Margaret Thatcher, Baroness (1925- ). British politician; prime minister (1979-90). The daughter of a grocer, she graduated in chemistry from Oxford. After working as a barrister, she entered Parliament in 1959 as a Conservative. She was a member of the Cabinet (1970-74) and succeeded Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party (1975). Following the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election, she became Britain’s first woman prime minister. During her first term of office Thatcher adopted a policy of tight monetary. control and cuts in government expenditure; this had some success in reducing inflation but caused very high unemployment. In foreign affairs she took a strong anti-Soviet stance, leading to her nickname the Iron Lady’. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, she dispatched a large naval task force; victory in the Falklands War contributed significantly to her re-election by a landslide in 1983. During her second term Thatcher cut income tax and embarked on an ambitious policy of privatizing nationalized industries. She also reduced trade-union powers, defeating a year-long miners’ strike in 1984-85. Although unemployment remained high, more prosperous parts of the country enjoyed a short-lived economic boom, leading to a third Conservative victory in 1987. The following year Thatcher became Britain’s longest-serving prime minister of the century. During her third term, however, Thatcher’s autocratic style made her increasingly unpopular. The imposition of a poll tax to finance local government in 1989-90 led to widespread protests and predictions that the Conservatives could not be re-elected with her as leader. At the same time, her hostile attitude towards the EC split the Cabinet and party, provoking Michael Heseltine to challenge her for the leadership in November 1990. When she failed to win an outright victory, she resigned. She entered the House of Lords in 1992.
“This woman is headstrong, obstinate, and dangerously self-opinionated. Report by the personnel department at ICI, rejecting the young Margaret Thatcher’s application for a job (1948)”