ENG: Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts (13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) was a British politician, the longest-serving (1979–1990) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post. A Soviet journalist called her the "Iron Lady", a nickname which became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented Conservative policies that have come to be known as Thatcherism.
Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election and became Leader of the Opposition, as well as the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.
After entering 10 Downing Street, Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives to reverse what she perceived to be Britain's precipitous national decline.
Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Thatcher's popularity during her first years in office waned amid recession and high unemployment, until economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her re-election in 1983.
Thatcher was re-elected for a third term in 1987, but her Community Charge (popularly referred to as "poll tax") was widely unpopular and her views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990, after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership. Thatcher held a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords.
Prime Minister (1979–1990)
Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979. Arriving at 10 Downing Street, she said, in a paraphrase of St.
Francis of Assisi:
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.
Thatcher was incensed by one contemporary view within the British Civil Service that its job was to manage the UK's decline from the days of Empire and she wanted the country to assert a higher level of influence and leadership in international affairs. She represented the newly energetic right wing of the Conservative Party and advocated greater independence of the individual from the state and less government intervention.
She became a very close ally, philosophically and politically, with President of the United States Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980. During her tenure as Prime Minister she was said to need just four hours' sleep a night.
Challenges to leadership and resignation
Thatcher was challenged for the leadership of the Conservative Party by the little-known backbench MP Sir Anthony Meyer in the 1989 leadership election. Of the 374 Conservative MPs eligible to vote 314 voted for Thatcher and 33 for Meyer. Her supporters in the party viewed the result as a success, and rejected suggestions that there was discontent within the party.
During her premiership Thatcher had the second-lowest average approval rating, at 40 percent, of any post-war Prime Minister. Polls consistently showed that she was less popular than her party.
A self-described conviction politician, Thatcher always insisted that she did not care about her poll ratings, pointing instead to her unbeaten election record.
Thatcher in 1990
Opinion polls in September 1990 reported that Labour had established a 14% lead over the Conservatives, and by November the Conservatives had been trailing Labour for 18 months. These ratings, together with Thatcher's combative personality and willingness to override colleagues' opinions, contributed to discontent within the Conservative party.
On 1 November 1990 Geoffrey Howe, the last remaining member of Thatcher's original 1979 cabinet, resigned from his position as Deputy Prime Minister over her refusal to agree to a timetable for Britain to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. In his resignation speech on 13 November, Howe commented on Thatcher's European stance: "It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find the moment that the first balls are bowled that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain." His resignation was fatal to Thatcher's premiership.
The next day, Michael Heseltine mounted a challenge for the leadership of the Conservative Party.[ Opinion polls had indicated that he would give the Conservatives a national lead over Labour. Although Thatcher won the first ballot, Heseltine attracted sufficient support (152 votes) to force a second ballot. Thatcher initially stated that she intended to "fight on and fight to win" the second ballot, but consultation with her Cabinet persuaded her to withdraw. After seeing the Queen, calling other world leaders, and making one final Commons speech, she left Downing Street in tears. She regarded her ousting as a betrayal.
Thatcher was replaced as Prime Minister and party leader by her Chancellor John Major, who oversaw an upturn in Conservative support in the 17 months leading up to the 1992 general election and led the Conservatives to their fourth successive victory on 9 April 1992. Thatcher favoured Major over Heseltine in the leadership contest, but her support for him weakened in later years.
Thatcher returned to the backbenches as MP for Finchley for two years after leaving the premiership. She retired from the House at the 1992 election, aged 66, saying that leaving the Commons would allow her more freedom to speak her mind.
After leaving the House of Commons, Thatcher became the first former Prime Minister to set up a foundation; it closed down in 2005 because of financial difficulties. She wrote two volumes of memoirs, The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995).
In July 1992, Thatcher was hired by the tobacco company Philip Morris as a "geopolitical consultant" for $250,000 per year and an annual contribution of $250,000 to her foundation. She also earned $50,000 for each speech she delivered.
In August 1992, Thatcher called for NATO to stop the Serbian assault on Goražde and Sarajevo to end ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War. She compared the situation in Bosnia to "the worst excesses of the Nazis", and warned that there could be a "holocaust". She made a series of speeches in the Lords criticising the Maastricht Treaty, describing it as "a treaty too far" and stated "I could never have signed this treaty". She cited A. V. Dicey when stating that as all three main parties were in favour of revisiting the treaty, the people should have their say.
Thatcher with Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and Brian Mulroney (centre) at Reagan's funeral.
Thatcher was honorary Chancellor of the College of William and Mary in Virginia (1993–2000) and also of the University of Buckingham (1992–1999), the UK's first private university, which she had opened in 1975.
