“All F*cked:” UK Labour Elects Socialist Wacko As Leader

CONSERVATIVE PARTY aspirations of a hegemonic period in office to rival the Thatcher-Major years received an immeasurable boost overnight, as British Labour elected its most radical leader since Michael Foot in the 1980s, if not since its formation in 1900; the ascension of socialist fruit cake Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader — even if dumped before an election — will damage Labour badly. For the Tories, hubris is now their greatest opponent.

It will be a relatively succinct comment from me today, knowing as I do that the bulk of this column’s readership does not share my great interest in British politics, but the final act of the general election there that played out overnight cannot be allowed to go unremarked upon.

British Labour — so often irrelevant before and since the thunderous public endorsements obtained by Tony Blair in 1997, 2001 and to a lesser extent 2005 — has completed the long march in its reversion to type overnight, electing far-Left nutcase Jeremy Corbyn as its replacement for beaten leader “Red” Ed Miliband.

In point of fact, if Miliband — with his spiteful, class-obsessed program of rent controls, heightened social spending in the teeth of the record national debt his party left behind in 2010, tax hikes and anti-foreign investment policies — could be characterised as “Red Ed,” the younger Miliband will quickly prove far more moderate than anything likely to be served up by Corbyn.

In a result that has stunned seasoned Westminster observers and ricocheted across the world, Corbyn won against three other candidates on the first ballot, scoring 59.5% of the vote under Labour’s arcane leadership balloting process that gives weight to MPs, British trade unions, and rank and file Labour members. That the party has the leader its constituent parts wanted is beyond question, but Labour will rue the fact of Corbyn’s election for many, many years to come.

The heir to…Foot? Last time Labour selected a leader from the far Left, it split the party and led to such a heavy defeat at the ensuing election in 1983 it took 15 years and three terms for the party to recover. (Picture: The Guardian)

In the aftermath of Corbyn’s victory, a sizeable portion of the Labour frontbench has resigned; the only reason I am not going to say how many of them have quit is because I can’t: at the time of publishing, 10 senior Labour shadow ministers have already jumped ship and the resignations show no sign of abating.

It seems Corbyn will now select a frontbench largely composed of otherwise irrelevant — and in some cases, downright dangerous — figures from the hard-Left socialist rump that has spent decades on the back benches of the House of Commons where they belong.

No party of extremists (or a party led by an extremist) has ever won election to office in the United Kingdom, and Corbyn Labour will prove no different — if, that is, the new leader makes it through a full five-year term to contest a general election at all.

And in an age when, more than ever, elections in western democratic countries are won from the sensible centre by moderately right-wing and left-wing parties, British Labour now faces the embarrassing prospect of being committed to policies discredited decades ago by a lunatic who has himself spent his entire 32-year political career on the backbench on account of the insidious and in some cases almost seditious nature of his policy views.

Corbyn’s policy agenda reads like some capitulation to a wish list from the Brezhnev- or Andropov-led USSR hellbent on the destruction of the West and the engineering of its exposure to takeover by a subjugating hostile power: it’s that bad.

He apparently wants Britain to withdraw from the EU — something I support (or at least, I support withdrawal from those aspects of the EU that relate to political and social union) — but that’s just the start of it.

He wants Britain to both exit NATO and abolish its Trident nuclear deterrent: relegating the UK completely to the status of a client state of the US at best, where matters of sovereignty and national defence are concerned, or abandoning it to the wolves altogether at a time of resurgent international tension and the renewed risk of global conflict with Russia at worst.

He is an IRA sympathiser and apologist for sectarian violence; he has denounced the 1982 conflict in the Falkland Islands and advocated “shared sovereignty” (whatever that is) over the Atlantic territory despite a clear majority of Britons and almost all of the Islanders wanting the Falklands to remain a British dependency.

He is opposed to the UK joining military action in Syria and Iraq to attempt to rid the Middle East of the scourge that is ISIS, tacitly endorsing this threat to regional and global peace in so doing, and risking the eventual scenario of a localised Armageddon in one of the world’s most notoriously dangerous hot spots should fanatical Islamic interests ever gain access to nuclear weapons.

He wants to ramp up taxes on individuals and businesses, and channel the proceeds into expanded welfare and social spending: destroying incentive and productivity and building dependency upon the state at a stroke.

