Thatcher's Political Influence Lingers

By Kevin McCandless | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

London ( - As yet another American presidential candidate pays a visit to Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative former prime minister continues to stretch a long shadow over politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani hit London in a blaze of headlines Wednesday, sweeping through the city as part of a whirlwind visit.

In addition to meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the current frontrunner for the Republican 2008 presidential nomination also met with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and hosted a fundraiser for a large group of American expatriates.

In the highlight of the day's program, Giuliani delivered the inaugural Margaret Thatcher lecture at The Atlantic Bridge, a conservative foundation dedicated to strengthening the relationship between America and Britain.

With the 81-year-old Thatcher in the audience, Giuliani called for the further enlargement of NATO and said there was no time for defeatism in a dangerous world.

"It may be better to put it, as Margaret Thatcher might have done, this is no time to go wobbly," he said.

The New Yorker's visit is the third well-publicized meeting between Thatcher and a Republican presidential hopeful in recent months. Both Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney also have met with her.

Alasdair Kean, an expert on U.S. politics at the University of Derby, said Tuesday that Thatcher had imprinted herself on the American political consciousness during the height of the Cold War.

Not only was she a strong opponent of communism, but she also decisively allied the British political establishment with the U.S. rather than Europe, he said.

In addition, she became inextricably linked with former President Ronald Reagan.

"She became identified with a particular version of right wing politics that chimed with Ronald Reagan at the same time," he said.

Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990, stepped back into the British political spotlight last week by meeting in Downing Street with Brown.

Although Brown was a critic of Thatcher when she was prime minister, he praised her as a "conviction politician," a remark that raised eyebrows among some members of his center-left Labor Party.

Bill Jones, a political expert at the University of Manchester, said the meeting was Brown's way of further destabilizing the opposition Conservative Party, which has recently been trailing in the polls.

Jones said Brown's economic policies show an affinity with the ones Thatcher followed, particularly in keeping inflation low and the job markets flexible.

On Thatcher's part, Jones said he thought she had met with Brown to remind David Cameron, the current Conservative leader, that she was still around.

Since becoming leader, Cameron has steered the party further towards the political center -- and away from Thatcher's positions -- embracing a range of pro-environment stances.

Jones said that many core Conservative voters were content with Cameron only as long as he appeared to be capable of returning the party to power.

When he looks weak, they are more likely to cause trouble for him, he said. It was therefore vital for Cameron to regain his former lead in the polls.

"As long as he's got an opinion poll lead, they're happy to follow him."

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