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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
What is Baroness Thatcher's influence?
Baroness Thatcher
Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher is celebrating her 80th birthday.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, as well as Prime Minister Tony Blair, will be among 650 guests attending a party in London.

As Britain's longest serving Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher's influence can still be felt in politics and society.

What are your thoughts as Baroness Thatcher celebrates her 80th birthday. How has she influenced politics in the UK?

This debate is now closed. Please read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Les, Morpeth, Northumberland, UK
Will you be wishing Margaret Thatcher a happy birthday? What are your memories of her time as Prime Minister?

Thatcher's rule was like the curate's egg ' good in parts '. While necessary reforms to both the economic and social spheres of Britain were carried out by her Administration in the 80s, she stayed too long and her autocratic style eventually led to her downfall. It is necessary to have a consensus approach to Government for it to work and her confrontational style, brokering no criticism of her decisions, led to deep divisions, not only in the country as a whole but in the Conservative Party itself. Personally, I think she was all style without much lasting substance.
Colin Cumner, Adelaide, South Australia

The greatest political leader in Europe with Churchill and de Gaulle. France is today a declining country as was UK in the 70s. We need a Thatcher today... With admiration from Paris Cheers
Jean-Pierre Dumas, France

Ironically Mrs. Thatcher's complete destruction of Old Labour has made the Conservatives unelectable as New Labour have stolen all their policies.
Jonathan Michaud, Baltimore, MD, USA (ex-UK)

She was a political visionary and a stoical leader, the best post-war leader of them all. In 1979, she took power of a broken, strike-ridden and bankrupt country. I was only 8 but I remember doing homework by candlelight! She was opposed at every turn by the very politicians now in power and they are imitating her policies. Her vision was spot-on, thanks to the destruction of socialism, we have a vibrant economy and we are better off. Sure, the medicine didn't taste good but the sick man of Europe is very much fit again and envied in Europe. Happy birthday Mrs. T and many more.
Mike, London, Uk

Scotland's north sea oil, not Thatcher, is what injected wealth into the UK economy after the '70s, not to mention all the states assets that were sold of to benefit the few, and frittered away. Now the oil is running out and we have nothing to show for it. Thanks a lot Thatcher!
Michael, Glasgow, Scotland

Her most impressive achievement was to totally destroy Old Labour, their policies and politics. For that we owe her a great debt.
Ian, Whitwick, England

She was definitely influential - a short list of her influences would include; selling off council houses which has contributed to the housing shortage and the rocketing prices of the past 20 years. Selling off public services, this led to a dangerous and bankrupt railway, dirty hospital and unhealthy school meals. Selling off BT, which created a private monopoly, still largely intact. The great shareholding, home owning was a mirage.
Matt Munro, Bristol, UK

Maggie was the greatest ruler of my time. If it weren't for her then our country would be stuck in the Union lead era of discontent. Happy Birthday Maggie!
James, Bristol

Whilst implementing overdue union reform, she threw the poor in this country to the wolves, unleashed an era of greed epitomised by former ministers ending up on the boards of utilities they helped privatise, broke records for unemployment, doubled VAT destroyed the coal-mining towns and brought in the poll tax. The only time she cried in public was the day she finally left number 10 Downing Street. Her true legacy is the Tories are still unelectable today.
T, London

Maggie is a great woman. She brought the UK up from the gutter and made it into a credible country. I'm fascinated by all the prattle about public transport and the like on this forum. Do those contributors forget that Labour have had many years to do something about it all but have failed miserably?
Giuseppe, Barnsley, UK

Her legacy is Tony Blair
Simon Barb, Paris
Her legacy is Tony Blair and three - probably four and maybe five or more Labour victories at the general election. It may indeed be that the Conservative party (as she knew it) never again takes office in its own right. Many of her actions at the time were "right" - but the damage she did to the UK's international standing - particularly with regard to Europe - was terrible. Her economic record is mixed - presiding over horrific interest rates, massive unemployment, woeful underinvestment in public services and terrible social disharmony.
Simon Barb, Paris, France

Thatcher is without question one of the greatest prime ministers of recent times. After the debacle created by Labour that was the '70s she courageously took the drastically necessary steps to restore Britain to fore on the world stage - both economically, politically and socially. She is a remarkable woman - whether you like or dislike her - we today enjoy the benefits of her courageous leadership of this country. She is to be thanked for what she did for Britain.
Chris J, London