He wants to dumb down Education into a one-size-fits-all “state service,” where uniformity transcends standards, setting Britain’s future course for decline as the country grows stupider and more ignorant at the behest of Corbyn’s crazed visions of socialist utopia.

All of this is just for starters in a mad, bad agenda to turn “modern” Britain into some socialist laboratory designed to achieve God alone knows what.

Already, some in the UK are talking of the end of the mainstream Left as Labour, under Corbyn, seems set to pursue an outdated and discredited Marxist agenda that if implemented would devastate British society or, indeed, the society of any other country stupid enough to attempt to emulate it.

And already, there is talk of attempts to overthrow Corbyn — next week, next year, within two years — that will merely guarantee, thankfully, the utter collapse of social democracy in the UK as a viable democratic alternative — for those who want it.

I would suggest the fact almost 60% of Labour’s voting blocs elected Corbyn outright means he isn’t going anywhere, irrespective of the mooted insurgencies against his leadership.

And that — less than 10% through its second term in office — makes the Conservative Party an almost certain bet to win a third when it next faces the British public in 2020.

SCARY…socialist fruit cake Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader of British Labour. (Picture: unilad.co.uk)

I provide two pieces of extra reading today for those interested; here and here.

There is, ironically enough, a big opportunity for the Liberal Democrats in all of this; the old Liberal Party having been displaced as the main non-Tory bloc by Labour as it emerged and then achieved critical mass in the 1920s and 1930s still provides the most feasible way for social democrats to abandon the moribund socialist platform Corbyn seems certain to inflict on Labour. Decimated as it was in May, Corbyn’s election offers the Lib-Dems its greatest opportunity to achieve critical mass in its own right in decades.

But it won’t take it, for the Lib-Dems — their ill-fated stint as coalition partners to David Cameron’s Conservatives aside — have been restored by a thumping decimation to the role they are happiest in: permanent opposition, whining, carping, and the freedom from responsibility that total unelectability confers upon them.

All of this points to a truth that is both an opportunity and a threat.

The prospect of at least another one to two terms in office now beckons for the Tories; even if Corbyn is somehow dislodged before he can fight an election, the internal bloodshed and chaos will mean the only plausible option for forming government in the UK will remain the Conservative Party.

For a party that remains on course to enact a leadership transition of its own before that election — to outgoing London mayor Boris Johnson, or perhaps to Home Secretary Theresa May or Chancellor George Osborne — the allure of successful back-to-back Prime Ministerships seems well within grasp.

But complacency and hubris comes at a cost; they are arguably the forces that undid Margaret Thatcher in 1990; and their effects have engineered the defeat of better governments than Cameron’s all over the world, and seen to it that even the most securely seated of administrations can be turfed out if voters are of a mood to punish arrogance: a good local example is what happened to Jeff Kennett in Victoria in 1999.

Still, today is Corbyn’s moment of triumph, for what it is worth, and the fallout is likely to quickly prove that a moment is all he will be spared as his party now proceeds to disintegrate around him.

The final word goes to a Labour staffer who, on resigning once Corbyn’s election was certain, remarked that “I’m fucked, you’re fucked, we’re all fucked.”

Quite.

For anyone in Westminster and for those who watch from near and from afar, interesting times ahead in British politics ahead are guaranteed.

War Clouds: The Chilling, Brutal Reality Of Ukraine

WITH THE SITUATION in Ukraine continuing to deteriorate — and the prospect of Russian military intervention increasing in likelihood — there are a couple of chilling and brutal realities that so far have failed to dare to speak their name. I hope and wish the crisis in the Black Sea can be resolved peacefully and without appeasement; should the protagonists involved come to blows, the outcome is likely to be very, very ugly indeed.

Let me reassure readers that I haven’t taken leave of my senses: I’m not paranoid, given to conspiracy theories, a career pessimist or willing on defeat. But in this case, an astute reading of events means knowing what is said — and what is fact — even if it comes to nothing by way of an adverse outcome. In this case, I post today purely to provide readers with something to think through.

Among the many sources of information, intelligence and background reading I avail myself of, however, is an American columnist who is regularly accused of being all of those things. His name is Jeffrey Nyquist, and we have looked at one or two of his pieces during the time I have been publishing this column.

