- Text smaller
- Text bigger
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an ally to President Ronald Reagan in the fight against encroaching socialism in the free world and a champion of her own nation's economic and political prosperity, has died at the age of 87.
United Kingdom officials said the woman who was known as the "Iron Lady" died this morning of a stroke.
She ruled for 11 years, turning a fading nation into a new leader in world political and economic affairs.
Selling off state industries to pursue the free market system, turning back union demands and directing the Falklands war, it wasn't until a mutiny in her own party that she left her post.
Former Reagan adviser Art Laffer told Fox News, "She was as great for Britain as Reagan was for the United States."
Thatcher focused like a laser on her faltering nation's problems when she won a landslide victory, and concluded that problem was advancing socialism.
"Some socialists seem to believe that people should be numbers in a state computer. We believe they should be individuals. We are unequal. No one, thank heavens, is quite like anyone else no matter how much the socialists pretend otherwise. Everyone has the right to be unequal. But to us every human being is equally important," she said.
In a fight in parliament one lawmaker stood up to condemn her free market principles. She slugged the criticism right back, "I think that the honorable gentleman knows that I have the same contempt for his socialist policies … as the people of east Europe who have experienced it," she said.
She also described the basic difference she sought to encourage. "One of the great debates of our time is about how much of your money should be spent by the state and how much you should keep to spend on your family. If the state wishes to spend more, it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It's no good thinking someone else will pay . That someone else is you."
On the issue of conflict she was pointed, "Wars are not caused by the buildup of weapons. They are caused when an aggressor believes he can achieve his objective at an acceptable price."
And she said, "People want to live in peace. real, lasting peace, the peace that comes from independence of the state and being able to run your own life, spend your own life and make your own choices, and above all the peace of a country that is proper'y defended against any potential adversary."
Thatcher and Reagan met numerous times and when Reagan died in 2004, she noted she not only had lost a dear friend, but the world had lost a "great American."
She was Britain's first and so far only woman prime minister.
When Argentina's military took over the remote Falkland Islands, under British control, in the 1980s, she ignored senior military advisers who said they were a lost cause, and dispatched her military thousands of miles to reclaim them.
It was unacceptable, she said, "that a common or garden dictator should rule over the queen's subjects and prevail by fraud and violence."
The Washington Times noted her fame for not compromising, quoting her confirmation of that during a political debate, "The lady's not for turning."
And she explained how she intended to have her own way.
"If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."
She was born Oct. 13, 1925, to parents who ran a grocery, and while at Oxford became president of the Conservative Association. She worked as a chemical researcher after graduation.
The chemistry between the two world leaders then, Thatcher and Reagan, was described by AP as one of "strong rapport."
To her, Reagan was "one of by closest political and dearest personal friends."
She noted at one point that Reagan did not "suffer from the dismal plague of doubts" that afflicted so many politicians.
The AP credited the pair with much.
"Together, they boosted military spending, won the Cold War and championed low-tax, low-regulation economies."
Among their few disagreements was the Falklands dispute. Reagan wanted her to call a cease-fire and she wouldn't. They also later disagreed over the 1983 U.S. invasion of Granada, a move that ended a left-wing takeover.
Her career as a chemist was short. She immediately became involved in politics and earned national notice as a candidate where she challenged for opposition seats that were thought to be secure.
It was in 1985 during a fight with coal miners that she reshaped British political and economic outlooks by taking a hard line during that strike. Opponents demonized her as a union buster but her leadership led to a boom in the nation's economy and even left-wing leaders adopted some of her principles.
She married Denis Thatcher in 1951 and he stayed largely out of the spotlight during her career. She first won election to parliament in 1959 and was made education secretary in 1970.
She sold state industries into private hands during her tenure as prime minister, turning housing complex tenants into homeowners. Among the companies targeted were British Telecom, British Gas, Rolls-Royce, British Airways, British Coal and British Steel.
Her husband died in 2003, only a year after she suffered several small strokes that led her to reduce her world traveling.
She is survived by her two children, Mark Thatcher and Carol Thatcher, and her grandchildren.