After Tony Blair's election as Labour Party leader in 1994, Thatcher praised Blair in an interview as "probably the most formidable Labour leader since Hugh Gaitskell. I see a lot of socialism behind their front bench, but not in Mr Blair. I think he genuinely has moved."
In 1998 Thatcher called for the release of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet when Spain had him arrested and sought to try him for human rights violations, citing the help he gave Britain during the Falklands War. In 1999, she visited him while he was under house arrest near London. Pinochet was released in March 2000 on medical grounds by the Home Secretary Jack Straw, without facing trial.
In the 2001 general election Thatcher supported the Conservative general election campaign, but did not endorse Iain Duncan Smith as she had done for John Major and William Hague. In the Conservative leadership election shortly after, she supported Smith over Kenneth Clarke.
In March 2002, Thatcher's book Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, dedicated to Ronald Reagan, was released. In it, she claimed there would be no peace in the Middle East until Saddam Hussein was toppled, that Israel must trade land for peace, and that the European Union (EU) was "fundamentally unreformable", "a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure". She argued that Britain should renegotiate its terms of membership or else leave the EU and join the North American Free Trade Area. The book was serialised in The Times on 18 March.
Thatcher suffered several small strokes in 2002 and was advised by her doctors not to engage in any more public speaking. On 23 March she announced that on the advice of her doctors she would cancel all planned speaking engagements and accept no more.
Since 2003 and Death
Sir Denis Thatcher died on 26 June 2003 and was cremated on 3 July. She had paid tribute to him in The Downing Street Years, writing "Being Prime Minister is a lonely job. In a sense, it ought to be: you cannot lead from the crowd. But with Denis there I was never alone. What a man. What a husband. What a friend."
On 11 June 2004, Thatcher attended the state funeral service for Ronald Reagan. She delivered her eulogy via videotape; in view of her health, the message had been pre-recorded several months earlier. Thatcher then flew to California with the Reagan entourage, and attended the memorial service and interment ceremony for the president at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Thatcher celebrated her 80th birthday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park, London, on 13 October 2005; guests included the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Alexandra and Tony Blair. Geoffrey Howe, by then Lord Howe of Aberavon, was also present, and said of his former leader: "Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible."
According to a later article in The Telegraph, Thatcher's daughter Carol first revealed that her mother had dementia in 2005, saying that "Mum doesn't read much any more because of her memory loss ... It's pointless. She can't remember the beginning of a sentence by the time she reaches the end." She later recounted how she was first struck by her mother's dementia when she muddled the Falklands conflict with the Yugoslav wars; she has also recalled the pain of needing to tell her mother repeatedly that Denis Thatcher was dead.
In 2006, Thatcher attended the official Washington, D.C. memorial service to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. She was a guest of Vice President Dick Cheney, and met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit.
In February 2007, Thatcher became the first living British Prime Minister to be honoured with a statue in the Houses of Parliament. The bronze statue stands opposite that of her political hero, Sir Winston Churchill, and was unveiled on 21 February 2007 with Thatcher in attendance; she made a rare and brief speech in the members' lobby of the House of Commons, responding: "I might have preferred iron – but bronze will do ... It won't rust." The statue shows her addressing the House of Commons, with her right arm outstretched.
She is a public supporter of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism and the resulting Prague Process, and sent a public letter of support to its preceding conference.
After collapsing at a House of Lords dinner, Thatcher was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in central London on 7 March 2008 for tests.
Thatcher returned to 10 Downing Street in late November 2009 for the unveiling of an official portrait by the artist Richard Stone, an unusual honour for a living ex-Prime Minister. Stone had previously painted portraits of the Queen and the Queen Mother.
At the 2010 Conservative Party conference the new Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would invite Thatcher back to 10 Downing Street on her 85th birthday for a party to be attended by past and present ministers. She pulled out of the celebration because of flu. She was invited to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on 29 April 2011 but did not attend, reportedly due to ill health.
On 4 July 2011, Thatcher was to attend a ceremony for the unveiling of a 10-foot statue to former American President Ronald Reagan, outside the American Embassy but was unable to attend due to frail health. On 31 July 2011 it was announced that her office in the House of Lords had been closed down. Earlier in July 2011, Thatcher had been named the most competent British Prime Minister of the past 30 years in an Ipsos MORI poll.
On 21 December 2012, Thatcher underwent an operation to remove a growth from her bladder. She died on 8 April 2013, following a stroke.
Margaret Thatcher died in the morning of the 8th of April 2013 due to a stroke. Lord Bell, Thatcher's spokesman, confirmed her death at 0:52 PM (UTC) by press release. Lord Bell said against the BBC: "It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Tha. cher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning." Margaret Thatcher was 87 years old.