Back in 2008 (not coincidentally, by the way, in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Georgia under similar circumstances to those in Ukraine) he wrote an article that I thought at the time was a little on the far-fetched side, but there was just enough in the case he made for me to commit the piece to memory for possible future reference. I would suggest every reader of my article reads this and then come back: the pertinence of the Nyquist article will immediately become obvious, and especially when it is remembered that it was written more than five years ago.

Russia — for at least the time since it was first led by Putin as President — has been modernising, rearming, and militarising; the entire vision Putin has for his country lies in its reclamation of the status and prestige it lost when the USSR formally dissolved and its designation as a superpower — socially, economically and militarily — was forefeited. Putin is not so much a communist as a modern-day Tsar; Russia through the ages has been a peasant society governed by a small, all-powerful ruling elite. It was ever thus. In the absence of the Communist Party, Russia’s Tsarist tradition has found new expression through the totalitarian nationalism of its present President.

There are many, both in Australia and internationally, who pooh-pooh the idea of a militarily resurgent and aggressive Russia. Its armaments are in decay, they say. Its armed forces are subject to a desertion rate so high it is impossible to maintain troop numbers, they say. Russian democracy may well have started out with the best of intentions. But Russia is not a democracy (although many are naive enough to believe it is) and far from sinking into military disarray, Russia has been readying — both directly and through a well-orchestrated series of international allegiances — to reclaim what it sees as its rightful place in the world for some time.

Putin is on record as saying that the break-up of the Soviet Union was “a travesty,” and has made no attempt to hide the fact his objective is to reassemble the old order in this regard.

The invasion of Georgia was opportunistic, made possible as it was by an uprising in South Ossetia that was in Russia’s interests to crush and counter to those of the West for it to interfere. Nonetheless, Russia was able to annexe additional territory from the exercise. Beyond that, it had to wait: and Russians, famously, can be very patient indeed.

The situation in Ukraine, however, is vastly different to the one six years ago in Georgia.

For one thing, Ukraine sits wedged between Russia and the EU (in some respects as North Korea does between China and South Korea), making its strategic importance critical to an expansionist regime in Russia.

For another, the internal struggle in Ukraine between integration with Europe and the West or re-integration with Russia is one Russia cannot afford to “lose” the outcome of: for Russia to lose all effective control and influence over Ukraine would be to suffer a colossal blow to resurgent Russian prestige, and a strategic disaster that would permanently tilt the balance in Europe back toward the West.

And in any case, the concentration of ethnic Russians in Ukraine makes the entire situation impossible to draw black and white conclusions around: the Crimea, gifted to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 as a token gesture, is full of Russians, and ostensibly the pretext Putin is using to justify manoeuvres involving 150,000 troops ahead of almost certain deployment. If Russia’s interests extended no further than regaining the Crimean peninsula — ostensibly providing a safe haven for other ethnic Russians in Ukraine who did not wish to join the EU — there might be an acceptable case to be made for that.

But the latest reports are that an initial 6,000 Russian troops (at a minimum) are about to be sent into the capital, Kiev, and if that should occur, then all bets are off.

The interesting thing about the Nyquist article (which if you haven’t read, go back to the link now and do so) is that of all the Western European powers involved in the Ukraine crisis, it’s the Germans who are calling most loudly for the USA to get involved. It’s the Germans who are making the most noise about NATO. And it’s the Germans, who — the UK aside — are the most dependent on the natural gas supplies that flow through Ukraine from Russia that Russia has shown in the past its wont to literally turn off the tap as an economic and diplomatic weapon when it suits its agenda.

(As an aside, once this is all over, Western Europe must make fresh arrangements to secure its fuel requirements: the Russians simply can’t be trusted when it comes to energy security — a fact that, hopefully, has dawned on the leaders of the German government).

If friendship and partnership with Russia is a mistake — as Nyquist clearly asserts — then current events give every indication that the Germans have awoken to that fact. But it may be too late to benefit anyone.

If Putin wanders into Ukraine and a war breaks out, it will begin conventionally; after all, nobody — not even the Russians — wants to risk all-out war in which even the “fruits” of victory (to paraphrase JFK) would be the taste of ashes in their mouths.

Should such a war be confined to conventional means, it is likely the Russians would prevail; Putin could move hundreds of thousands of ground troops into Ukraine before Britain and the US could send their own deployments in numbers meaningful enough to influence proceedings. It is worth remembering that at a time of war, the Russians would also be able to shoot down aircraft or sink ships carrying NATO troops without fear of subsequent prosecution for war crimes.

