Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in global politics has been “mostly positive” according to an Embassy poll of London’s ambassadors following the death of the former Prime Minister.
Three out of four respondents felt Thatcher’s actions on the global stage as a ‘Cold War warrior’ alongside US President Ronald Reagan, had been a force for good. “Her actions enhanced liberalism in world politics paving the way for the gradual disappearance of the East-West divide,” said one EU Ambassador.
However ambassadors were more ambivalent about the impact of Thatcherism on the global political economy, with 62 per cent saying free market capitalism, privatisation and a small state had been positive, as opposed to 38 per cent who said the results had been mixed.
Broken down by region, the foreign policy of the late British Prime Minister divided diplomatic opinion. Predictably, those countries in the former Soviet Union were overwhelmingly positive. One CIS Ambassador recalls the official Soviet media caricaturing the British Prime Minister, “But people on the street liked the fact that there was a strong woman nicknamed the Iron Lady leading the UK.”
In Latin America, pro-US, pro-market countries felt Thatcher had had a positive influence; for the more left-leaning states, her impact had been “mixed, diplomatically speaking,” as one Ambassador put it.
In Europe, diplomats from former Eastern Bloc countries were mostly positive about Lady Thatcher’s legacy in defeating communism whereas those from more EU federalist states had mixed feelings about the Iron Lady’s impact on unity in the EU.
Her role in the Middle East got the thumbs up from heads of mission in the region, and her efforts to encourage dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians were praised.
Analysing her impact on Britain, a large majority of respondents (88 per cent) said the former Prime Minister’s economic policies had “saved” Britain: “She drove down government debt, privatized state monopolies increasing competition and efficiency, saved the UK from runaway inflation and permanently weakened the unions,” commented one Middle East Ambassador.
Her record on British society is more mixed, with only a 62 per cent approval rating.
“Her policies produced ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and left divisive legacies,” said one Ambassador, while another commented that Thatcher had “changed the centre ground” adding that her policies had “helped millions of working class families reap the benefits of home ownership, and instilled a spirit of entrepreneurship.” The Ambassador added her legacy continues today: “She changed the mindset of the country, including the Labour Party.”
With dignitaries from 170 nations attending the funeral, there can be no doubt about the admiration for Lady Thatcher as a politician across the political divide.
“She was able to demonstrate that politics matter and that politicians with clear agendas and strong will-power can make a difference,” reflected one Ambassador, adding: “She also showed women that they can reach the highest steps of politics if they have the talent and will/conviction to do so.”