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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.