In such a scenario, does the West sit back and allow Putin to staple Ukraine back onto Russia as a huge leap forward in his quest to reassemble the USSR? Or — God forbid — does David Cameron or Barack Obama order the unthinkable in retaliation, and launch a nuclear strike on Moscow?

Many will talk of wiser and cooler heads, of the uselessness and pointlessness of nuclear arms, and the guaranteed eventual extinction of humanity were they ever to be used on a widespread basis.

But the alternative, at that point, becomes an existential calculation of its own. If they do nothing, where will Russia stop? Are its territorial ambitions confined to Ukraine, and if not, how widespread are they? And if the Iron Curtain, in time, were to be re-established, what would remain to stop Putin then turning his sights on the enemies who put up a token resistance, but were just too weak to take the only measure that could stop him?

In short, should Putin be appeased over Ukraine, or is doing so just a recipe for eventual calamity on an even greater scale that should be dealt with sooner rather than later? Suddenly, parallels between 1930s Europe and the crisis today are too compelling to dismiss.

In case anyone thinks all of this is hypothetical, here’s another article: this time from Britain’s Daily Express. We may be nearer finding out answers to these terrible questions much faster than anyone ever hoped.

If Russian troops already in the Crimea advance further into Ukraine, or indeed into its capital, then any ambiguity around the question of whether Russia has “violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine’s borders” will be summarily dispelled.

And if argument over whether the so-called Budapest Memorandum — committing the UK, USA, Ukraine and Russia to protect the integrity of Ukraine’s borders — can be formally invoked on the back of a clear breach by Russia concludes that it can be, then Britain and America will find themselves at war with Russia.

From there, God alone knows what could happen.

But if Russian troops advance on Kiev today — and as things stand, the prospect of them doing so appears certain — then World War III may very well begin today too.

Wiser and cooler heads are very much needed at such a delicate time and in the context of such a delicately poised point in global politics.

It’s a fair bet, however, that as night falls on Europe, Britain’s Vanguard submarines — the operational vehicles for its Trident missile system, and the first line of the NATO nuclear strike capability — are nowhere near their base in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, and it is to be hoped their whereabouts, in the context of the current situation in Ukraine, never become apparent.

 

POSTSCRIPT: As I publish (just before 1am on 3 March, Melbourne time) there are unconfirmed reports that Russia has issued a declaration of war on Ukraine.

 

Able Archer: 30 Years On From Nuclear Near-Miss

SPARE A THOUGHT for the nuclear Armageddon that so nearly, yet inadvertently, destroyed civilisation 30 years ago; a routine military exercise at a time of heightened cold war tensions, this day in 1983, came dangerously close to triggering a colossal Soviet strike on the USA and Western Europe.

I thought it appropriate to note the 30-year anniversary of Operation Able Archer given its significance as a turning point in the Cold War, and representing as it did the time at which the world arguably came closer to devastating nuclear wipeout than at any other.

To some extent, the same issues are pertinent in the world today: thousands of nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, with a window of mere minutes for a nuclear-armed nation under apparent attack to assess the threat and strike back.

Then, as now, it represents the potential for miscalculation,with catastrophic consequences.

The world, obviously, has changed; yet in some respects, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Russia — depending on who you listen to — is a nuclear threat, either due to rearmament and modification of its nuclear arsenal and a determination to reclaim the international strength and prestige of superpower status, or because of ageing and decrepit missile and control systems that are increasingly susceptible to malfunction or accidental launch.

The USA — on President Obama’s watch, at least — seems determined to realise further steep cuts in the number of strategic nuclear warheads that remain actively deployed on high alert. Yet there is little concrete evidence to suggest America’s moves in this area are reciprocated by Russia, and in any case, stories of demoralised US nuclear forces have also found their way into the international media over the past few years.

And of course, there are the “rising threats” posed by other nations and rogue states who have either acquired nuclear weapons capability or seek imminently to do so: India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran, for instance, all deepen the complexity of the nuclear equation and add to the general instability posed by nuclear weapons in a multipolar world.

The point of this post isn’t to scare anyone, or even to make a case for or agin when it comes to the world’s nuclear armaments. Rather, at what is unquestionably a significant time in the modern history of the world, I seek merely to note, and to commemorate.

To this end, just a single reference: a very good documentary that aired on Channel 4 in the UK a few years ago, dealing specifically with Able Archer, but which also provides a fascinating glimpse into the international politics and threats of the day — particularly where nuclear weapons and the politics of the Cold War are concerned.

For those unfamiliar with the background and nature of the Operation Able Archer exercises, this article (although dating to 2007) should give a broad overview of what was involved and the international environment in which the exercises took place.

The thing that struck me most in reviewing Able Archer at the weekend wasn’t the near-miss the world had with a nuclear Armageddon in 1983; rather, it was the consideration that apparently restrained the USSR from launching an all-out attack: the memory of Russia’s ambush and invasion at the hands of Nazi Germany in 1941.

And whilst I have read extensively on Able Archer over the years (nuclear politics being a bit of a pet interest), it surprises me that fewer people know about it. Everyone knows of the weather satellite launch that confused a Russian radar crew in 1995 and saw then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin open his nuclear briefcase in readiness to retaliate against the strike that proved a false alarm, but relatively few people know about this.

I support the continuing deployment of a Western nuclear deterrent; as Margaret Thatcher once observed, you can no more “disinvent” nuclear weapons than you can “disinvent” dynamite, a reality that I believe really ought to be accorded greater consideration in the arms control and arms reduction politics of the present day.

And I note that 30 years on from the near-catastrophe of Able Archer, the present generation of world leaders is largely unrestrained by the atrocities of the second world war: certainly, we all know how that disastrous conflict played out, but the key international figures of 2013 are the children of those who witnessed it first-hand, whilst the WWII generation itself is, literally, dying — and their memories with them.

I hope readers enjoy the material I have linked to and, as ever, encourage those interested to seek additional reading and media on the innocuous, routine exercise that very nearly triggered a third world war 30 years ago today.

Labour Politics In Britain: Sex (And Kids) With Aliens?

GIVEN THINGS have been full-on in the world of Australian politics of late, I thought I might share something a bit lighter from the UK tonight from that salubrious publication, The Sun; the sad thing is that this story is no beat-up: its subject may be delusional, but he stands by his story. Truly.

I saw this late last night, and simply had to shake my head and laugh.

My first thought was that The Sun seems, increasingly, to be stepping into the breach left by the now-defunct News Of The World; yet the guy at the centre of this — Simon Parkes, a Labour Party councillor in Whitby, in the north of England — is deadly serious.

Readers can access this piece here; I am aware that since it was published, the story has appeared on other news sites around the Murdoch media network across the world.

Clearly, this is a departure from the cut and thrust of Australian politics, although God knows there’s a big week coming up on that front, and there will be plenty to chew over.

In the meantime, life — even political life — has its lighter moments and figures of fun; I leave you with the article from The Sun, and I hope all are able to have a decent belly laugh at Parkes and his story.

(It sounds like a convenient excuse, doesn’t it? And what would his wife say?)

Enjoy!

A View On Gay Marriage — It’s A “F— Up:” Tebbit

FORMER THATCHER government minister and chairman of the Conservative Party in the UK, Norman Tebbit, has sparked controversy with a provocative and expletive-laden outburst against Prime Minister David Cameron and his pursuit of legislating same-sex marriage, and his remarks warrant attention.

Attention, yes, and discussion, yes, although I do point out that whilst this column does not support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, as readers already know, there are surely better ways to argue the case than this.

Tonight’s post is an observational one,  and more to generate discussion than anything as well as keeping an eye on what’s going on elsewhere in the world that is relevant to debates and discussions taking place here in Australia.

This is especially relevant today, given former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement that he has changed his mind on the issue, and now supports the measure.

There are three stories in today’s British press that I refer readers to here, here and here.

To give Australian readers a little context, this is a much “hotter” issue in Britain than it is here; the ruling Conservative Party is losing a lot of popular support at present to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), predominantly over the issue of Britain’s continued membership of the EU, but same-sex marriage is fuelling the drift as well.

There is ample anecdotal evidence that traditional Tory voters want a referendum offering the option of leaving the EU altogether (the so-called “in-out referendum” you may have heard of) and for marriage in Britain to continue to be defined as being between one woman and one man, as is the case here in Australia.

David Cameron, who — in a ceaseless campaign to “modernise” the Conservative Party that seems to be transforming it into a bastard amalgam of economic conservatism and social postmodernism — is doing all he can to avoid the referendum, but to legalise gay marriage.

So there is real…er, spice…surrounding this issue in Britain, and much of it has nothing to do with gay rights, same-sex marriage and so forth.

Enter Tebbit.

He says — among other things — that Cameron and the Tory Party leadership have “fucked up” by alienating the grassroots vote over such issues.

There are two ways to look at what he has had to say; once you’ve read his remarks in full from the clippings I have pasted here, I will be interested to see which way you view them.

It is important to note that despite appearances to the contrary, Tebbit in the past has been known to opine that whilst he disagrees with the practice of homosexuality, he is a defender of the right of the individual to practice it.

But even so, “I rather fancy my brother, perhaps I’ll marry my son” would seem to be a somewhat extreme means of expressing opposition to same-sex marriage.

So, too, is his scenario of a lesbian queen inseminated using semen from an anonymous donor.

Are these scenarios realistic?

Tebbit does touch on a couple of issues that haven’t been given consideration, such as inheritance tax, but really — and remember, I don’t support the measure either — isn’t this going a bit too far?

I’m in two minds as to how to judge Tebbit, given I was a big fan of his when he was a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, and given he is — normally — a voice of hard cold reason, dour as it sometimes is.

On one hand, is he guilty of an indiscretion here on the scale Cory Bernardini was roundly (and rightly) savaged for, by supporters and opponents alike of same-sex marriage, some time ago?

Or on the other, is Tebbit right to rip into the ridiculous, focus group generated slogans “marriage equality” and “equal love” with venom to prosecute his case and, if so, are his illustrations justified?

I’d be interested to hear what people think.

There is a parallel debate in Britain at present, which is gathering pace; whether David Cameron should be replaced as Conservative Party leader (and Prime Minister) before the next scheduled British general election in 2015.

The hubbub over gay marriage is the latest in a litany of issues that have sparked both controversy over Cameron’s leadership and an exodus of Tory voters in the direction of UKIP.

I was one of David Cameron’s staunchest Antipodean supporters for a long time, both before and after he became Prime Minister; I came to the conclusion some time ago that I was in error, and that he must be replaced if Labour is to be prevented from an unjustified and unmerited return to office in two years’ time.

What effect will Lord Tebbit’s outburst have on that?

I look forward to hearing readers’ thoughts — both for and agin.

By the way, I wish to note to readers that I will be resuming “normal” columns in the next day or two; I’ve been distracted for a few days by other issues, but will have a little more time to post very shortly, starting with the post-budget polling.

Vale, Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013): A Leader For Her Time

THEY THOUGHT THE GROCER’S DAUGHTER, Margaret Thatcher once said — speaking of the disdainful regard in which her aristocratic male colleagues held her — didn’t really know how things were done. But, she added, they also knew that they simply didn’t have it within themselves to see things through.

OBITUARY

With the death this morning (GMT) of Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain has lost one of its most significant political figures of the 20th century, and its greatest postwar Prime Minister; the UK’s prestige and reputation in the world was restored by Thatcher after decades of decline, and the changes she enacted in Britain have proven more durable than anyone could have foreseen upon her election to office in 1979.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher LG OM PC FRS, née Roberts (13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) won the 1979 election in Great Britain with a simple objective: to reverse Britain’s decline.

Britain’s first female Prime Minister faced obstacles in the form of some of her own colleagues within the Conservative Party, over and above those any Conservative leader would face when attempting to effect significant change; and in the end, these were by far the more potent threat to her ability to complete what she saw as her mission in politics.

Thatcher — the lower middle class daughter of a grocer from Grantham, married to a successful and wealthy businessman — entered the House of Commons as Member for the London constituency of Finchley in 1959; a scientist and lawyer by profession, she was described in the parliamentary handbook’s “new members” section as “the mother of twins.”

After backbench stints in government before 1964 and in opposition following the Labour win at that year’s election, Thatcher experienced rapid promotion; upon the return of the Conservative Party to government in 1970 under Edward Heath, she became Secretary of State for Education.

It was in this role — charged with finding reductions in expenditure — she gained the unwanted moniker “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher” after cutting the free milk program for school children aged 7 to 11. She later wrote: “I learned a valuable lesson. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit.”

