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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More