British reflect on former prime minister’s legacy
By ADAM KREGER
Despite her reputation as the “Iron Lady,” Margaret Thatcher will be remembered by many local Brits as a determined leader who wasn’t afraid to make unpopular decisions.
Thatcher, who died Monday, was the United Kingdom’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century and the only female prime minister.
“(Thatcher) did a lot of things that were good, but they weren’t popular,” said Pam Amizarelli, a native of England who now resides in Sarasota and has been a member of the local British American Club since 1999. “But I thought she did a great job.”
During Thatcher’s time as prime minister, unemployment increased, according to the BBC. However, she did reduce inflation. Some believe many of Thatcher’s achievements have been overlooked.
“(Thatcher) was one of the most respected politicians of her day,” said Hazel Crouch, who moved to Englewood from Malvern, Worcestershire, 12 years ago. “I greatly admire the work she did.”
Thatcher’s determination to do good for the country is missing in today’s politicians in the U.S. and U.K., said Crouch, who served in the Royal Air Force when Thatcher was in office.
With Thatcher’s passing, Amizarelli recalls wishing the 2011 film of Thatcher’s life, “The Iron Lady,” starring Meryl Streep, would have portrayed Thatcher in a more positive light.
“Somebody did a movie that really emphasized her bad health, other than emphasizing what she did well,” Amizarelli said. “Which I thought was very sad.”
As prime minister, Thatcher was in favor of privatizing state-owned industries, reforming trade unions and lowering taxes and social expenses. Darryl Keys, who moved to Englewood from Sheffield, England, said Sheffield is the British equivalent of Pittsburgh, in that both cities are economically dependent on steel.
He says Thatcher helped take power away from unions, thus making Britain more economically competitive.
“(Thatcher) is the best prime minister Britain’s had,” Keys said.
Antony Bell of North Port, who was born in England in 1979, the year Thatcher took office, remembers his grandparents being involved in the U.K. miners strike in 1984. He says his family went through a hard time, but everything worked out and his parents were especially fond of Thatcher’s involvement.
“(Thatcher) helped us through a serious recession,” Bell said. “She did well and increased relations around the world, for the most part.” Margaret Russell, a Realtor in Punta Gorda and North Port who came to America from the U.K. in 1979, said she met Thatcher in 1978.
“We were staying in the same hotel and saw each other and said hello,” she said. “She was on the scene back then. I followed her progress through the years and I believe she is one of the pioneers. She was a really, really strong woman. She had a great relationship with Ronald Reagan. I’m sorry to hear she passed away.”
Thatcher resigned from her leadership role in 1990 and left the House of Commons in 1992. Thatcher had been dealing with health issues and had a series of minor strokes which led her to give up public speaking a decade ago.
Thatcher was 87 when she died early Monday.
“She lived a good, long life,” Amizarelli said. “Her time has come, but I think we can celebrate her life.”
Staff writers Elaine Allen-Emrich and Tom Chang contributed to this report.