Margaret Thatcher dead at 87; former British prime minister was once Reagan ally

  • ** FILE ** President Ronald Reagan has a word in the ear of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a reception given by the British government at London's St. James's Palace for leaders attending an economic conference in 1984. (AP Photo, File)** FILE ** President Ronald Reagan has a word in the ear of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a reception given by the British government at London's St. James's Palace for leaders attending an economic conference in 1984. (AP Photo, File)
  • **FILE** Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher smiles with satisfaction as President Ronald Reagan makes a farewell speech June 9, 1982, outside her Downing Street office in London prior to his departure for Bonn. (Associated Press)**FILE** Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher smiles with satisfaction as President Ronald Reagan makes a farewell speech June 9, 1982, outside her Downing Street office in London prior to his departure for Bonn. (Associated Press)
  • ** FILE ** Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waves to members of the media on Monday, June 29, 2009. She died Monday, April 8, 2013, of a stroke. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)** FILE ** Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waves to members of the media on Monday, June 29, 2009. She died Monday, April 8, 2013, of a stroke. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
  • Illustration: Margaret ThatcherIllustration: Margaret Thatcher
  • Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is assisted in the House of Lord's during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster,  London Tuesday May 25, 2010. Queen Elizabeth II opened Parliament Tuesday with centuries-old tradition and pageantry, laying out the new coalition government's plans to reduce Britain's ballooning deficit and restore growth. (AP Photo/Arthur Edwards, Pool)Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is assisted in the House of Lord's during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster, London Tuesday May 25, 2010. Queen Elizabeth II opened Parliament Tuesday with centuries-old tradition and pageantry, laying out the new coalition government's plans to reduce Britain's ballooning deficit and restore growth. (AP Photo/Arthur Edwards, Pool)
  • Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher
  • AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Margaret Thatcher arrives at a 2004 Conservative Party dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of her becoming prime minister.AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Margaret Thatcher arrives at a 2004 Conservative Party dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of her becoming prime minister.
  • Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was praised as a "lady" by Roxanne Rivera, a former spokeswoman for the New Mexico Republican Party, "even while she met the challenges of her office head on." (Getty Images)Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was praised as a "lady" by Roxanne Rivera, a former spokeswoman for the New Mexico Republican Party, "even while she met the challenges of her office head on." (Getty Images)
Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

LONDON (AP) – Love her or loathe her, one thing’s beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain. Thatcher’s former spokesman, Tim Bell, said that the former prime minister had died Monday morning of a stroke. She was 87 years old.

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 No. 10 Downing Street.


SEE ALSO: Obama, U.S. and world leaders pay tribute to Thatcher


For admirers, Thatcher was a savior 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 – female prime minister in Britain’s history. But she often found feminists tiresome and was not above using her handbag as a prop to underline her swagger and power. 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 trailblazer who at first believed trailblazing 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 an ounce of doubt.

Thatcher could be intimidating to those working for her:

British diplomats sighed with relief on her first official visit to Washington D.C. as prime minister to find that she was relaxed enough to enjoy a glass of whiskey and a half-glass of wine during an embassy lunch, according to official documents.

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. Another thing she shared with the American president: a tendency to reduce problems to their basics, choose a path, and follow it to the end, no matter what the opposition.

She formed a deep attachment to the man she called “Ronnie” – some spoke of it as a schoolgirl crush. Still, she would not back down when she disagreed with him on important matters, even though the United States was the richer and vastly stronger partner in the so-called “special relationship.”

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

She simply would not allow Britain to be pushed around, particularly by military dictators, said Ingham, who recalls the Falklands War as the tensest period of Thatcher’s three terms in power. When diplomacy failed, she dispatched a military task force that accomplished her goal, despite the naysayers.

“That required enormous leadership,” Ingham said. “This was a formidable undertaking, this was a risk with a capital R-I-S-K, and she demonstrated her leadership by saying she would give the military their marching orders and let them get on with it.”

In deciding on war, Thatcher overruled Foreign Office specialists who warned her about the dangers of striking back. She was infuriated by warnings about the dangers to British citizens in Argentina and the difficulty of getting support from the U.N. Security Council.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks