ONTD Political

Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female PM, dead at 87

9:01 am - 04/08/2013
London (CNN) -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a towering figure in postwar British and world politics and the only woman to become British prime minister, has died at the age of 87, her spokeswoman said Monday.

Her funeral will be at St. Paul's Cathedral, the British prime minister's office announced Monday.

Thatcher served from 1975 to 1990 as leader of the Conservative Party. She was called the "Iron Lady" for her personal and political toughness.

Thatcher retired from public life after a stroke in 2002 and suffered several strokes after that. British media reported Monday that a stroke caused her death.

She made few public appearances in her final months, missing a reception marking her 85th birthday hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron in October 2010. She also skipped the July 2011 unveiling of a statue honoring her old friend Ronald Reagan in London.

In December 2012, she was hospitalized after a procedure to remove a growth in her bladder.

Thatcher made history

Thatcher won the nation's top job only six years after declaring in a television interview, "I don't think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime."

During her time at the helm of the British government, she emphasized moral absolutism, nationalism, and the rights of the individual versus those of the state -- famously declaring "There is no such thing as society" in 1987.

Nicknamed the "Iron Lady" by the Soviet press after a 1976 speech declaring that "the Russians are bent on world dominance," Thatcher later enjoyed a close working relationship with U.S. President Reagan, with whom she shared similar conservative views.

But the British cold warrior played a key role in ending the conflict by giving her stamp of approval to Soviet Communist reformer Mikhail Gorbachev shortly before he came to power.

"I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together," she declared in December 1984, three months before he became Soviet leader.

Having been right about Gorbachev, Thatcher came down on the wrong side of history after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, arguing against the reunification of East and West Germany.

Allowing the countries created in the aftermath of World War II to merge would be destabilizing to the European status quo, and East Germany was not ready to become part of Western Europe, she insisted in January 1990.

"East Germany has been under Nazism or Communism since 1930. You are not going to go overnight to democratic structures and a freer market economy," Thatcher insisted in a key interview, arguing that peace, security and stability "can only be achieved through our existing alliances negotiating with others internationally."

West German leader Helmut Kohl was furious about the interview, seeing Thatcher as a "protector of Gobachev," according to notes made that day by his close aide Horst Teltschik.

The two Germanies reunited by the end of that year.

A grocer's daughter

Thatcher -- born in October 1925 in the small eastern England market town of Grantham -- came from a modest background, taking pride in being known as a grocer's daughter. She studied chemistry at Oxford, but was involved in politics from a young age, giving her first political speech at 20, according to her official biography.

She was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, when the party was in opposition.

She made history four years later, becoming prime minister when the Conservatives won the elections of 1979, the first of three election victories to which she led her party.

As British leader, Thatcher took a firm stance with the European Community -- the forerunner of the European Union -- demanding a rebate of money London contributed to Brussels.

Her positions on other issues, both domestic and foreign, were just as firm, and in one of her most famous phrases, she declared at a Conservative Party conference that she had no intention of changing her mind.

"To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: 'You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning,'" she declared, to cheers from party members.

The United Kingdom fought a short, sharp war against Argentina over the Falklands Islands under Thatcher in 1982, responding with force when Buenos Aires laid claim to the islands.

Announcing that Britain had recaptured South Georgia Island from Argentina, Thatcher appealed to nationalist sentiments, advising the press: "Just rejoice at the news and congratulate our forces."

A journalist shouted a question at her as she turned to go back into 10 Downing Street: "Are we going to war with Argentina, Mrs. Thatcher?"

She paused for an instant, then offered a single word: "Rejoice."

Controversy over Falklands war

The conflict was not without controversy, even in Britain.

A British submarine sank Argentina's only cruiser, the General Belgrano, in an encounter that left 358 Argentines dead. The sinking took place outside of Britain's declared exclusion zone.

In her first term, Thatcher reduced or eliminated many government subsidies to business, a move that led to a sharp rise in unemployment. By 1986, unemployment had reached 3 million.

But Thatcher won landslide re-election in 1983 on the heels of the Falklands victory, her Conservative Party taking a majority of seats in parliament with 42% of the vote. Second-place Labour took nearly 28%, while the alliance that became the Liberal Democrats took just over 25%.

A year later, she escaped an IRA terrorist bombing at her hotel at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton.

She was re-elected in 1987 with a slightly reduced majority.

She was ultimately brought down, not by British voters, but by her own Conservative party.

