Reflecting on his time as a senior adviser to Margaret Thatcher, John Browne tells Newsmax TV that Britain’s Iron Lady, in both life and death, embodied the central theme captured in her country’s Magna Carta, and in America’s Declaration of Independence — freedom.
“It meant freedom from onerous taxation. It meant freedom from outside aggression. It meant freedom from the abuse of trade union’s power, and all of these things,” said Browne in an exclusive interview on Monday. “Of course, by the time it started to filter through into the British economy it became freedom and enterprise.”
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A former member of England’s Parliament, Browne said that he was deeply saddened by Monday’s news that Thatcher, whom he considered to be one of the world’s greatest leaders, had passed away after suffering a stroke.
“When she took over in 1979 England was giggling its way into the ocean,” he lamented. “When she left it was a really vibrant and growing economy. And it spilled into other areas. For example, we had a public sector debt repayment schedule — not borrowing $1 trillion a year and printing $1 trillion a year.”
Browne, who is now a senior market strategist with Euro-Pacific Capital, last saw his former boss several years ago when he was a guest aboard magazine publisher Steve Forbes’ yacht, The Highlander, off Fishers Island in Long Island Sound.
“Margaret Thatcher was there at dinner and she greeted me by touching me softly on the wrist and she said, ‘John, we fought many great battles together,’” he recalled. “That was very touching. I mean it was a very touching farewell in a way, because I haven’t seen her since.”
Having served as principal adviser to the Thatcher government on issues related to the then Soviet Union, Browne was struck by Thatcher’s willingness to accept the notion that then Agriculture Minister Mikhail Gorbachev might be someone with whom she and the West could do business.
“I was put in charge of looking after Mr. and Mrs. Gorbachev when they first came to the West, and of course he was then a Politburo member, but not the leader of the Soviet Union,” said Browne.
“Over the first day I got the distinct impression that this man was going to be the next leader of the Soviet Union. I took him to the British Museum and all this other stuff, and to receptions and things like that,” said Browne, who shared his impression with the British Foreign Office, only to be dismissed.
“On the other hand, about 15 minutes later after division, I was in Margaret Thatcher’s private office in the House of Commons and she sat forward in her chair. She said, ‘really? Do you really think there’s really going to be change in the Soviet Union?’ And so she was prepared to listen,” said Browne. “And exactly the same thing happened in the United States. She asked me to send my paper, which I wrote all about it afterwards, to President Reagan, who wrote a charming letter back.”
But like their British counterparts, the U.S. State Department “poured cold water” all over such a notion, according to Browne, who said that he was subsequently dispatched by the British government to personally brief Reagan before his Geneva meeting with Gorbachev.
“He was prepared to listen, just like Margaret Thatcher. The others weren’t prepared to listen. They were so steeped in the old ways and these two great leaders were prepared to think outside the box,” observed Browne, who noted that both leaders left their countries with vibrant economies.
“When they combined with Gorbachev we had the huge achievement of the end of the cold phase of the Second World War, and the massive freedom spread throughout the world,” he explained.
Browne likened the Cold War to a “glue” that restricted movement and stifled free enterprise throughout the world.
“When that glue melted, suddenly, the world was free,” he said.
Thatcher’s death, like Reagan’s several years earlier, marks the end of an era.
“Yes, it is a sad day,” said Browne. “But I’m lucky and privileged to have lived under her, and to have enjoyed the free enterprise she and Reagan gave the world.”
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