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Prebble praises Thatcher as 'the greatest'

Wednesday 10 Apr 2013 10:39 a.m.

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Around the world, tributes are being paid to the late Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday following a stroke at age 87.

Her supporters herald her as the woman who saved the United Kingdom, but as much as she was loved, Lady Thatcher was perhaps loathed in equal measure, and her critics have not been silenced by her death.

It is clear, though, that the 'Iron Lady' has had a lasting impact on politics within the UK and around the world.

ACT Party founder and former Labour MP Richard Prebble calls her "the greatest political figure… that I've seen in my adult life", and says she got more things right than she got wrong.

"She doubted that the euro would work, and she wanted to keep Britain out of it," Mr Prebble said on Firstline this morning.

"On that last matter she was right… She was also right that nationalised industries don't work and that if you go to the private sector you'll get better performance, and that's been copied all around the world.

"And she was right about the Cold War – she saw Gorbachev, and was probably the first Western leader to say look, here is a Soviet leader we can talk to, and pull down the Iron Curtain."

Mr Prebble says even if Lady Thatcher had done nothing, she would still be remembered for being the first female Prime Minister of Britain.

"People like Helen Clark, [Jenny] Shipley in New Zealand, they all owe her a huge debt of gratitude."

Following Lady Thatcher's lead, in the 1980s Mr Prebble, alongside then Finance Minister Roger Douglas, sold a number of state assets and opened the New Zealand economy foreign markets. For many, the result of such reforms was poverty – unemployment tripled in the UK between 1980 and 1984, and hit double digits in New Zealand at the start of the 1990s.

But Mr Prebble says Lady Thatcher cannot be blamed for the human toll her policies took.

"I was in Britain before she was Prime Minister, and my god, what a miserable place it was," says Mr Prebble. "There were strikes, there was rubbish in the street…

"It's unfair to blame her. The fault of that was really politicians who went on subsidising industries that couldn't work and blaming her for a change that was going to come. I just think that that's nonsense."

Mr Prebble says Lady Thatcher didn't think much of former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon's grip on the economy, nor David Lange's nuclear ban.

"Her biggest influence I think was her economic reforms," says Mr Prebble. "The private sector is always going to outperform nationalised industries, and that's been copied around the world."

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