The U.K. had become close to a socialist state under the Labour Party rule in the post-war period. Labour union demands were so excessive that many companies and entire industries were on the verge of bankruptcy. One long and violent strike against Ford in the Midlands nearly destroyed the company and all the thousands of jobs. Thatcher took the high road and tossed a program so far from the current points of view that it took the air out of both Labor Unions and Labor Party bosses. Many of us feared for her safety. Fire bombs were frequently used, cars smashed. It was an ugly time.
No question in my mind, and I did appear before high level parliamentary committees, that by her strong positions she did bring a sense of rationality to a chaotic situation. She overturned as many ‘nanny state’ programs as she could. The National Health Service was a major target, but the key from my point of view was her taking on the existing labor laws and tearing them apart from their socialist principles. This was tough and down and dirty, but she won, and broke the back of the most radical left unions because she got the UK population to see her points of view.
Margaret Thatcher was a great leader and her kind has not been replicated, no matter how hard Angela Merkel tries.
James is executive director of the Center for Global Governance, Reporting and Regulation at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York City with over 40 years of experience as an author and consultant in Europe, Asia, and the United States, and as an instructor at leading European business schools. He is also program director of Pace University's Certified Compliance and Regulatory Professional certificate program.