News / Europe

    Britain's 'Iron Lady' Dead at 87

    Former British PM Margaret Thatcher Dies at 87i
    X
    April 08, 2013 6:30 PM
    Margaret Thatcher - the former British prime minister often called "the Iron Lady" - has died. She was 87 years old. Thatcher permanently changed Britain's economy and politics, and she gave her nation a more prominent role on the world stage. Selah Hennessy reports for VOA.
    Watch related report by Selah Hennessy
    Al Pessin
    Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87, following a stroke. 

    Family spokesman Lord Tim Bell said Britain's only female prime minister died peacefully on Monday morning. Within minutes of the announcement, ordinary citizens began to put flowers and condolence notes outside her home in London.

    The British government said Thatcher would receive a ceremonial funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral with military honors - a step short of a state funeral - in accordance with the wishes of her family. It said a private cremation would follow later, but provided no details on the timing of the service.

    Thatcher, who was made a baroness by Queen Elizabeth, had a long and controversial career, transforming the British economy and society with her Conservative Party’s anti-union, anti-regulation policies during an 11-year tenure from 1979 to 1990.

    Margaret Thatcher

    • Conservative prime minister from 1979 - 1990
    • First woman to be Britain's prime minister, served 3 terms
    • Became Conservative Party leader in Parliament in 1975
    • Served as education and science secretary in the 1970s
    • Married to Denis Thatcher, had 2 children
    She was a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s only woman prime minister, and she held the job longer than anyone else in the 20th Century. When she first came to office, she expressed this hope.

    “Where there is discord may we bring harmony, where there is error may we bring truth, where there is doubt may we bring faith and where there is despair may we bring hope,” she said.

    But her tenure through three election victories created considerable discord, alienating workers, deregulating health and safety hazards, and splitting her own Cabinet on some issues. She stood firm against militants in Northern Ireland, allowing one of them to starve himself to death in prison.  

    She supported British membership in the European Union, but insisted on not participating in the open borders agreement and the common euro currency. And she took the country to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

    Dignitaries react

    On Monday, Queen Elizabeth expressed sadness at Mrs. Thatcher’s death, and approved plans for a ceremonial funeral with full military honors and a procession across London to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

    Prime Minister David Cameron, also a Conservative, cut short a visit to Spain and France following the news. He said Monday his country had "lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton."

    Cameron said “she did not just lead our country, she saved our country,” and said she will go down in history as “the greatest British peacetime prime minister.”  

    European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso paid tribute Monday to her "contributions" to the growth of the EU, despite her reservations about its merits.

    Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said Thatcher was a "great politician" whose words "carried great weight." The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who held frequent meetings with Thatcher at the end of the Cold War, called her death "sad news."

    U.S. President Barack Obama said “the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.”

    A portrait left by mourners is seen outside the home of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her death was announced in London, April 8, 2013.A portrait left by mourners is seen outside the home of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her death was announced in London, April 8, 2013.
    x
    A portrait left by mourners is seen outside the home of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her death was announced in London, April 8, 2013.
    A portrait left by mourners is seen outside the home of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her death was announced in London, April 8, 2013.
    Within minutes of the announcement, ordinary citizens began to put flowers and condolence notes outside her home in London. Throughout the city, people were hearing the news as they went out for lunch.

    “It is a terrible loss for the UK, but also I think all around the world really," said one citizen. "I think she was an inspirational woman, and I think there will be lots of people affected by this.”

    “She took some difficult decisions, was not afraid to put people’s noses out of joint," said another. "And I think a lot of people on both sides of the political spectrum respected her for that.”

    “I do not think she did more harm than good. I think she did what could with what she had, like most people do. And it was a hard job to do, I would say, especially being a woman,” another citizen added.

    Mrs. Thatcher’s supporters and opponents agree that she had a huge impact on Britain, as a pioneering woman in politics and as a transformational prime minister. As with any politician, her legacy will be mixed, but all appear to agree she earned her nickname, the Iron Lady.

