Margaret Thatcher: Britain’s only Green Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher, who died today, was one of the most divisive political leaders of our time with people either loving or hating her with equal passion. I must be one of the tiny minority that is ambivalent to her legacy.
As the son of a self-employed couple and who runs his own business, it would churlish not to acknowledge I have benefited massively from her economic liberalism. On the other hand, living in the North East of England I can see first hand the destruction that liberalism did to traditional heavy industries – and, Nissan at Washington aside, the lack of anything to replace those industries. This has led the demise of the proud blue collar worker and the disintegration of many communities.
But one of Mrs Thatcher’s more unexpected legacies is that she remains Britain’s greenest Prime Minister. She was the first to warn openly of the dangers of climate change in a speech to the UN in 1989, saying:
“We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere… The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto.”
She set up the Hadley Centre to study climate change which has informed all progress and legislation since. The Green movement hates to admit it, but Mrs Thatcher set the ball rolling.
This led to one of the more bizarre climate change denial theories – as put forward in The Great Global Warming Swindle – that Thatcher invented climate change to destroy the coal industry and its Unions. This is despite the fact she pretty much did that 5 years previously in the Miners’ strike.
Right-wing climate change deniers have tried to reclaim her since, but no British Prime Minister has nailed their colours to the mast so vividly. Major, Blair and Brown said nothing. David Cameron may have declared he would lead “the greenest Government ever” but he has barely managed to pay lip service since.
Cameron would do well to emulate his heroine, as Mrs Thatcher never did anything halfheartedly. Love her or hate her, you cannot accuse Mrs T of lacking in the leadership that we now need so badly.