Tony Blair's recent "landmark" speech about religion and politics illustrates how terrified public men and women on both sides of the sea have become of saying or appearing to believing anything substantive. Mr. Blair said he couldn't "do God," in the famous words of a press aide, even to utter a simple "God bless you" while he was the prime minister because it might be "considered weird." In the modern culture, he said, "It would have led to a whole series of suppositions, none of which are very helpful to the practicing politician." (Sound familiar?) This could have been taken from the playbook of Democratic politicians here. But upon discovering how wrong they were not to "do God," both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have resorted to everything short of tent revivals to undo the damage.
Lady Thatcher (a Methodist) has never worn her religion on her sleeve (and no manly pantsuits for her, either), but she never worried about appearing "weird" or running athwart political orthodoxy -- political correctness, as we call it now.
Philip Johnston, writing in the Daily Telegraph, recalls attending a summit meeting of British Commonwealth leaders years ago to discuss imposing sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa. Lady Thatcher, who was working behind the scenes to pressure the government to dismantle apartheid and free Nelson Mandela as a token of good faith, was alone among the 49 assembled heads of state to oppose sanctions. She said sanctions would only make the lives of ordinary South Africans -- particularly black South Africans -- more miserable. At the concluding press conference, a reporter (likely a television correspondent) asked the inevitable question of what it "felt like" to be the only leader to oppose the sanctions that all right-thinking folks approved. She replied simply: "I feel sorry for the 48."
No one under the age of 40 can appreciate how miserable Britain was in the late 1970s, with the trade unions strangling the economy and despair as the overall mood of the nation. The only thing left and right agreed on was things were getting worse. Maggie Thatcher prescribed medicine that had been long dismissed as poison: privatizing state industry, deregulation and encouraging an enterprise culture.
"They" said it was beyond the ability of any man to do anything about the misery. So a woman did it. But, not just any woman.