Monday, Mar. 31, 2003

The Iron Lady Sings

May 3, 1979

Margaret Thatcher arrived at her North London constituency early, in good time for glad-handing and a last bit of publicity. But it was well into the following morning when the last paper ballots from every village and shire came in: the gutsy politician of the zealous right had routed Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan and smashed the gender barrier to become Britain's first female PM.

On the doorstep of her new home, 10 Downing Street, the new leader cited the compassionate litany of St. Francis of Assisi: "Where there is discord, let there be harmony." It would be the last conciliatory message from this aggressive, even strident, Prime Minister, who boasted, "I am not a consensus politician, I am a conviction politician!" Her conservative creed transformed Britain: she broke the unions' stranglehold, flogged the business world out of complacency, altered the welfare-state mentality and boldly fought a war over the Falkland Islands, some 8,000 miles away. And she did it all her way.

Angelo was the magazine's London bureau chief from 1978 to 1985