The Iron Lady was stronger than Gibraltar

The death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 8 brought to an end an important chapter in the political history of modern Britain.

Even in her death, the woman, who served 11 years (a record) in office as Prime Minister in British history, stirred the emotions of people, who displayed mixed reaction.

She died of a stroke, aged 87.

Baroness Thatcher was a polarising figure and the current government did not announce a state funeral to the delight of her critics from the Progressive Left.

Born on October 13, 1925 in the small eastern England market town of Grantham, she belonged to a modest family and was known as ‘Grocer’s daughter.’

She studied chemistry at Oxford and later became a lawyer before entering politics in 1959, as an elected Member of Parliament.

Mrs Thatcher became the Prime Minister of Britain on May 4, 1979 and occupied 10 Downing Street until November 28, 1990.

Ending Cold War

Taking charge of her country during the closing decade of the Cold War, she aligned her policies with those of US President Ronald Reagan and shared his distrust of Soviet Union and its brand of Communism.

She worked closely with Mr Regan to end to the Cold War in Europe.

In March 2002, she released her only book, ‘Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World,’ dedicating it to Mr Reagan.

Mrs Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, when the Tories were in opposition. She made history four years later becoming the Prime Minister, following the victory of her Party in the 1979 general election.

She supported the decision of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to deploy US nuclear cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe and permitted the US to station more than 160 cruise missiles at the Royal Air Force Base in Greenham Common.

Her actions triggered mass protests by the ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.’

Thatcherism emerges

Her no-nonsense, tough and ruthless approach to issues, both political and economic, gave birth to ‘Thatcherism,’ which subscribed to conviction politics.

Her brand of politics was also defined as the “culmination of a housewife’s home budgeting to the national economy,” coupled with the encouragement of home ownership and entrepreneurial capitalism, which helped more people to rise from the middle-class to upper-middle class.

Mrs Thatcher had a rollercoaster premiership and her political career was replete with controversies and ruthlessness.

By late 1981, her approval rating had fallen to 25%, the lowest recorded for any Prime Minister until that time.

But Britain saw an upturn in its economy.

Wartime PM

In early 1982, the economy began to recover and with it Mrs Thatcher’s standing among the electorate. She scored a landslide victory in the 1983 general election, which came on the heels of the Falklands War.

Her victory against Argentina made her a hero, earning her the title of ‘Wartime Prime Minister,’ like Sir Winston Churchill 50 years earlier.

Mrs Thatcher could be equated to India’s only female Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who led an equally adventurous and autocratic government, winning the war against Pakistan to create an independent state of Bangladesh in 1971.

She is also often compared with Helen Clark, who was the Prime Minister of New Zealand from November 29, 1999 to November 8, 2008.

Great Leaders

In the 300 years that have passed since the British Prime Minister office was invented at the start of the 18th century, there have been few great leaders representing the Crown in government. This was an extremely small club, with membership restricted to William Pitt the Younger (1783-1801), Benjamin Disraeli (1874-1880), William Ewart Gladstone (1892–1894), Lloyd George (1916-1922) and Winston Churchill (1940 to 1945 and 1951-1955).

Like some of her famous predecessors, Mrs Thatcher dominated every meeting or assembly at which she was present.

Pitt intuitively laid the founding stone of the emerging British Empire, Gladstone brought a profound moral sense to the British Government, Disraeli created the modern Conservative Party and George saved the country during World War I.

Sir Winston was arguably the greatest of them all. He rallied the British nation and the English-speaking world against the menace of Nazi Hitler.

Mrs Thatcher was indubitably one the toughest Prime Ministers that Britain ever had in three centuries.

Mrs Thatcher will be remembered as a promulgator of neo-conservatism and author of economic reforms, with increasing state power over monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies.

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