Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the controversial “Iron Lady” who shaped a generation of British politics, died following a stroke yesterday at the age of 87, her spokesman said.
Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes to Britain’s first female prime minister, a right-wing titan and key figure in the Cold War.
“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” spokesman Lord Tim Bell said, referring to Thatcher’s children.
The former prime minister, who led Britain from 1979 to 1990, suffered from dementia and rarely has appeared in public in recent years.
She was last in hospital in December last year for a minor operation to remove a growth from her bladder.
The former UK Conservative Party leader remains the only female prime minister in British history and was the 20th century’s longest continuous occupant of Downing Street.
Her daughter once revealed that the former prime minister had to be repeatedly reminded that her husband Denis had died in 2003.
She was told by doctors to stop public speaking a decade ago after a series of minor strokes.
“The Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family,” Buckingham Palace said.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Lady Thatcher. We have lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton,” Cameron said.
Michael Howard, Conservative leader between 2003 and 2005, told Sky News television: “It’s terribly sad news. She was a titan in British politics. I believe she saved the country, she transformed our economy and I believe she will go down in history as one of our very greatest prime ministers.”
Right-wingers hailed her as having hauled Britain out of the economic doldrums, but the left accused her of dismantling traditional industry, claiming her reforms helped unpick the fabric of society.
On the world stage, she built a close “special relationship” with former US president Ronald Reagan that helped bring the curtain down on Soviet Communism. She also fiercely opposed closer ties with Europe.
Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13, 1925, in the market town of Grantham, eastern England, the daughter of a grocer.