When she was in power the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Her privatisation policies had disastrous consequences for public transport and many other key services that should never have been sold off to make a quick buck. Her many disillusioned fans will probably always be too short sighted to see the damage she did to this country when she was in power.
Peter H, Edinburgh, Scotland

Margaret Thatcher has changed the way as a nation we think of ourselves
Christopher, Basingstoke
Margaret Thatcher has changed the way as a nation we think of ourselves, through such historical moments as the Falkland Conflict, the miners' strike, etc. Her legacy is one that saw Britain transformed from the sick man of Europe with Nurses, doctors, teachers, firemen, bakers, etc on strike.
Christopher, Basingstoke

Brilliant leader. Such a shame that the selfish few can not see that certain industries are not sustainable, especially when we do not have any comparative advantage in the global economy that exists. The country was in ruins and we have her to thank for the economic situation we now reside in. How quick people forget the turmoil the country was in before she took over. We have gone from third world to first thanks to Thatcher. Have a great birthday!
Raj, Hull

We can thank Baroness Thatcher for inflicting the current political madness, as grandmother of the neocons she has a lot to answer for in regards to today's situation. As for growing up under her iron fisted rule, she stole the milk, introduced the poll tax and privatised the nation's assets.
Gavin Hewitson, Alnwick, Northumberland, England

She was a thoughtless, disastrous leader, who devastated the north of England and showed no understanding of, or care for, those in poverty. The unemployment rate was so high in my northern town during her leadership that some people committed suicide. People in my family were unemployed for seven years. During that time, the quality of public healthcare, education and services dropped; thoroughly dismantling some of Britain's greatest achievements. I won't be celebrating her birthday.
Mark, Syracuse, NY, USA

Margaret Thatcher can be held accountable for a lot of things but the general disintegration of our society is not one of them
John Fitzgerald, Boston
Margaret Thatcher can be held accountable for a lot of things but the general disintegration of our society is not one of them. She cannot influence the "don't care" parents and cannot be blamed for the behaviour of their loutish offspring. She can be held accountable for the destruction of this country's industrial base which, with the demise of Rover, has now gone forever. However I feel we owe her a vote of thanks for the control she exerted over the unions who were far too political. If the industrial relations laws her government created are so bad why hasn't Blair repealed them like his unions friends want him to?
John Fitzgerald, Boston, England

Mrs Thatcher was an outstanding politician who believed in individualism. She and her government were set an enormous task to lead Britain back to economic recovery. Almost single-handedly she achieved this. But the truth is that in doing so, she left the impression that she was feelingless. How great that was. At least we saw the true woman and she was not afraid to face her public. What a shame we never see the true side of our current politicians. Perhaps, unlike Maggie, they are all scared to be judged.
Richard, Faringdon, Oxon

Thatcher was a prime minister with a clear vision for Britain. Unlike the obsession of today's politicians, with opinion polls and focus groups, she took a long term view of what was necessary for Britain to succeed, whatever the short term unpopularity. Her success can be viewed in comparing the strong performance of the British economy in the last 20 years with the stagnation and high unemployment of France and Germany. She can take enormous pride in this success as she celebrates her birthday.
Philip Cunningham, Dublin, Ireland

Thatcher's legacy: there is no such thing as a society. Let us leave her and that sentiment where they rightfully belong - in the 20th century; the century in which selfishness, greed and apathy towards the weak, the poor and the downtrodden became our masters.
David Hamilton, Karlsruhe, Germany

I graduated as Thatcher was starting on her reforms. Like many I went to work abroad, as there were better opportunities, especially for young people. Now the young of Europe come to the UK because of the better opportunities. Having lived in and out of Britain since, I would say she has done more good than bad, but it is a more selfish society than it was 25 years ago (but maybe the whole world is too)
Iain, Spain

She snatched my milk, I shall never forgive her! (Oh, ok, it was a while ago. Happy Birthday Mrs T.) Seriously, I do blame her for the rise in greed and selfishness she generated in this country, but I have to admit she did leave it, on the whole, in a much better state than she found it.
Sarah D, Norwich, UK

Baroness Thatcher was a great leader. She turned the country around after years of ill though out socialist policies and her foresight means that we are now one of the most productive and economically healthy countries in Europe. She will always be a hate figure to those who have a nature of dependency and think that the government should solve all of their problems, but to those who make their own luck in this world and are always striding to better themselves, she is rightly revered.
David, UK

