Ex-UK premier Margaret Thatcher dies

London. Love her or loathe her, one thing’s beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain.
Baroness Thatcher (L) and UK premier Cameron wave to the crowd at 10 Downing Street. Net photo.
Baroness Thatcher (L) and UK premier Cameron wave to the crowd at 10 Downing Street. Net photo.

London. Love her or loathe her, one thing’s beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain.

The Iron Lady who ruled for 11 remarkable years imposed her will on a fractious, rundown nation—breaking the unions, triumphing in a far-off war, and selling off state industries at a record pace. She left behind a leaner government and more prosperous nation by the time a mutiny ousted her from 10 Downing Street.

Thatcher’s former spokesman, Tim Bell, said the former prime minister died yesterday morning of a stroke.

“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” Lord Bell said.

For admirers, Thatcher was a saviour who rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance. For critics, she was a heartless tyrant who ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak out onto the streets and let the rich become filthy rich.

“Let us not kid ourselves, she was a very divisive figure,” said Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press secretary for her entire term. “She was a real toughie. She was a patriot with a great love for this country, and she raised the standing of Britain abroad.”

Thatcher was the first—and still only— emale prime minister in Britain’s history.

A grocer’s daughter, she rose to the top of Britain’s snobbish hierarchy the hard way, and envisioned a classless society that rewarded hard work and determination.

She was a trailblaser who at first believed trailblasing impossible: Thatcher told the Liverpool Daily Post in 1974 that she did not think a woman would serve as party leader or prime minister during her lifetime. But once in power, she never showed no doubt.

Like her close friend and political ally Ronald Reagan, Thatcher seemed motivated by an unshakable belief that free markets would build a better country than reliance on a strong, central government. She formed a deep attachment to the man she called “Ronnie”.

Thatcher was at her brashest when Argentina’s military junta seized Falklands Islands from Britain in 1982. She did not hesitate even though her advisers said it might not be feasible to reclaim the islands.

Queen Elizabeth said she was sad to hear the news of Thatcher’s death and sent a message of sympathy to her family.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short his trip to Europe after hearing of Thatcher’s death, also expressed sadness, saying “we have lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton’.”

The UK government said a ceremonial funeral with military honours would be held at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral for Thatcher.

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who held frequent meetings with Thatcher at the end of the Cold War, said she was a “great politician” who will go down in history.

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