Thatcher, Margaret, Baroness°

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THATCHER, MARGARET, BARONESS ° (1925– ), British prime minister. The daughter of a Methodist grocer in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and an Oxford graduate, Margaret Thatcher entered Parliament in 1959 and served as Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, winning three general elections. Her government was remarkable for the number of Jews she appointed to senior positions and for her respect for the British Jewish community. In the late 1930s her father had taken in a German Jewish refugee as a maid, which Margaret Thatcher credited with raising her awareness of the plight of Jews. At one time Thatcher had five Jews in her cabinet of 20 or so members, among them holders of the very senior positions of chancellor of the exchequer and home secretary.

This led former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to make his famous bon mot that the Thatcher cabinet "had more old Estonians than old Etonians." Thatcher also warmly admired Chief Rabbi Immanuel *Jakobovits, awarding him a peerage, and viewed the upward social mobility of Britain's Jews within a few generations, largely through their own ability and without state aid, as holding wider lessons for British society. It is estimated that up to two-thirds of Britain's Jews voted for the Conservative Party during the Thatcher years, which also coincided with the movement of the Labour Party to a hard-left position on many issues and the growth of an anti-Zionist left hostile to Israel.

The movement of most British Conservatives to the right might also be contrasted with the situation 20 or so years earlier, when Jews had a visible profile in the Labour government of Harold *Wilson.


G. Alderman, Modern British Jewry; W.D. Rubinstein, Jews in Great Britain; S. Brook, The Club: The Jews of Modern Britain (1989); M. Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (1995).

[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]