Lady Thatcher was detested by the lazy, the unproductive and the scroungers. She told us that there is no such thing as a free lunch. She created a climate in which those who wished to work hard could prosper and those who expected hand-outs would not have it so easy.
Simon Grindrod, Cape Town, RSA

The Thatcher legacy definately has two sides. Yes the country was in deep economic trouble when she came to power and she did turn that around. But the flip side was social disintegration, alienation and , ironically, the total collapse of the "Britishness" in our society. The culture of greed and complete selfishness which has come back to haunt us is as a direct result of the imposition of Thatcherism. There was a choice between poor, just and friendly, or, wealthy, mean and selfish - fairly obvious which one we got.
Graeme, England

A lot of the people deriding Mrs Thatcher have probably forgotten the ruinous state Britain was in back in 1979. Top income tax was 99p in the pound! Many people suffered under her time in office, but that was not her doing. She merely called time on grossly inefficient industries that had been run down since the end of the war.
D. Walters, London, UK

Mrs Thatcher's apologists have created the myth of Britain in the 70s as a country on its knees
Damon Cummings, Worcester, UK
Mrs Thatcher's apologists have created the myth of Britain in the 70s as a country on its knees. There may have been problems, but the country I remember was a tolerant place with a sense of community, and where the working person had a bit of dignity. Mrs Thatcher's government destroyed those values and replaced them with the law of the jungle. It will take time for those values to reassert themselves.
Damon Cummings, Worcester, UK

I grew up knowing only Mrs T. What a woman! She knew how to run a country
Phil, Birmingham

A lot of people seem to think Maggie invented greed. Thatcherite economics (and capitalism in general) work because people are greedy, but they do not cause greed, it has always been with us. There is little doubt that Thatcher's free market reforms are what turned us from being the "sick man of Europe" in the seventies to one of the most successful and dynamic economies in Europe today.
Jeremy, London, UK

I was in school and college during the Thatcher's years in government, but what a boost this lady gave to us women and allowed us to aim as high as we wished to go and made me and many of my friends to aim as high as we wished. Thank you for that boost the to female equal opportunities
Gillian, Swansea, Wales

Gladstone formed a government when he was 83, so there's hope for us yet
Russell Oaten, Bournemouth

Baroness Thatcher was the turning point of the Modern British Era. She turned this country around by modernising the economy and kicking the idle off their sofas. Her critics should take a look out of their back yard and see the ailing powers of France and Germany still clinging to their traditional industries. Happy birthday, Mrs T.
Jack, London, U.K

Baroness Thatcher created a Britain where money was King, and the selfish accumulation of it was a worthy occupation. She created a culture of selfish, materialistic, ultimately unhappy citizens, having decimated values that money cannot buy, like a strong, sense of community, and all the wonderful human characteristics that came with it.
James Molloy, Glasgow

Probably started off with the best of intentions but soon unleashed a ghastly torrent of right-wing reforms on a country which is not ideally suited to them. Her policies were a cause of the dreadful "me, me, me" society which characterised the 1980s. Thankfully, her influence is now well and truly behind us so it's time for the Iron Lady to 'rust' in peace.
Shaun Crowther, Barnoldswick, UK

She dragged the country kicking and screaming into the 20th century by destroying the unions' power
Richard Johnson, Coventry, UK
She dragged the country kicking and screaming into the 20th century by destroying the unions' power after they'd crippled the country. She also had incredible foresight...If we were still predominantly a manufacturing nation, we'd be bankrupt by now given the cheaper alternatives abroad. A job well done.
Richard Johnson, Coventry, UK

Margaret Thatcher and the Tories ruined the country, she helped to create mass unemployment, privatised the gas, electricity, water, railways, steel works, shut down the collieries etc and much more. In total under Thatcher & John Major we had 18 years of mismanagement.
Ian, Neath, South Wales

Obviously, a hero and a saint to some; but certainly a very divisive figure both at home and abroad.
UE, UK/Nigeria

A wonderful Prime Minister. A strong woman. It is a pity that some liberals in the UK cannot see the positive things she did. In my opinion the current problems are a result of too much Labour Party in power for far too long since the time of Baroness Thatcher. Happy Birthday to her!
Beth, Bristow, VA USA

