- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

From combined dispatches
LONDON Margaret Thatcher, the formidable Iron Lady who led Britain for a decade as prime minister, has finally been silenced not by her political enemies, but by illness.
A series of recent small strokes has taken its toll. It has left Mrs. Thatcher Britain's longest-serving leader in the 20th century and its only female prime minister ever unable to make public speeches again, her office said yesterday in a statement.
"After thorough investigation involving a number of tests, her doctors have told her that these [strokes] can neither be predicted nor prevented. They have therefore told her to cut back her program at once, and in particular, to avoid the undue strains that public speaking places on her," the statement read.
"With great regret, she has decided to abide by this advice and to cancel all her speaking engagements."
The development is significant. Though deposed as prime minister by her own party in November 1990, Mrs. Thatcher, 76, has continued to cast her shadow over the political scene.
From the time she arrived at Downing Street in May 1979 with her ever-present handbag and the first in a long line of true-blue suits, Mrs. Thatcher used no-nonsense rhetoric and a steely power to govern Britain.
During her tenure, the country redefined its view of the individual, freedom and the role of government moving away from decades of state ownership and control.
Earlier this month, she turned down an invitation to travel to the Falkland Islands to mark the 20th anniversary of the war between Britain and Argentina because of her husband's poor health.
She was to have been guest of honor at the celebrations on June 14, but said the journey would be too much for her 86-year-old husband, Denis.
Mrs. Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, had once again burst on the front pages of British newspapers this week with the publication of her book, "Statecraft," in which she called for Britain to withdraw from key institutions of the European Union.
In excerpts published in the Times of London newspaper, she said the euro was destined to fail.
She denounced the currency as "nothing more or less than an instrument for forging a European superstate."
She described the creation of the European Union as "perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era" and wrote that most of the 20th century's greatest problems including Nazism and Marxism originated in mainland Europe.
Her bluntness caused some political discomfort to Iain Duncan Smith, her successor as Conservative Party leader who opposes close ties with Europe but who has tried to de-emphasize the issue, a proven vote-loser.
Mr. Thatcher, a grocer's daughter, transformed her country during her combative years in power.
She earned the nickname "Iron Lady" by crushing the once-mighty labor unions, defeating Argentina in war, and serving as the No. 1 ally to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
"We have raised Britain in the respect of the world from what it was broke, bankrupt, unwilling to defend itself properly," she declared in 1987. "We have, I think, transformed Britain."
Despite her reputation as a willful leader who fought tirelessly for her political convictions, Mrs. Thatcher took great exception at being portrayed as hard and uncaring by opponents.
"When men are strong, they are seen, gosh, as good guys, but when women are strong, they are said to be strident," she said in a 1990 newspaper interview.


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