Brought down by the poll tax

She was forced to resign in 1990 during an internal leadership struggle after she introduced a poll tax levied on community residents rather than property.

The unpopular tax led to rioting in the streets.

She married her husband, Denis Thatcher, a local businessman who ran his family's firm before becoming an executive in the oil industry, in 1951 -- a year after an unsuccessful run for Parliament. The couple had twins, Mark and Carol, in 1953.

She was elected to Parliament in 1959 and served in various positions, including education secretary, until her terms as prime minister.

Thatcher was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, a year after she stepped down as prime minister. She was named Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven after leaving office.

She retired from public life after a stroke in 2002 and suffered several smaller strokes after that. Her husband died in June 2003.

Though her doctors advised against public speaking, a frail Thatcher attended Reagan's 2004 funeral, saying in a prerecorded video that Reagan was "a great president, a great American, and a great man."

"And I have lost a dear friend," she said.

In the years that followed she encountered additional turmoil. In 2004, her son Mark was arrested in an investigation of an alleged plot by mercenaries to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea in west Africa. He pleaded guilty in a South African court in 2005 to unwittingly bankrolling the plot.

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radiantsoul 8th-Apr-2013 01:17 pm (UTC)
Good riddance.
the_physicist 8th-Apr-2013 01:21 pm (UTC)
Been trying for a while to type up a good reply to this, but I seemingly can't. That write-up from the BBC is a joke though, imo. I know they can't go into "every detail" of her time as PM of course, but I find what they put in and what they didn't rather telling. I mean, they wrote about her making a few, mostly totally forgotten, if yet very astute comments about the reunification of Germany as an example of her "being wrong". And left out... like, everything else. I mean... what?! Is this "don't speak ill of the dead" taken way too far or what?
gildinwen 8th-Apr-2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
hobnailedboots 8th-Apr-2013 01:23 pm (UTC)
Am I allowed to celebrate? I have my champagne and milk right here.
chaya 8th-Apr-2013 01:34 pm (UTC)
I certainly won't stop you.
yamamanama 8th-Apr-2013 01:25 pm (UTC)
Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!
girly123 8th-Apr-2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
This was my exact first thought.
aviv_b 8th-Apr-2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
No crocodile tears on this side of the pond. I can't think of a PM that I loathed as much as her.
hinoema 8th-Apr-2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
I agree.
jeunelis 8th-Apr-2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher.
jeunelis 8th-Apr-2013 01:34 pm (UTC)
also, not here for Americans crying about how what a great feminist icon she was and how awesome of a leader she was. (see my facebook and tumblr)
gildinwen 8th-Apr-2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
Admittedly it'd be in bad taste to celebrating openly so soon after her death...but I'm not shedding any tears for her. Also this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmmomV-ax-s

Frankie Boyle on Tatcher's funeral. It doesn't get any better than that.
the_physicist 8th-Apr-2013 01:54 pm (UTC)
I'm not a Frankie Boyle fan, but I think Andy Parson's comment on holding the funeral up North for a greater turn-out are spot on.
evildevil 8th-Apr-2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
I aint shedding no tears.
penguin_house 8th-Apr-2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
Best quote I've read about thatcher, sums my feeling up perfectly - "Happy that the poor sick old woman is at peace, delighted that the vicious political monster breathes no more."
empressith 8th-Apr-2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
That is a great quote!!
vulturoso 8th-Apr-2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
Pardon my ignorance, but I don't know much about Margaret Thatcher. Why is everyone so happy? That article told me nothing.
evildevil 8th-Apr-2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
I usually dont like to quote wikipedia but:

"When she resigned in 1990, 28% of the children in Great Britain were considered to be below the poverty line, a number that kept rising to reach a peak of 30% in 1994 during the Conservative government of John Major, who succeeded Thatcher.  While credited with reviving Britain's economy, Mrs. Thatcher also was blamed for spurring a doubling in the poverty rate. Britain's childhood-poverty rate in 1997 was the highest in Europe."


lovedforaday 8th-Apr-2013 02:05 pm (UTC)
I had to turn off CNN. but at least she won't be deified by the US media like St. Reagan was because she wasn't an American.
tadashee 8th-Apr-2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
I not so sure about that. Washington post did an article on her friendship with Reagan. She'll be given sainthood just for being his "friend". Blahhh
callmetothejedi 8th-Apr-2013 02:16 pm (UTC)
I just came over here to say that I care more about the fact that today is Opening Day at Fenway Park than I do about Margaret Thatcher's passing.
paksenarrion2 9th-Apr-2013 01:35 am (UTC)
Same here. I watched the game at work I love my MLB.TV subscription and my smartphone with mobile hotspot.