Without Thatcher there would be no Blair. Not sure that's a good thing, but undoubtedly she moved the consensus away from government control over the economy so completely that even Labour were forced to embrace the market economy.
James, London, UK

Thatcher put economics and money ahead of people, the old establishment ahead of the Trade Union power; she created a policy of greed that has left the UK with a large underclass. Labour has for the most part continued her polices. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer so that the old establishment and division of power is maintained.
Patrick Cunningham, Yorkshire, UK

She stripped the UK of its assets and sold them off to dubious recipients. Only now are we beginning to see the problems this will cause as we realise the country has been bankrupted.
Rob, London, UK

I used to hate Thatcher as I teenager. She decimated the Steel industry my family and friends worked in, created unheard of unemployment so when I left school I was one of 5 million looking for a job. However, as time passes I see the positives. We are now the fourth largest economy in the world and chasing Germany for third place. Trade unions still have influence but are less likely to ruin the nation to get a point across. The Thatcher years were full of highs and lows but it is undeniable that the basis for Britain's current prosperity is due largely to her leadership in the 80s. Love her or hate her, she was honest and straight and put the country first.
Alan Lazenby, UK

I wish there was a youth pill she could take and come back to lead the party again. She was brilliant even allowing for her Poll Tax mistake.
David Ball, Wokingham, UK

Unfortunately as a result of her policies we still are suffering from poor policing, health service. And her policies also instilled greed which is still evident now. Some legacy!
R Griffin, Romford

She destroyed tens of thousands of lives, hundreds of communities, and created a selfish, greedy society.
Lee, Hebburn, England

Baroness Thatcher was simply one of the greatest Prime Ministers this country has ever had. In my opinion she is second only to Winston Churchill in terms of her achievements. In particular, her great reforming government of 1979 to 1983 has enabled Britain to enjoy the unprecedented levels of prosperity we see today. Her vision of small government, low taxes and freedom of choice are the reason why we have both a vibrant economy and state, unlike our neighbours across the channel.
A Jerram, Chesterfield, England

I quite agree with Jim from Birmingham, but the price we are still paying is an increase in the rich-poor divide, social disharmony, and the dominance of "Me, me, me" selfishness. As someone on the "Rich" side of the divide, I still say that whatever she gave us hasn't been worth it.
Jon G, Huddersfield UK

While the economy is stronger, her ultimate legacy is the selfish, 'me-me-me' society we have today
Jonathan Wright, Essex, UK
Margaret Thatcher was a very strong ruler and, after the Winter of Discontent, it was inevitable that the Conservatives would get into power. She turned Britain around, but, while the economy is stronger, her ultimate legacy is the selfish, 'me-me-me' society we have today. The "I should have as much money as I want because I'm worth it" and "The value you have to society is directly proportional to the money and material possessions you have" ethics which pervade society today. In brief, Britain may have a lot of material wealth, but its moral wealth is decreasing rapidly day to day.
Jonathan Wright, Essex, UK

Elements of "Thatcherism" were almost inevitably stolen by Labour, and this is her most significant legacy. Throughout history, Labour governments were never "socialist" in any meaningful sense, but it is doubtful if "New Labour" would ever have come into being had it not been for Baroness Thatcher.
A Sellar, Edinburgh, UK

Our greatest leader ever. The only politician in the modern era to have any honesty and integrity. On top of that she made us prosperous instead of robbing us blind with taxes.
Keith, UK

Baroness Thatcher's influence at the time was to put the country back on its feet after it was devastated by the unions. If you doubt this, look at how Thatcherite the present government is.
Jim, Birmingham, UK

Margaret Thatcher was exactly what Britain needed in the late 1970s
Johann, London, UK
Margaret Thatcher was exactly what Britain needed in the late 1970s when the country was crippled by industrial action. She was on the whole a very successful prime minister. However she remained in office too long, and her political instincts started to fail her during her last two years as PM. This caused tremendous turmoil, resentment and rifts within her party. In fact, the Conservatives are still to this day feeling the long hangover her legacy has left.
Johann, London, UK

Baroness Thatcher has been, quite simply, the only politician with whom the public has connected with. Her name summons an immediate reaction, good or bad. But whatever your view, one cannot deny that Mrs Thatcher gave this country a strong grounding to step proudly into the 21st century. She is also a leader of true social policy - a subject many of her enemies choose to blindly ignore - having been the first Prime Minister to allow thousands of people dependent on the State for housing, to afford their own homes. If that's not helping to 'spread the wealth' then I don't know what is!
Ben Bailey, Eastbourne, England

