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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora