The Downing Street Years

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE DOWNING STREET YEARS is Margaret Thatcher’s memoir of her eleven years as prime minister of Great Britain. Although she was Britain’s first female prime minister, Thatcher has little to say about the difficulties which she encountered due to her sex. Instead, she describes her role in the political crises which arose between 1979 and 1990, culminating with her removal from office by her own party even though she had never lost a general election.

Although Thatcher is famous for the dramatic shifts in domestic policy collectively known as “Thatcherism,” some of the best sections of her memoir concern foreign policy. She is especially informative on the 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Thatcher’s determined opposition prevented her foreign secretary, with the support of a majority of the cabinet, from negotiating a settlement which would have allowed Argentine control of the Falklands. She worked hard at reestablishing Great Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States, and while Reagan was president she was successful. But after George Bush became president, the United States regarded Germany as its main European ally, and Thatcher’s references to Bush are considerably less flattering than those about Reagan. Some of the most dramatic sections of the book describe the growing conflict between herself and her key cabinet ministers over British policy toward the European Community, which eventually led to...

(The entire section is 408 words.)