• Catherine Ashton addresses foreign ministers during a joint council meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union in Manama, Bahrain on June 30, 2013. (Hasan Jamali/AP)

    Dark Horse

    Lady Ashton’s Victory Lap

    Unknown and unglamorous, Lady Ashton silenced critics by forging an unlikely peace accord between Serbia and Kosovo, writes Eleanor Clift.

    When Catherine Ashton was named High Representative for Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy for the European Union, the predominantly male foreign policy community harrumphed its disapproval. She lacked star power, and she had no background in foreign affairs. She’d been the EU’s trade commissioner, and before that she was in the Parliament as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Lancashire, a coal mining community, where she grew up in a working-class family.

    No one was more surprised than Ashton herself to get the nod for the newly created post. She hadn’t campaigned for it, and emerged only as the consensus choice after considerable jockeying among the 27 EU member nations. That was November 2009; now she is almost four years into her five-year term, and doubts about her leadership in the sensitive post have been put to rest by her performance.

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  • Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waves to the press at her home in London in 2010. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

    Iron Lady

    The Full Thatcher

    Was she aware of her sex appeal? What did she make of Reagan? Matthew Walther talks to the author of the new authorized biography.

    Margaret Thatcher died only eight weeks ago, but publishers are already racing to release books about the late conservative icon. Rush jobs and cash-ins are probably inevitable, but the first book across the finish line is volume one of Charles Moore’s authorized biography. Published only six weeks after her funeral, Moore’s 900-plus-page doorstop has already been hailed by A.N. Wilson as “the greatest political biography since Morley’s life of Gladstone.” I spoke with Moore, former editor of The Spectator, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Daily Telegraph, about his subject—her fierce regard for privacy, her playful sexuality, her relationship with Reagan, and her unlikely domesticity—his low opinion of most political biographies, and the time he spent editing a weekly political magazine when Thatcherism was at its zenith.

    Mrs. Thatcher died April 8, and the first volume of your biography is already on store shelves in Britain and the United States. How were you able to bring the book to press on such short notice? Was it more or less finished at the time of her death?

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  • Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

    Farewell Britannia

    Maggie To Get Museum

    Supporters plan to honor Thatcher with a "U.S.-style" museum and library.

    Move over, Monticello: Maggie Thatcher is about to get her own memorial. According to the Guardian, as Britain prepares for the Iron Lady's funeral this week, her supporters at The Cherish Freedom Trust have announced their plans "to honour her in the manner of a U.S. president" with a library and museum to immortalize her life and legacy. While America commemorates all its former leaders with a presidential library housing their papers (not to mention the few and the great whose private homes have been turned into national treasures), the U.K. has no such equivalent for its prime minsters.

    It's an appropriately American twist for a woman much beloved in U.S. during the Reaganite 80's for her free market principles and her hardline stance against the Soviets. Predictably, the plans have riled the left, with Labour party members insisting that taxpayers should not foot the bill for a Tory "political propaganda exercise." "Even in death, she is spinning from her grave," wrote Lord Prescott, the Labour former deputy prime minister, in a column in the Sunday Mirror. "She claimed she never wanted a state funeral...the country paid enough thanks to that woman. So why the hell should we continue to pay now she's dead?"

    The Cherish Freedom Trust is pressing ahead nevertheless, reportedly securing pledges worth 1 million pounds for a project whose estimated costs could run up to 15 million pounds or more. Senior Tories have pledged their support, including the delightfully-named Eric Pickles, Liam Fox and Lord Tebbit.

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  • Maggie, Divisive Even in Death

    With a militaristic Falklands theme and controversial political tone, the Iron Lady’s funeral is causing contention before it even occurs. Peter Jukes reports.

    It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a ceremony to salute Britain’s first female prime minister, a woman who won three successive election victories and bestrode the world stage. In death, as in life, the funeral of Margaret Thatcher is causing divisions—or so the cliché goes. But on this occasion you can’t blame her.

    Since her death was announced on Monday, there have been sporadic street parties to celebrate, a special session of Parliament to commemorate her, calls for a statue to be erected in Trafalgar Square, and a concerted effort to push Judy Garland’s version of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” to the top of the record charts. All this was predictable, given the way Thatcher was revered by some of the public and detested by others. But the official response is more baffling.

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  • Suzanne Vlamis/AP

    London Mayor Boris Johnson suggests Trafalgar Square, where military heroes are memorialized, but the Greater London Authority says it is “not suitable.”

    London Mayor Boris Johnson on Wednesday proposed putting the proposed statue of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London—where the country’s military heroes are memorialized. Given Thatcher’s leadership during the Falklands war, Johnson is not alone in believing she should be recognized there. But Thatcher fans shouldn’t get their hopes up yet: the Greater London Authority has deemed that location “not suitable.” The fourth plinth at Trafalgar, while never filled, has been occupied since 1988 by artwork.

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  • Neil Mockford

    In memory of Margaret Thatcher, a song regains popularity in the U.K.

    Brits didn’t like Margaret Thatcher? Heavens, no! A specific song has been climbing the U.K. iTunes charts, and it seems to speak, or rather, sing, for itself. “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” by Judy Garland is now teetering at 27th on the list and is perched to rise still further. According to News.com.au, a Facebook campaign is to blame for the phenomenon. Their goal: to make the Wizard of Oz song reach the top of the charts following the death of their first and only female prime minister. They’re not too far off—it just hit No. 1 on Amazon U.K.

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  • Sang Tan;Vincent Yu/AP

    Think about it: does anyone want to go back to the pre-Thatcher era?

