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Margaret Thatcher, AKA The Iron Lady, Has Died
April 8, 2013
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Margaret Thatcher speaking in 1975 (Photo: AP)

One of the most influential political figures of the past 40 years has died.

Margaret Thatcher - aka the Iron Lady - passed away after suffering a stroke. She was 87.

Thatcher was the first woman to become British Prime Minister and she was the only British PM in the 20th century to win three terms in a row.

Remarkable in a way, considering Thatcher once said she didn't believe there would be a woman prime minister in her lifetime.

In 1976, as the opposition Conservative leader, she made a speech strongly criticizing the Soviet Union.

With that, a Russian newspaper called her "the Iron Lady" - a title which, as the BBC writes, "gave her much personal pleasure."

In 1979, Thatcher was elected Prime Minister after promising to turn Britain's economy around, reduce the role of government and push the free market.

Thatcher visits the U.S. in 1979 (Photo: AP)

She cut taxes (especially for the rich), slashed spending, took on unions and started to sell off state industries and public housing.

The number of unemployed quickly doubled, and the Conservatives dropped to 3rd in the polls.

"We shall not be diverted from our course," she told her party in 1980.

She continued: "To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."

That in essence was Thatcher's reputation, as expressed in this quote from 1975:

"I am not a consensus politician. I am a conviction politician."

In early 1982, the economy started to recover and so did Thatcher's approval rating.

It went up even more that spring after Britain went to war with Argentina's dictatorship, which invaded the Falkland Islands - a British territory which Argentina also claimed.

By June, the Argentine forces surrendered and Thatcher declared, "Great Britain is great again."

She called an early election in 1983 and won in a landslide.

Here she is speaking about public money and taxation that year:

Along the way, she took on the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland - which tried to kill her by putting a bomb in her hotel.

In typical Thatcher fashion, she responded by saying "This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail."

"We must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend."

Thatcher with Queen Elizabeth (Photo: AP)
"If you want something spoken about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman."

In the mid '80s, as the BBC writes, "she found a soulmate in the U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, who shared many of her economic views, and she struck up an unlikely alliance with Mikhail Gorbachev, the reforming Soviet president. 'We can do business together,' she famously said."

In another famous move, Thatcher refused to join 48 other Commonwealth countries, including Canada, in imposing sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime.

Thatcher with Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau (Photo: AP)

In 1987, she won a third term.

By 1988, Britain no longer had a deficit, but along the way, Thatcher had targeted things like health care and education.

And her leadership style was becoming increasingly unpopular inside her cabinet. As well, a controversial new tax angered many voters, leading to a riot in Trafalgar Square in March 1990.

That same year, on November 28, 1990, Thatcher resigned as prime minister.

Thatcher leaves Downing Street, November 28, 1990 (Photo: AP)

In 2002, she decided to retire from public speaking, after suffering a series of minor strokes. In 2008, her daughter confirmed that Thatcher was suffering from dementia.

As for her legacy, the BBC described it this way:

"Few politicians have exercised such dominance during their term in office and few politicians have attracted such strength of feeling, both for and against.

To her detractors she was the politician who put the free market above all else and who was willing to allow others to pay the price for her policies in terms of rising unemployment and social unrest.

Her supporters hail her for rolling back the frontiers of an overburdening state, reducing the influence of powerful trades union leaders and restoring Britain's standing in the world.

She was, above all, that rare thing, a conviction politician who was prepared to stand by those convictions for good or ill.

Her firm belief that deeply held convictions should never be compromised by consensus was her great strength and, at the same time, her greatest weakness."

You can read more about Thatcher's life on the BBC website.

And check out a classic moment from the CBC archives of Thatcher being interviewed by the legendary Barbara Frum.

As the description reads, "As evident in the clip, there is no love lost between these two powerful women. The tension is thick, the mood is hostile and both sides are out for blood."

You can watch the interview right here.

Here are some quotes from Thatcher:

"Pennies don't fall from heaven - they have to be earned here on Earth." - Speech at Lord Mayor's Banquet in November 1979

Thatcher with Canadian PM Brian Mulroney (Photo: AP)

"Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul." - Sunday Times interview, 1981

"Defeat - I do not recognise the meaning of the word!" - Thatcher's response when she was told, prior to the Falklands War, that there was a possibility Britain could lose the war.

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

"You know, if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing!" - Press Association interview on her 10th anniversary as PM, in March 1989

"It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake."

Here are a few pieces worth reading about Thatcher and her legacy.

The Invincible Mrs. Thatcher
A couple of years back, with the Meryl Streep-starring biopic 'The Iron Lady' on the way, Charles Moore wrote this "reassessment" of Thatcher for Vanity Fair, and shared some of his personal memories of her.

As an overview of her life and personality, it's a pretty good place to start reading. He talks about her handshake (it was "like a wrestler's", apparently), and examines the choices she made while in office.

Margaret Thatcher Deserves Every Honour - Apart From A State Funeral

Writing in 2011, Peter Oborne suggested in this piece that it would be wrong to grant a state funeral to Thatcher.

He argues first of all that she is a truly great figure in British politics - but also that she belongs to "a particular sect or faction" (i.e. Conservative politics) and that she doesn't therefore represent the whole of the country. For Oborne, granting a state funeral would be an insult to those "honest and patriotic people" who stood up to Mrs. Thatcher, and who are also British citizens.

How We All Lost When Thatcher Won

25 years after the miners' strike that helped define Thatcher's time in office, musician Billy Bragg writes about the legacy of Thatcher's victory over the National Union of Miners.

He blames the recent economic crisis on Thatcher's success in defeating the union, and suggests that Thatcher's victory led to "the brutalization of society" by way of rising housing costs without strong unions to ensure workers' wages rose at the same rates.

21 Incredibly Angry Songs About Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher's actions as PM led many musicians to write songs attacking her. Check out this list from 2012 of 21 tunes about Thatcher (most of them strongly opposed to her) over at Buzzfeed. One of the most well-known is Elvis Costello's 'Tramp the Dirt Down'.

Costello explains the song - which is about how wonderful Thatcher's death would be - and performs it in the video below:


Iron Lady vs. Thrilla From Wasilla

War Is Declared And Battle Come Down: The Making Of London Calling

World's Richest Woman: Africans Working For $2 A Day An Inspiration


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