It has been almost 23 years since Lady Margaret Thatcher left 10 Downing Street and more than 10 years since she retired from politics completely. What is it about this leader that keeps her in the headlines and sparks both debate and praise throughout the world?
According to Robin Harris, maybe it’s because “she simply wanted to remind people in all walks of life that no one owed them a living.” This has always been a difficult sales pitch and a discussion that continues on today as strong as ever.
Harris was both the personal confidant and trusted adviser of Lady Thatcher and began his most recent book, Not for Turning, in 2005 with her cooperation. During his recent book signing at The Heritage Foundation, Harris spoke with firsthand knowledge of the woman behind the policies—of her honesty and frank personality, her kindness and moral courage.
Thatcher was a true leader and, as such, often took it upon herself to make the difficult or unpopular decisions. This willingness to fight the good fight was not the result of intellect and bravery alone but what Harris describes as the much more rare quality of moral courage. This is what made Lady Thatcher both such an incredible leader and contentious national figurehead. According to Harris, her number one priority was to advance British interests. This end goal was more important than coddling party leaders or adhering to the conventions of political protocol—and occasionally even more important than the opinion of the British people themselves.
The ultimate power of Thatcher stemmed from this fierceness and determination. As Harris puts it, “her power of personality and the fire of her energy overwhelmed friend and foe alike.” Luckily for the free world, Lady Thatcher used this energy to help rid Britain of socialism and advance the ideas of individual responsibility and self-improvement.
Maybe our modern politicians should take a page from Lady Thatcher’s playbook and stand up for what’s right even if it’s unpopular. After all, she is considered the greatest British prime minister since 1945.
Harris is the author of numerous books and articles regarding foreign policy and conservative ideology. He was director of the Conservative Research Department from 1985 to 1988 and served on Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Unit from 1989 to 1990. He also helped Lady Thatcher write two books, Downing Street Years and Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World. Harris is a Commander of the U.K.’s Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an honor he received for political and public service.
Paige Haynes is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.