Theresa May is No Margaret Thatcher – The Right Engle


The U.K. Conservative Party released its election manifesto Thursday, ahead of the June 8th general election. The manifesto proves one thing without doubt: Theresa May is no Margaret Thatcher.

During her more than a decade as prime minister, Margaret Thatcher transformed not only the British political landscape, but British society as a whole. The so-called Iron Lady brought free-market individualism into the mainstream of British politics and so thoroughly vanquished her socialist opponents that the Labour Party only won power back from the conservatives by adopting a pro-individual, pro-markets platform, radically at odds with its collectivist tradition.

Enter Theresa May.

When she assumed office after the Brexit-driven resignation of her predecessor, David Cameron, May drew many comparisons with the only other female prime minister in British history. She was seen a tough, no-nonsense politician who had built a solid reputation as Home Secretary. Yet, May’s brand of conservatism and vision for the Conservative Party is very different from Thatcher’s. In fact, her manifesto defines a conservatism that is a virtual repudiation of Thatcherism.

“Conservatism is not, and never has been, the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammeled free markets. We reject the cult of individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless, but dangerous,” the manifesto states.

So much for the days of Margaret Thatcher’s outright rejection of the state as the progenitor and basis of society.  In one of her most remembered speeches, Thatcher stated, “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbor.”

Theresa May’s conservatism is a very different beast. She has demonstrated a far greater appetite than Thatcher’s other heirs to sponsor intervention in the free market and to support significant wealth redistribution from richer parts of the country to those less prosperous.

May’s actions are understandable from a political position. The Labour Party has chosen to implode under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, a radical leftist who has succeeded in turning his party into an unelectable mess. May has the opportunity to seize a massive majority of parliament by appealing to moderate Labour voters. That will have the positive effect of giving her next government a strong hand in negotiating Brexit. But her policies will have severe consequences over the long run. May’s plans to expand the state and curb the free market will exacerbate the harsh shocks that will face Britain’s economy post-Brexit. Ultimately, her efforts may prove to harm the very working people she hopes to help.

It would be nice if British voters could choose market-friendly leaders. Unfortunately, their best bet are big government conservatives over massive government socialists.


Image: Getty/Daily Express

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John Engle

John Engle is a merchant banker and author living in the Chicago area. His company, Almington Capital, invests in both early-stage venture capital and in public equities. His writing has been featured in a number of academic journals, as well as the blogs of the Heartland Institute, Grassroot Institute, and Tenth Amendment Center. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and the University of Oxford, John’s first book, Trinity Student Pranks: A History of Mischief and Mayhem, was published in September 2013.