I feel bad for her family because it sucks to lose a family member. But her? Yeah, no care here. Her and Annette Funicello both.

Ooops-I had to come back and edit this. I was confusing Annette Funicello and Anita Bryant. Why I got the two confused, I have no clue. My apologies to Annette Funicello and her family. She was a wonderful lady that will be missed.

Anita Bryant? Can fuck off and die.

Edited at 2013-04-09 01:59 am (UTC)
blunder_buss 8th-Apr-2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, I was wandering into this post wondering how many people would be celebrating, AND BOY HOWDY I think someone nearly took out my eye with a champange cork. :O
bellichka my first reaction8th-Apr-2013 02:19 pm (UTC)
lady_tigerlily 8th-Apr-2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
Being an American who NEVER liked Margaret Thatcher, it always rubbed me the wrong way when people around me seemed to love her without being able to say why. But as someone upthread mentioned, they also love Reagan. e__e I saw the article and thought "I wonder if it'll be okay that I'm opening a prosecco at 10am." Glad to see I'm not celebrating alone.
ruby_chalice 8th-Apr-2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
This is perhaps the only time I wish I believed in the existence of hell.

I'll have to avoid the media for the next week. The fawning homages are just nauseating. :(

She was a despicable piece of detritus whose legacy has brought this country to its knees. I despised her in life and I'll be damned if I'm going to show respect now she's snuffed it.
i_amthecosmos 8th-Apr-2013 07:14 pm (UTC)
Sounds like me after George Wallace died. I called my brother in law and said "He is now dead. And gone to hell."
blackjedii 8th-Apr-2013 02:35 pm (UTC)
Not going to talk ill of the dead but

not crying

Mostly whenever I hear about her I think of an episode of The Young Ones I saw when i was super-small and i just go "THATCHER"
jenny_jenkins 8th-Apr-2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
I think of the hand of the God, actually.

She inspired Maradona's passion, shall we say :)
empressith 8th-Apr-2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry she suffered so much later in life with dementia but she was not a nice woman. Yes, she was the first female British PM but... she wasn't a good person. She didn't care about the poor or the working class. She took from them. Between her and Reagan, I'm surprised we all survived the 1980s.

Without her, Alan Moore wouldn't have been inspired to write V For Vendetta, so I guess there's that.
nitasee 8th-Apr-2013 03:26 pm (UTC)
V for Vendetta. The silver lining to the Thatcher era!
nitasee 8th-Apr-2013 03:19 pm (UTC)
I was studying abroad in London during Thatcher’s reign. As I recall, not too many of the people I was around - fellow students and academics - like her to put i mildly. As I recall, the running joke was: What do you call a pound coin? A Thatcher. Because it’s thick, it’s brassy and it thinks it’s a sovereign.
dw_10rosefan 8th-Apr-2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
Okay, she wasn't the best pm Britain ever had (Churchill) or the worst (Blair) (okay, she was down toward the bottom) but JFC her family is in mourning and you people are celebrating her death???

[sarcasm]Stay classy Britain![/sarcasm]
nitasee 8th-Apr-2013 03:38 pm (UTC)
I'm not celebrating her death but I sure am not celebrating her life. At least not her "accomplishments". I'm certainly not crying over her.

I feel for her family. Regardless of what the rest of us thinks, they are grieving.
cher_arlequin 8th-Apr-2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
lol bye~
gambitia 8th-Apr-2013 04:06 pm (UTC)
I wasn't aware how deep the hatred for Thatcher went. Granted, my education of her is basically "First female Prime Minister. Supported deregulation and strongly free market." Was not aware of how badly she hurt the working class during her reign. Learn something new every day!
mahsox_mahsox 8th-Apr-2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
I always thought her problem was she had no idea of the degree of exceptionality she showed in her ability to work hard and persist. She thought everyone could be just like her.
quizzicalsphinx 8th-Apr-2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
That's an amazingly insightful recognition. Imagine the legacy she would have left had she put her determination to other ends.
satellite__eyes 8th-Apr-2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
Good riddance.
bmh4d0k3n USA vs. UK Reactions8th-Apr-2013 04:23 pm (UTC)

via BuzzFeed
blackjedii 8th-Apr-2013 04:29 pm (UTC)
How many of the above US are not Fox pundits, Republicans, or Entitled Rich White Dudes tho?
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