But Heath’s government was doomed; oil shocks that reverberated across the Western world in the early 1970s, along with a miners’ strike which determinedly sought to bring a Tory government down, found their mark. Ted Heath narrowly lost two elections in 1974, with the second (in October) resulting in a wafer-slim but outright majority for Labour.

After the loss, Thatcher challenged Heath for the party’s leadership in 1975; Heath failed to obtain the number of votes required under Conservative Party rules on the first ballot and withdrew, and Thatcher defeated his preferred successor, Willie Whitelaw, on the second.

Yet from that point on, sections of the Tory Party refused to accept her legitimacy as leader; some felt she would prove a mere stopgap, whilst others believed the Tories would be consigned to at least two terms in opposition, with Thatcher destined to lose the election to be held before the end of 1979.

But just as the unions helped destroy Heath’s government with a miners’ strike, so they helped to destroy the ensuing Labour government; the “Winter of Discontent” — a series of rolling strikes initiated by unions over the 1978-79 winter — had disrupted sectors such as waste collection, cemetery workers, emergency services and transport workers.

It destroyed public support for James Callaghan’s Labour government, and as the rubbish literally piled up across the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party moved — and won — a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

Taking office after winning the resulting election held in May 1979, Thatcher publicly enunciated a wish for her government: it was the Prayer of St Francis, which runs

Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.

Where there is error, may we bring truth.

Where there is doubt, may we bring faith.

And where there is despair, may we bring hope.

These were words that were time and again flung in her face by opponents and detractors.

As a middle-class woman from the Tory Right, Thatcher was obliged to allocate a significant number of ministries in her government to internal party opponents.

Typically, these were Conservative grandees; landed gentry figures whose careers in public office were built on a culture of consensus and a tolerance of the creeping socialism that had all but strangled Britain in the postwar years prior to 1979: the very attitudes Thatcher saw as the root causes of the decline that she regarded as her mission to reverse.

This was the basis of the notorious “wet-dry” schism for which the early Thatcher government was known; the “wets” on the Tory Left, mostly loyal to former leader Heath, went to great lengths to frustrate  and obstruct the Thatcher agenda in government.

But — in Thatcher’s own famous words — the lady was not for turning.

The Conservative Party had come to office in a country blighted by inefficient and uncompetitive industrial practice, a rampant and militant trade union movement, declining living standards, and the suffocating effect of nationalised industries operating in outdated or obsolete markets: unable to compete in the world or retain market share, the slow creep of socialism was choking the very life out of the country.

So after two years of internal warfare, Thatcher jettisoned the “wets” from her cabinet; in return, the “men in grey suits” never ceased to look for the opportunity to tear her down.

Thatcher’s government was remarkable in that it initiated radical and widespread change in virtually every aspect of British society: nationalised industries and state-owned assets were privatised; the outdated and inefficient framework of British industrial practice was torn down; the stranglehold of unions over industry was broken; and the decades-old culture of consensus government at a snail’s pace was replaced with an emphasis on personal responsibility, private enterprise, and what is still known as the “opportunity society.”

Like any period of sustained change, there was indeed dislocation, and there were indeed losers. But Thatcher was an agent of change, and the transformation her government undertook of the United Kingdom was necessary, urgent, and long overdue.

Indeed, the vindication of those changes lies in the fact that almost a quarter of a century after Thatcher left office, much of what was controversial in the 1980s is remains in place, regarded very much as the norm.

Certainly, Thatcher made enemies, and fought many battles against them; in 1984, the National Union of Mineworkers — led by militant mining figure Arthur Scargill — attempted to bring down the Thatcher government in the same way it had engineered the demise of Heath’s government in 1974; but the miners acted and illegally, and in breaking their strike, Thatcher effectively broke the militancy of the entire union movement.

And IRA terrorists made an assassination attempt on Thatcher at the 1984 Conservative Party conference in Brighton; whilst they succeeded in killing or maiming a handful of the party’s people in the attack, Thatcher survived unhurt.

But it was the invasion by Argentina of the Falkland Islands in 1982 that provided the pivot point for nationalist pride to begin to be restored; Thatcher’s swift dispatch of a military taskforce to the South Atlantic, and its recapture of the islands after a brief but successful war against the Argentinian forces of the dictator Galtieri, was a turning point in both the country’s self-esteem and in the political fortunes of the Conservative Party.

