk, President of the European Council, released a statement condemning North Korea:

“The EU stands ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions and invites North Korea to restart dialogue on its programmes without condition. We call on the UN Security Council to adopt  further U.N. sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of  the Korean peninsula.”

British Prime Minister, Teresa May, stated:

“The international community has universally condemned this test and must come together to continue  to increase the pressure on North Korea’s leaders to stop their destabilizing actions.”

French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated:

“The international community needs to deal with this latest provocation with the greatest firmness,  so that North Korea will restart dialogue without conditions and proceed with the complete,  verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.”

President Donald Trump tweeted:

“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”

President Trump continued:

“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis, has met with President Trump and Vice President, Mike Pence, to discuss the situation. Outside the White House, Mattis made a brief statement:

“We have many military options, and the President wanted to be briefed on each of them.”

Mattis continued:

“We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among our allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming.”

Mattis continued:

“Kim Jong-un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members  unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses, and they remain unanimous in their commitment  to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, because we are not looking to the total  annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”

Republican Senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, told NBC’s Meet the Press that nearby countries should do everything in their power to force North Korea to ease tensions. According to Blunt, the rogue communist state has been a topic of discussion in Senate Intelligence Committee meetings. Blunt said:

“In the intel committee that I serve on, I think it doesn’t disclose anything to say in that in the last year this has probably been the number one topic month after month –  what was happening there, what are we going to do about it – and I hope the neighbourhood understands how critical this is.”

Blunt went on to refer to Kim Jong Un as “spoiled and reckless”:

“You’ve got a leader who is both spoiled and reckless. Spoiled and reckless is not a unique thing to find in the world today, but it is unique with somebody who has control of what may now be hydrogen weapons.”

The US is strongly considering issuing further trade sanctions to cut off North Korea. These sanctions may include Chinese banks and businesses doing trade with North Korea. US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday:

“We are going to strongly consider everything at this point and, again, I will draft a package  for [President Trump’s’ strong consideration that would go as far as cutting off all trade and  other business.”