    In an op-ed in Tuesday’s Guardian,  novelist Ian McEwan pays tribute to the late prime minister Margaret Thatcher—namely that Britain loved to hate her. McEwan admits that “in retrospect, in much dissenting commentary there was often a taint of sexism,” writing that the greatest charge lobbied against Thatcher is that she “had no heart, and, famously, cared little for the impulses that bind individuals into a society.” But, McEwan points out, does anyone really want to go back to the pre-Thatcher late ’70s? McEwan rattles off some of the inconveniences of the late ’70s, proclaiming, “[W]e have paid for that transformation with a world that is harder-edged, more competitive, and certainly more intently aware of the lure of cash.” As for literature, it thrived it the Thatcher era—mainly out of major novelists' fascination, borne out of hatred, of her. At an international conference in Lisbon in the late ’80s, the major British novelists there—among them, McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, and Malcolm Bradbury—all spoke so obsessively about Thatcher that the Italian delegation stormed out and told them to get over her. And in one particular example, Christopher Hitchens, then a reporter for the New Statesman, corrected Thatcher on a point of fact and then was corrected by her—and she spanked him with her order papers, proving that at least part of the obsession was erotic.

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  • A mortuary van departs the Ritz Hotel with the body of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 8, 2013 in London, England. (Warrick Page/Getty Images)

    RIP IRON LADY

    Thatcher Funeral Set for April 17

    Body was removed from Ritz Hotel.

    Funeral preparations began Tuesday for former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday at the age of 87. Thatcher’s body was removed from the Ritz Hotel, where she had been staying, just after midnight Tuesday and, accompanied by a police escort, taken to an undisclosed location. Her funeral has been set for April 17. Thatcher did not want a full state funeral, having once said that a military aircraft fly-over for her funeral would be a “waste of money.” The prime minister’s office said friends and colleagues of Thatcher’s will attend a private service that will be televised at St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a private cremation. Both Houses of Parliament have called recess and will pay tribute to Thatcher on Wednesday.

    Read it at Telegraph
  • British politician Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool, 1972. (Jamie Hodgson/Getty)

    The Accidental Feminist

    A loner for most of her political career, the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher faced vicious sexism, but she triumphed to transform the status of women in Britain. Just don’t call her a feminist. By Amanda Foreman.

    The late Margaret Thatcher never called herself a feminist. In 1975, during her first tour of the United States as the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, Thatcher refused to give the feminist movement any credit for her success. When asked by a reporter about her debt to “women’s lib,” she angrily replied, “Some of us were making it long before women’s lib was ever thought of.”

    Thatcher’s anger was understandable, she had climbed the treacherous road to political power on her own, without the help of any movement, interest group, or fan base. Born into a solid lower-middle class family in the north of England, Thatcher’s political instincts were as tribal as any of her left-wing peers. Only, rather than being of the collectivist, big government, social engineering sort, her views reflected the hopes and aspirations of the small-business class: free movement, labor, free market. The patrician wing of the Conservative Party was no more sympathetic to Thatcher’s politics than the rank-and-file of the Labour Party. It is impossible to overstate just how isolated and incongruous Lady Thatcher was when she entered Parliament in 1959. Nor did her isolation end with her first promotion. She remained a loner in every sense of the word for most of her political career. Even as prime minister she never enjoyed the unanimous support of her own cabinet.

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  • Dennis Redman / AP Photo

    Political Accessories

    The Language of Thatcher’s Handbags

    Robin Givhan on Margaret Thatcher, handbags, and power.

    It is not surprising that a handbag should figure so prominently in the film chronicling Margaret Thatcher’s legacy–a sprawling tale brought to the big screen by Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. This personal carry-all has long been both functional and symbolic. Depending on its style and brand, it can be a statement of status or a pronouncement of folksiness. Hand it off to a hen-pecked husband or a put-upon assistant and it can demean or belittle. A purse can impress and intimidate, bewilder, berate, or amuse.

    During Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, her handbags came to signify femininity and toughness. Their style was unassuming: slender, structured, solid, and ladylike. They looked perfectly at home with Thatcher’s dignified suits and oh-so-British hats.

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  • Margaret Thatcher answers questions from the media during a news conference on June 23, 1982. (AP)

    The Iron Lady

    Maggie the Great

    Tunku Varadarajan remembers the irrepressible and unabashedly conservative Margaret Thatcher.

    Of the four most significant politicians in Britain in the last 200 years, only one—Winston Churchill—was a man. The others—Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and Margaret Thatcher—weren't (or in the case of Elizabeth, aren't) any such thing.

    Margaret Thatcher was a woman: a confounding, irrepressible, flirtatious, stubborn, certitudinous, unabashedly conservative woman. She was also a patriot, a Briton, and a wife, excelling at the arts that each of those categories demand of a person.

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  • Watch This!

    Margaret Thatcher's Most Scathing Retorts

    The Iron Lady’s most famous no-hold-barred rhetoric.

    Thatcher’s Sinking Ship

    What’s law to a lady at war? On May 2, 1982, in the heat of the Falklands War, the HMS Conqueror successfully launched two torpedoes into Argentina’s Navy cruiser ARA General Belgrano, sinking the ship and essentially proving Argentina’s naval powers. But weapons weren’t the only things destroyed in the attack—it also resulted in the deaths of 323 sailors, a full half of the Argentine deaths of the entire conflict. In the days following the sinking of the Belgrano, critics began to question legality of the attack: after all, it took place outside the 200-mile total exclusion zone mandated by international law. Thatcher’s response to the allegations? All’s fair in love and war. In an interview with David Frost conducted a month after the ship sank, Thatcher remained unfazed by the reporter’s questions—she had no apologies to make.

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