Love her or hate her – and it seems that like Marmite, the country is truly divided on this – Margaret Thatcher was truly an unforgettable British icon. Coming from humble beginnings the daughter of a greengrocer was certainly not afraid of a hard day’s work. The first female Prime Minister of Britain, Thatcher actually earned the nickname ‘The Iron Lady’ as an insult by a communist journalist. Turning the name to her advantage, the name stuck and became her badge of honor. Sweeping into power in 1979, after the winter of discontent, Margaret Thatcher was certainly no shrinking violet. She led the country into a controversial war in the Falklands, which saw her approval ratings soar and earned her another election victory for her patriotic stance.
By the mid-1980’s, the initial wave of patriotism felt within the country had begun to make way for another side – the wave of privatization and her battles with the trade unions during the mid-1980s had made her unpopular with large numbers of the British public. Despite all of this unease in Britain, she had a close relationship with the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, with whom she formed a close alliance, both sharing the view that there should be no compromise with the Soviet Union, and stood up to the then USSR on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
In 1986, one of the most iconic images of a British Prime Minister ever was recorded – and showed her still to be an Iron Lady. Thatcher was a strong supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and nuclear deterrent of the United Kingdom. She traveled to West Germany to meet NATO forces just south of Hamburg. Whilst doing so she was photographed in a Challenger tank. The picture made newspaper front pages all over Britain, showing that she was still as tough as they came, and helped with her re-election in 1986. When interviewed afterward, she simply said ‘I loved it’! if this appeals to you, have a go at tank driving today, or if you are not up for driving one yourself visit the Bovingdon Tank Museum.
Thatcher went on to play a role in the end of the Cold War, with Ronald Reagan when the more progressive-minded Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as the Soviet leader in 1985before her successor, John Major came to power in 1990.