THE ROAD TO DOWNING STREET and THE DOWNING STREET YEARS
by Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain
This will be a review from memory, hopefully giving you an indication of why you should consider reading them or giving them to others as I did.
Yes, these are good books to give to people interested in history and politics. They provide insight into thinking which does not match the popular perception of the "iron lady" (iron willed yes, but not mean spirited and uncaring of the "little people" as many claim).
These are thick books - Margaret Thatcher gives us blow by blow accounts of many political campaigns and meetings in her long career, with much detail of British political traditions which she cherished.
The books cover her upbringing in an English town (including her father's corner grocery shop), her stirring political ambitions in college, her brief career as a research chemist, and starting a family. Then she chronicles her long career as an active politician. Included are strategy meetings, political research (policy development), European community wrangling, and relations with European and US politicians, as well as her beliefs and her struggles to keep her own party on track which I will cover later. (I don't recall much discussion of the principles of abandoning Hong Kong in the book - a major consideration for Britain I expect, and a major event in the world.) One book covers her time as Prime Minister while the other her life before that. The Downing Street Years emphasizes world politics and leading her motley Conservative Party crew, while the other provides insight into her beliefs and hard political work.
Four aspects stood out for me:
1. Her sensible, principled appreciation of what the typical working person faces.
She provides good insight into public assistance and the power lusting schemes of the unions who were not focussed on what really matters for their working members. She was far more focussed on the British people, rather than the institutions, than most of her colleagues in the conservative party.
2. Her understanding of and dedication to freedom.
Generally speaking she is a religious conservative not a libertarian. But her understanding of freedom and her principled actions are most untypical of that ilk. She is persuasive for freedom, though lacking the full depth of justification that objectivists have - while very good, she is a politician not a philosopher. Despite probable backsliding in Britain, her efforts will have lasting impact on both Britain and the world. She is a strong contrast to most other "conservatives", including US conservatives who have rarely rolled back the work of liberals when in power but especially that weak, phoney conservative, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
3. The constant difficulty she faced within her party.
Many conservatives wouldn't stick to principles and/or wandered leftward (in substantial part because of their fear of public opinion, buttressed by their own lack of understanding of the principles of freedom and lack of recognition of the voting public's positive response to Mrs. Thatcher's strong principled statements).
4. Her hard work and strong will.
Margaret Thatcher is inspiring. The books also provide insight into the difficulties and traps facing politicians who try to increase freedom in their country. And they publish history for Britain and even for Europe.
I've seen the title "Road to Power or "Path to Power" for a Thatcher biography, I suspect that is a reissue of what I read as The Road to Downing Street. (The British Prime Minister's official residence being on Downing Street.)
© Keith Sketchley
Page version 2009.12.26
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