The Falkland Islands conflict is widely credited as a major factor in the thumping election win recorded by the Conservative Party in 1983; a second landslide re-election would be achieved four years later, in June 1987, as the British economy boomed, and many believed that Britain’s structural economic problems had been solved.

Thatcher left her mark on international affairs beyond the Falklands; in 1980 she reached a settlement with the black majority in white-governed Rhodesia, from which democratic Zimbabwe was born, and of which Robert Mugabe became its first Prime Minister (in 1980, there was no indication of the murderous regime Mugabe would run; indeed, Britain won international praise for the settlement it reached in Rhodesia at the time).

Her dealings with paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s led to the simultaneous return of Hong Kong to China, and the opening of China to British trade.

And she will be remembered as perhaps the pivotal influence in bringing the Cold War to an end; it was Thatcher who identified Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as a man the West could “do business with;” through her close personal and political relationship with US President Ronald Reagan, the pair were able to speed the spread of democracy in eastern Europe and the fall of communism, culminating in the dissolution of the USSR itself.

But throughout her years in government, the “men in grey suits” waited, and watched; Thatcher had forced one of their number — Michael Heseltine — out of the government in 1986, over a dispute centred on the bailout of a helicopter company, Westland.

And in 1988, Whitelaw — the “wet” whom she had beaten to the Tory leadership, and who subsequently served as her deputy — retired, removing what had been an important balancing and moderating influence on her.

Thatcher’s third term in office marked the onset of drift; disputes with her ministers became more frequent, as colleagues of her own generation were replaced by younger and less experienced men and women as the government matured.

But it was her policy of a poll tax — the principle by which a duke would pay the same charge for council services as a pensioner — that sowed the seeds of destruction of her government; conservative voters in Tory strongholds demonstrated against a conservative government for the first time in living memory.

(Ironically, the continuing Major government restructured and neutralised the tax, but its basic premise remains largely unchanged, and has been operative for 20 years).

And her Eurosceptic, anti-European views ultimately provided the trigger for her party to dump her.

Key ministers Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe resigned in 1989 and 1990 respectively; Howe’s resignation speech was widely seen as an invitation to Michael Heseltine to stand against Thatcher for the leadership, which he did.

Heseltine had spent his years on the backbench befriending backbenchers and canvassing their support, with the consequence Thatcher failed to win the first ballot; and rather than risk a loss in a second ballot, she took the honourable path, and resigned.

Following her retirement from the House of Commons in 1992, the Queen created her a life peer — Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven — although she rarely sat in the House of Lords.

Thatcher gradually withdrew from public life; her beloved husband, Denis, died in 2003, shortly after which Thatcher suffered a series of mild strokes that affected her mobility and short-term memory. As is well known, prior to her death she also suffered from dementia.

She lived her final years in the privacy of a flat in Belgravia, in central London, and is thought to have been staying at the Ritz Hotel when she died to enable easier access to her by medical personnel who had been treating her.

Thatcher is survived by her twin adult children, Mark and Carol, and their families.

Her legacy will be one of lasting change in Britain, and of indeed reversing her country’s decline, both in its own standards of living and in its place in the world.

Britain, and the wider world, is a better place for her time as Prime Minister, and the enduring nature of the changes her government made — both in Britain, and in the countries around the world that adopted them — is testament to her remarkable achievement born from a simple wish to restore the greatness of her country.

Like any agent of change, she will be revered by some, and reviled by others: such is the nature of politics and politicians, and the impacts they engender upon democratic societies.

But as Margaret Thatcher (or Mrs T, or simply Margaret, as those of us who were fond of her were wont to call her) herself often remarked: “It’s a funny old world.”

This column wishes to express its great sorrow at Mrs Thatcher’s passing; we trust she is resting in peace, and may God rest her soul.

BREAKING NEWS: Former British PM Margaret Thatcher Dead at 87

IN DREADFULLY sad news tonight, former British Prime Minister has died this morning (London time); Mrs Thatcher is reported to have suffered a final stroke after an intermittent series of minor strokes in recent years, and died peacefully in her sleep. She was a few months short of her 88th birthday.

After years of hoax announcements, this one is accurate.

This is frightfully upsetting news and I will be monitoring the British press through the night (Melbourne time) for more information, and will post again later tonight or tomorrow.