Look around you now; depleted public transport, disaffected & alienated youths, endemic corporate avarice, the well qualified working in call centres, all borne from the policies of this demi-despot. Sure, south England prospers but the rest, especially the working classes, are adrift in a sea of survival.
Peter, Wales

Maggie was great. She sorted out the complete mess that Labour had left in the 70s and turned Britain's economic fortunes around. I'd vote for her now if she stood - I'm fed up with tax and spend.
Douglas, Milton Keynes, UK

Thatcher, "there's no such thing as society", will be remembered with hatred and dread by the millions of British people whose lives she wrecked.
Mark Blackman, London

She devastated primarily the north of Britain with vindictive and oppressive policies. She made a few people very prosperous and caused untold hardship for many decent working people (even if some of them were part of a union). Was the architect of the demise of UK manufacturing. Nothing like our greatest ever leader at all.
Ian, Lanarkshire

She is a role model to all women with sanity. She is a mother, house wife, business woman and politician. She proved to the world that handling various chores at the same time was just a cup of tea. I must admit that running affairs of learned British folk is not all that bed of roses, but she did and made it.

She was more than ten women and if science and technology made cloning so easy and cheap, we could request for a thousand Iron ladies. She is like my own mother who stood for liberty, justice and fair play in all her dealings. These are the sort of women I leave space for in this millennium. She has not only influenced politics in the UK. The whole world holds her in the very highest esteem.
Shuttie F.N.Libuta, Kitwe/Zambia/Central Africa

I feel sure that in the future history will show what a disaster Thatcherism actually was for this country. In my opinion a lot of the problem in this country today can have their origins traced back to her reign.
Mike, Eastleigh

What a lady. She fought for Britain with every breath. We should not forget that she brought the Americans and Russians together to end the cold war. Her only mistake was to think the majority of Britain would accept to pay their equal share of local services. Happy Birthday Mrs Thatcher, I for one will always be grateful for what you did for our country.
Ian, London, England

Without the period of Thatcherism we would now be a third world country
Alan Preddy, Epsom
Without the period of Thatcherism we would now be a third world country, totally ruled by Europe bankrupted by bailing out unwanted coal mines, steel works etc. Rubbish would be piling up on the streets and the socialist government would be living off what remained of the fat of the land and ignoring the real problems of the day. Thank you Maggie for saving us and this country.
Alan Preddy, Epsom

Her influence was immense. The first woman leader of a political party, the first woman Prime Minister. She embraced capitalism and encouraged everyone to achieve their best. She rejoiced in success and drove others to be entrepreneurial and saw business as the primary driver behind economic prosperity. Her greatest quote - "there is no such thing as society; there are individuals and there are families" was true then and is true today. If only her successors and her opposition could grasp the greatness of the fundamental ideology that we are responsible for ourselves and not to rely on government - and hence the earnings of others - to pay for our lifestyle, this country would be a better place.

She made mistakes and in the later years she appeared really quite strange and dangerous. But essentially, she was brilliant because she possessed that which is completely lacking from today's political scene: a belief system.
Tom Franklin, London, UK

People in seem to have forgotten that the UK was bankrupt and under IMF supervision when she became leader. She returned this country to greatness and created the economic boom that Labour is so keen to claim as its own.
Mark, London

Baroness Thatcher did a great service to this nation; she nurtured her pompous and egotistic party until it believed its own myth. The Tories have no noblesse oblige in British politics and until they learn humility and that it is the people's choice who rules Britain and not theirs then they will never have power again in this country.
Jamie Taylor, Soho, London

She saved this country from total ruin as a result of bullying unions and a Labour government bent on tax and spend. It was painful at times but it had to be done - remember that Labour had reduced us to the status of a banana republic a few years before when they had to call in the IMF to bail us out. Unfortunately memories fade and people forget that one of the architects of Labour 79 was one Gordon Brown. I wonder who is going to save us this time when Brown has finished wrecking the country. Thank you Maggie for all the hope and prosperity that you gave to the real hard working people of this country.
Neil, Liverpool UK

Oh - and worthless pension schemes! The more I think the more I realise what a mess she left this country in. I'd rather not think about her at all!
Mark Tidmarsh, Brighton, England




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