Julian Barnes reviews The Iron Lady

Julian Barnes in the New York Review of Books:

ScreenHunter_19 Feb. 09 13.13Philip Larkin was one of those who adored Mrs. Thatcher. “I got the blue flash,” he reported after meeting her—that moment of what the diarist and Tory minister Alan Clark (who also adored her) described as Führer Kontakt. “Her great virtue,” Larkin told an interviewer in 1979, “is saying that two and two makes four, which is as unpopular nowadays as it has always been.” Later that year, he elaborated: “At last politics makes sense to me, which it hasn’t done since Stafford Cripps (I was very fond of him too). Recognizing that if you haven’t got the money for something you can’t have it—this is a concept that’s vanished for many years.”

Politicians are, inevitably, elected by people who know less about politics than they do, and Mrs. Thatcher’s favorite schtick was making out that a state’s fiscal responsibility was merely a scaled-up version of good housekeeping. Thrift, hard work, common sense: the housewife virtues were what she pushed, and she convinced many. Though of course whenever a government really wants to afford something—like the Falklands War—it does so; mysterious contingency funds are suddenly discovered (and their size kept from the public until much later). This is a bit like being attentive to the cost of a pint of milk while having a millionaire husband in the background—which was the case with Mrs. Thatcher.

More here.