The Muslim News: Baroness Warsi tribute to Baroness Thatcher
With a career as long, as impactful and as world-changing as that of Baroness Thatcher, there is a danger that we might overlook many of her important achievements.
For instance, in the days following her very sad passing, little has been said of her attitude towards Britain becoming an increasingly diverse place. She set out her stall about the changing face of the UK when she opened the Ismaeli Centre back in 1985.
“Britain is now, more than ever, a multicultural society,” she said. “We need not be afraid that these new influences will somehow threaten the ‘British way of life’: on the contrary, a new resilience derived from diversity can only strengthen Britain.”
In those words she asserted that a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith Britain would be a stronger Britain. They are words I quote very often when arguing that in the global race – in which we are pitted against the world’s rapidly expanding economies – we have a secret weapon: the races from around the globe which make up our diverse nation.
Mrs Thatcher, as she was then, backed up this belief by creating opportunity for people, regardless of their background. Her policies unleashed people’s enterprise and independence – be it by allowing them to buy their council house or enabling them to start their own business, as my father did.
Through her own story – the journey from living above her family shop to Number 10 Downing Street – she demonstrated that one’s past should never determine their future. It was something that really resonated with me as a young Muslim girl growing up in West Yorkshire, and inspired me to go into politics.
Many years later, when Mrs Thatcher was no longer Prime Minister, another of her actions really struck a chord with me: her stance on the conflict in Bosnia. As early as 1992, she was crying out for international action. She clearly argued that a massacre of the Bosniaks in the besieged territories was only a matter of time.
It is quite remarkable now to read her article for the New York Times from that time – entitled ‘Stop the Excuses. Help Bosnia Now’ – in which she argued: ‘Hesitation has already proved costly. The matter is urgent. There are perhaps a few weeks left for a serious initiative before it is too late and a Serb victory is accomplished, with terrible long-term consequences.’ With the hindsight we have now, knowing the horrific events that swept across the town of Srebrenica in 1995, in which 8,000 Bosniaks men and boys were murdered, we know just how prescient those words were.
So as we reflect upon the career of our the first woman to lead our country – our greatest peacetime Prime Minister – it is important to remember those points in her career which might otherwise be forgotten.