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The man who replaced Margaret Thatcher reflects on her life

April 8th, 2013
04:26 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

There was never a dull moment working with the ‘Iron Lady,’ former Prime Minister John Major told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“Margaret liked and argument and she liked people who would express a different view to her. She would have a very forceful discussion before a conclusion was reached,” Major said.

Margaret Thatcher’s unprecedented third term did not come to an end because of the people, but because of her own party. At the end of her political career, it looked like her own party would not reelect her and Major, a conservative politician who had been in Thatcher’s cabinet, succeeded her as prime minister.

History will likely remember her as one of the key figures who helped bring down the iron curtain. Major believes that regaining the Falklands Islands from Argentina gave her the command to deal with communism.

“[The Falklands War] changed the perception of her in the United Kingdom,” Major told Amanpour. “I think around the world it made her a world figure rather than simply a national prime minister.” 

Major believes that victory, along with the relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and shared values with Pope John Paul II, also contributed to her playing a pivotal role in bringing down the Iron Curtain.

“I think she’s entitled to her fair share of credit for that,” Major said, but she also had a great advantage because “she actually met Gorbachev a good deal before the rest of the Western leaders.”

In him, she saw a leader, and sensed that he knew the system around him was crumbling.

“She famously said, ‘Here is a man I can do business with,’ and she proved that was, in fact, true,” Major said.

She was not perfect a politician, Major admitted, citing three positions that history will likely not look on kindly: her for opposition to sanctions against South Africa, opposing the reunification of Germany, and pushing for a national polling tax.

“No politician is always right,” Major said. “She got infinitely more things right than she got wrong.”

Even though Thatcher broke ‘the glass ceiling’ for women in an incredible way in the United Kingdom, Major said that she wasn’t what he would call an “everyday advocate for women.”

“She saw herself as a politician,” Major said. “She had made her way using her skills as a woman and she believed other women should do the same thing.”

But that doesn’t mean she shunned her femininity.

Major said she would use it at times – when dealing with men and even some male leaders, like Ronald Reagan and former French President François Mitterrand.

“She could be very charming, very attractive and very persuasive – and yes she would use her femininity and I think that was very effective with some world leaders I saw her with over the years.”

CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.


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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Dominique Eguren

    '"Margaret liked and argument and she liked people who would express a different view to her. She would have a very forceful discussion before a conclusion was reached,” Major said.'

    '...should be "liked an* argument'

    April 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  2. Carmen Miranda

    The error mentioned above is not the only one: "citing three positions that history will likely not look on kindly: her for opposition to sanctions against South Africa" Are you guys too cheap to hire editors, or a plain proofreader?

    April 8, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  3. Stanley Mzondi Zulu boy

    I can see similar Traits in you Christian Amanpour, you are a straight talker in your programmes but am not sure about you in your private life!! May be an Iron Fist Lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kikikiki!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 9, 2013 at 6:20 am | Reply
  4. Joseph Olarewaju

    You Christiane Amapour,a distinct,talented and even an iron Lady.You programmes actually thrill,interesting and educating.You don't actually need to be involved in Political position before impacting.Please,send me your E-mail address,mine is:josepholarewaju5@gmail.com.From:32,Opomalu Road, Ilorin,kwara state,Nigeria

    April 11, 2013 at 7:45 am | Reply

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