    Changed British politics

    Thatcher, who is credited with changing the face of British politics during her three terms as Prime Minister, was married to Denis Thatcher and had two children, a son and daughter - twins.

    In her autobiography, Thatcher said her foremost achievement, as prime minister, was to shift British policy from what she called soft socialism to a free-enterprise society.

    Five years after leaving office, she told a television interviewer she had also restored Britain's high rank in the world because of her unwavering stand for freedom and liberty. She recalled her decision to send British troops to defend the Falkland Islands in 1982 when Argentine forces invaded the British dependency.

    "People knew that we would not tolerate an aggressor. We would not appease an aggressor. So we went down to the Falklands," she recalled. "That was the first time an aggressor had been thrown out in the post war period. So we did turn Britain around to become a great nation again although within much smaller borders in a way because we no longer have an empire. But we got back our self-respect and our reputation."

    The same could be said for her condemnation of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Standing next to then U.S. President George Bush at a meeting in the United States, Thatcher did not hesitate to call for military action if necessary to stop Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

    Thatcher studied research chemistry and law but soon switched to politics. Margaret Thatcher served as secretary of state for education and science in the 1970s. She quickly rose through Conservative party ranks and became leader of the opposition in Parliament in 1975. She was elected prime minister in 1979.

    Thatcher's leadership was controversial at the time. She cut the power of the labor unions, reduced public spending, privatized state-run companies, and moved her centrist Conservative Party farther to the political right.

    She never hid her hostility toward the European Union's design for closer economic and political cooperation. Thatcher warned it would rob Britain of its sovereignty.

    As the only woman EU leader at the time, Thatcher's trademark became the black handbag she always carried on her arm. Her blunt style and sharp tongue were described as "handbagging."

    The term became synonymous with Thatcher tirades against EU leaders trying to forge closer unity.

    "You can't just have precisely the kind of leader that you would like. It's a choice between what's on offer," she noted. "Doubtless there were many people for whom I was not the ideal leader, particularly those who wanted to go into Europe much more deeply than I did."

    Despite the criticism, the tenacious Margaret Thatcher won landslide victories for second and third terms in office. But her deliberate move to the political right angered many within her own party.

    She was ousted as party leader and prime minister in 1990. Thatcher was later made a baroness and appointed to the House of Lords.

    In a 1996 speech, Thatcher blamed her party's loss of popularity on a new leadership that she said had betrayed her principles. What works she insisted, is free enterprise, not big government.

    She did not hesitate to offer advice to her successor, John Major, as he battled unsuccessfully to keep the Conservative Party in power.

    "Never give up power voluntarily," she advised. "If you believe in your message you want to win because you know the message in your hands is likely to be very much more effectively administered than people who now say they agree with it but who never have thought of it in the first place."

    Ironically, it was a newly fashioned Labour Party that dumped its socialist rhetoric and adopted the Thatcher strategy to win power in 1997 and put the Conservative Party back in the opposition.

    Thatcher refused to sit quietly in the background even in her final years. She was a tireless campaigner for conservative candidates around the country and never hesitated to offer advice and support to the next generation of Conservative Party leaders.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Enio Cardoso from: Brazil
    April 08, 2013 5:06 PM
    Along with Ronald Reagan she was the greatest responsible for the terrible crisis we are experiencing in the whole world today.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    April 08, 2013 4:12 PM
    One of the outstanding leaders of the 20th century. Mrs. Thatcher will be greatly missed. She was a valiant advocate of democracy and human rights. Her determination to progress issues was legendary. Many in Eastern Europe will not forget her tremendous diplomatic efforts, work, and support for their freedoms. She was, and will be remembered as a great human being. May she rest in peace, and my condolonces to her family.

    by: Bernard Cooper from: Birmingham, UK.
    April 08, 2013 10:23 AM
    Re: The death of Margaret Thatcher - A sad passing. You may wish to consult with a specialist on the relationship between Thatcher and Reagan: Professor Dr James Cooper at Westminster College, Missouri, USA, who wrote: "Margaret Thatcher & Ronald reagan: A Very Political Special Relationship".

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora