Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher's legacy found in Australia

In the remote mining town of Broken Hill, the then Conservative opposition leader was greeted by union leaders who, she recalled afterwards, were "delighted and rather surprised" to see her.
With great pride, they explained how the unions essentially ran the town and that a local bar which challenged their domination had been boycotted and then forced to close.
"My guides were completely unabashed, indeed perversely pleased, about this blatant infraction of liberty," she wrote in her memoir. "I could not help wondering whether I had had an insight into The First Circle."
If not exactly formative, that
1976 trip to Australia certainly appears to have been reinforcing - it stiffened her Conservative resolve.
Knowing that she would spend a lot of time on planes, at the airport she bought Solzhenitsyn's novel, The First Circle, which made her think more deeply about freedom and democracy.
She was also unimpressed by Australian conservatives, led at that time by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who were not committed enough to creating a free-enterprise economy and ending protectionism.
The applause, as she wrapped up a speech to the Liberal Party in Canberra, was "far from deafening." It led her to conclude that her Australian contemporaries were not ready for her "unapologetic conservatism."
A meeting with Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's longest-serving prime minister and a member of Churchill's Imperial War Cabinet, was altogether more satisfying.
The retired elder statesman had read her speeches about the continued Soviet threat, at a time when relations had eased between Washington and Moscow.
"When I found myself complimented by this remarkable man," she said, "it strengthened me in the conviction that I was right and that the detente establishment was wrong." In Menzies, she saw a fellow Cold War warrior.
Even in 1976, three years before she became prime minister, there was an Australian fascination with Margaret Thatcher.
Since then, her governing philosophy and economic creed have come to be enthusiastically embraced on the Australian right. In a country more than 10,000 miles from Westminster, the legacy of Thatcherism can be found.

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