At the time of the 1982 Falklands War, Britain’s Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher. It was she who issued orders to the country’s military to take back the Falkland Islands and it was this tenacity that was seen as being the epitome of the ‘Falklands Spirit.’
Born on 13 October 1925, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, Margaret Thatcher (maiden name Roberts), was schooled at Grantham Girls’ High School and later studied Chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford University. It was while she was at Oxford that Thatcher first became involved with the University’s Conservative Association, becoming its president. She was elected as Member of Parliament in the House of Commons in 1959, first holding a series of junior positions and then being offered the position of Education Secretary in 1970, under the then Prime Minister Edward Heath. One of the more unpopular moves she made while holding the position of Education Secretary was removing the free milk given to school children.
Thatcher stood for leadership of the Conservative Party in February of 1975, going against Heath, and emerged triumphant. Her party won the 1979 election, against the Labour Party and went on to win twice more, in 1983 and 1987, against a backdrop of disarray and splits within the opposing Labour Party. She was extremely well respected for her leadership of Britain when the 1982 Falklands War was taking place and many British people rallied behind the Government.
The Conservative Government began rolling out reforms in the 1980’s in a bid to ensure people were not so reliant on state handouts and other benefits. These cuts did lead to a boost in unemployment, especially in areas that were weighted with Labour voters, or blue collar workers. Thatcher was seen as dividing Britain into those who supported her and those who railed against the changes she and her party were making to the country.
Sir Geoffrey Howe, Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, handed in his resignation in November of 1990 as a result of his disagreement with Thatcher’s attitude towards Europe. This was the first step in a series of events that led to Thatcher’s eventual downfall. First, Michael Heseltine went up against Thatcher for leadership of the Conservative Party, winning 152 seats, but not winning the leadership. However, what this did reveal was that Thatcher – who polled 204 votes - was no longer seen as the invincible option. It was at the time of the second party leader ballot that Thatcher decided not to stand for leader, and John Major was selected as her replacement.
1992 was the year that Thatcher took her leave from the House of Commons but remained a presence within the Conservative Party. She holds a record that is currently unbroken, that of being Britain’s Prime Minister for 11 years and 209 days and was made the first Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter outside of the royal family, in 1995. She died on 8 April 2013 at the age of 87 and the Queen led the mourners at her funeral, showing just what an impact the Iron Lady had on the world of British politics.
See also: Sir John Nott
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