The Path To Power, by Margaret Thatcher
This is quite an interesting book, I must admit, and it is a very long one. At more than 600 pages this volume is not one that can be taken lightly, but there are surely many worse ways of spending one’s time than to reflect upon the political career of one of the most legendary British Prime Ministers of all time. Margaret Thatcher was not only interesting from the point of view of her policies, but also from her perspective. This is a book that demonstrates the immense grasp and interest in detail that the author had. Some writers are all into grand but empty gestures and show a lack of interest in logistics and the nitty gritty but that is not something that can accurately be said about Margaret Thatcher. The daughter of a grocer and a woman who had spent some time as a research chemist, there is no doubt that the author is a woman who was very interested in details long before she entered politics. And as someone who, like the author, has never been anything other than a conservative of one stripe or another, the author certainly has an impressive story to tell in how it was that she acquired the skills and connections to make it as Prime Minister.
This book is divided into two parts and sixteen chapters. The first part of the book is by far the largest at more than 450 pages, and it discusses the period of Thatcher’s life before she became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979. This particular well-illustrated volume is organized in roughly chronological as well as topical order, starting with a look at the author’s provincial childhood (1), her time at Oxford where she was active in student politics and majored in Chemistry (2), her period as a wife and mother and her studies of law (3), her time in the outer circle of Tory politics as a backbencher in the early 1960’s (4), her period in the shadow government from 1964-1970 (5), her role in the Department of Education during the Heath ministry (6), her lessons from that ministry’s foibles and mistakes (7), her seizure of the Tory leadership after their defeat in 1974 (8), her bumpy ride as leader of the opposition from 1975-1977 (9), her foreign policy views (10), her development of the skills of statecraft from 1977 to 1979 (11) and the stress of the 1979 campaign (12) that led to her election as Prime Minister. The second part of the book contains discussions of the author’s life after being Prime Minister, including beginning again, discussing her views of policy towards Europe (13), foreign policy and defense (14), cultural issues (15) like the family and curbing welfare dependency, and her thoughts on promoting free enterprise (16), after which the book ends with an epilogue as well as three appendices that discuss her Hague Speech of 1992, a political chronology from 1955 to 1979, and the various shadow cabinets she was in charge of from 1975 to 1979.
How was Thatcher’s path to power? For one, she was clearly an ambitious politician whose ambition was early noticed. She acquired her skills young, participated in political debates and developed a grasp of both strategy and tactics through experience, and served plenty of time in shadow cabinets and in lower levels of cabinets as she proved her fitness to rule. She had to deal with questions of loyalty to leaders and disagreement with those who were not as serious as she was about turning England decisively to the right. She demonstrates throughout this book a grasp of the politeness that comes from recognizing the qualities of those with whom one greatly disagrees and shows the roots of her own political philosophy and practice and tells how it was that she herself became more decisively conservative through years of refining her thinking and pondering the relationship between culture and economics. This book really allows you a chance to see what sort of woman the Iron Lady was and that is definitely a good thing if you are disposed to like her as I am.