...when Margaret Thatcher won power in May 1979, it was against the backdrop of perhaps the gloomiest decade in modern British history.
Shorn of its empire, Britain now cut a very miserable figure on the world stage. For at least two decades we had been falling behind our rivals, and now the contrast was painful to see.
Britain's average inflation rate for the 1970s was 13%. West Germany's was just 5%. Our unemployment rate was 4%. Theirs was only 2%. Our major cities seemed shabby and seedy, our newspapers were full of strikes and walkouts, almost every week seemed to bring some new atrocity in Northern Ireland.
Over the course of the 1970s, two Prime Ministers, Edward Heath and James Callaghan, had been broken by the trade unions, while a third, Harold Wilson, descended into paranoia. Foreign papers talked of Britain as the Sick Man of Europe. Callaghan himself told his Labour colleagues: "If I were a young man, I would emigrate."Which Thatcher reversed almost as an act of will. After her, taxes were lower, productivity higher and foreign capital flocked to Britain.
And, oh yeah, she helped Ronald Reagan defeat the Soviet Union.