Margaret Thatcher, 87, dead after stroke

BRITAIN’S longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, the ‘Iron Lady’ Baroness Thatcher, has died from a stroke aged 87.

Her spokesman Lord Bell issued a statement announcing the news.

“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” he said.

Lady Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral, Downing Street said. She will not lie in state, according to her wishes.

Lady Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter and mother of two, was the first, and so far the only woman to be British prime minister.

From 1979 to 1990 she led the country through a turbulent decade of change, with her signature uncompromising style encapsulated by her famous phrase “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

She deregulated the financial sector, privatised many state-owned companies, and took on the then-powerful trade unions.

The resulting spike in unemployment accompanied by protests and inner-city riots tested her early leadership, but the 1982 Falklands war cemented her popularity, and she won two more general elections before her ‘poll tax’ proved a bridge too far.

Lady Thatcher also played a key role in the end of the Cold War, leading the West’s embrace of reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

In the last decade her engagements have become fewer, as her health gradually deteriorated. In 2005 her daughter Carol revealed dementia had affected her mother’s memory, leaving her unable to end sentences or clearly remember events from her near and more distant past.

The BBC reported last night that in recent weeks Baroness Thatcher was living mostly at the Ritz Hotel in London, as she was unable to negotiate her way home any more.

Tributes have poured in through the media and on social media.

On Twitter, prime minister David Cameron wrote “It was with great sadness that l learned of Lady Thatcher's death. We've lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton."

Mr Cameron had been on a tour of Europe where he was to discuss reform of the European Union, however the BBC reported he will now immediately return home.

When Mr Cameron became prime minister, one of his first acts was to invite Ms Thatcher to visit him at Downing Street.

In a statement, Mr Cameron said: "As our first woman prime minister Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds, and the real thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she didn't just lead our country, she saved our country, and I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister .

"Today is obviously a day we should most of all think of her family. We've lost someone great in public life but they've lost a much-loved mother and grandmother and we should think of them today.

"Her legacy will be the fact that she served her country so well and she saved our country and that she showed immense courage in doing so. And people will be learning about what she did and her achievements in decades, probably centuries to come. That's her legacy, but today we should also think of her family.

Lady Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral, Downing Street said. She will not lie in state, according to her wishes.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Lady Thatcher was the reason he entered politics.

“(She) made me believe there was, at last, real purpose and real leadership in politics once again. She bestrode the political world like a colossus.

“This is dreadfully sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

The Thatcher Foundation tweeted “A very sad day. Our thoughts at this time are with Baroness Thatcher’s friends and family.”

Floral tributes have already started appearing at Baroness Thatcher's home in Chester Square, near Buckingham Palace in London.

The BBC reported that one tribute came with the message "RIP Maggie Thatcher. The greatest British leader and a true lady."

Her death is also likely to inspire renewed debate on the ways she has changed Britain – at a time when the ruling Conservative Party is down in the polls and is battling with a party base who want to push the party back towards more Thatcherite policies.

Immediate reaction from the Labour party was muted.

Labour MP Mike Gapes tweeted “Margaret Thatcher achieved something unique – First (and only so far) woman PM. Today should be about respect. Let’s debate her legacy later.”

The story Margaret Thatcher, 87, dead after stroke first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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