Why The Modern Republican Party Would Reject Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, died on Monday, leaving behind her a legacy of conservative values that American politicians still cite to this day. Upon learning of her death, Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said she was the “greatest peacetime prime minister in British history.”

But while Thatcher stands as a role model for modern conservativism here in the United States, her policies likely wouldn’t hold up under the scrutiny of a modern-day GOP:

She supported socialized medicine. The modern-day GOP is so obsessed with trying to repeal Obamacare that they’ve held nearly 40 votes to do so. But Obamacare is actually a much more conservative health care policy than the socialized National Health Service, which Thatcher lauded as an accomplishment of the United Kingdom. “I believed that the NHS was a service of which we could genuinely be proud,” she wrote in her book, “It delivered a high quality of care — especially when it came to acute illnesses — and at a reasonably modest unit cost, at least compared with some insurance-based systems.”

She increased taxes. Spending actually rose during Thatcher’s first seven years in office, as the New York Times reports, and taxes took up a larger percentage as share of gross domestic product. Indeed, even by the end of her time in office taxes were still a higher percentage of GDP than they were when she arrived:

Thatcher also increased the Value Added Tax (VAT), which Newt Gingrich described as “European socialism” during the 2012 election cycle.

She believed in climate change. Thatcher was an early adherent to climate science, and once warned, “The danger of global warming is as yet unseen but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.”

She recognized that gun laws can limit gun violence. After a deadly shooting rampage in England, Thatcher said, “If [gun laws] need to be tightened up, or if we think that it could prevent anything more like this, then of course that will be considered.” A year later, the government passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which outlawed semi-automatic weapons, changed requirements on registering guns, allowed police to refuse a weapon to anyone they saw unfit, and allowed the Home Secretary to add other guns to the list of banned firearms.

Thatcher was far from a progressive champion. Her policies threw the United Kingdom into recession, decimated British labor unions, and sharply divided the country she reigned over for nearly 12 years. But despite that track record, and even if she is a “political heroine” to modern Republicans like former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Thatcher’s old school conservatism would never mesh with the ideology of the modern Republican Party in the United States.


Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) released as statement praising Thatcher for taking a “sledgehammer to the machinery of liberalism” and “embracing conservative values.” He then used her death to attack Obama and Democrats: “The best way to honor Baroness Thatcher is to crush liberalism and sweep it into the dustbin of history. What are you doing this morning to defeat liberal politicians?”

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