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Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher LG, OM, PC, FRS (born 13 October 1925) served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She is the only woman to have held either post.

Born in Granthammarker in Lincolnshire, England, she read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxfordmarker and later trained as a barrister. She won a seat in the 1959 general election, becoming the MP for Finchley as a Conservative. When Edward Heath formed a government in 1970, he appointed Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science. Four years later, she backed Keith Joseph in his bid to become Conservative Party leader but he was forced to drop out of the election. In 1975 Thatcher entered the contest herself and became leader of the Conservative Party. At the 1979 general election she became Britain's first female Prime Minister.

In her foreword to the 1979 Conservative manifesto, Thatcher had written of "a feeling of helplessness, that a once great nation has somehow fallen behind." She entered 10 Downing Streetmarker determined to reverse what she perceived as a precipitate national decline, characterised by a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and stagnant or slow growth. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, and the selling off of state owned companies. Amid a recession and high unemployment, Thatcher's popularity decreased, though economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support and she was re-elected in 1983. She took a hard line against trade unions, survived the Brighton hotel bombingmarker assassination attempt and opposed the Soviet Unionmarker (her tough-talking rhetoric gained her the nickname the "Iron Lady"); she was re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1987. The following years would prove difficult, as her Poll tax plan was largely unpopular, and her views regarding the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister in November 1990 after Michael Heseltine's challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party.

Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister was the longest since that of Lord Salisbury and the longest continuous period in office since Lord Liverpool in the early 19th century. She was the first woman to lead a major political party in the UKmarker, and the first of only three women to hold any of the four great offices of state. She holds a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitles her to sit in the House of Lordsmarker.

Early life and education

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on 13 October 1925 to Alfred Roberts, originally from Northamptonshiremarker, and Beatrice Roberts née Stephenson from Lincolnshiremarker. Thatcher spent her childhood in the town of Granthammarker in Lincolnshire, where her father owned two grocery shops. She and her older sister Muriel (born 1921, Grantham; died December 2004; married name Cullen) were raised in the flat above the larger of the two located near the railway line. Her father was active in local politics and religion, serving as an Alderman and Methodist lay preacher. He came from a Liberal family but stood—as was then customary in local government—as an Independent. He lost his post as Alderman in 1952 after the Labour Party won its first majority on Grantham Council in 1950.

Margaret Roberts was brought up a strict Methodist by her father. Having attended Huntingtower Road Primary School, she won a scholarship to Kesteven and Grantham Girls' Schoolmarker. Her school reports show hard work and commitment, but not brilliance. Outside the classroom she played hockey and also enjoyed swimming and walking. Finishing school during the Second World War, she applied for a scholarship to attend Somerville College, Oxfordmarker, but was only successful when the winning candidate dropped out. She went to Oxford in 1943 and studied Natural Sciences, specialising in Chemistry. She became President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946, the third woman to hold the post. In 1946 Roberts took the Final Honour School examination, graduating with a Second Class Bachelor of Arts degree. She subsequently studied crystallography and received a postgraduate BSc degree in 1947. Three years later, in 1950, she achieved a Master of Arts advanced degree, according to her entitlement as an Oxfordmarker BA of seven years' standing since matriculation.

Following graduation, Roberts moved to Colchester in Essex, to work as a research chemist for BX Plastics. During this time she joined the local Conservative Association and attended the party conference at Llandudno in 1948, as a representative of the University Graduate Conservative Association. She was also a member of the Association of Scientific Workers. In January 1949, a friend from Oxford, who was working for the Dartfordmarker Conservative Association, told her that they were looking for candidates. After a brief period, she was selected as the Conservative candidate, and she subsequently moved to Dartford, Kent, to stand for election as a Member of Parliament. To support herself during this period, she went to work for J. Lyons and Co., where she helped develop methods for preserving ice cream and was paid £500 per year.

Early political career (1950–1970)

At the 1950 and 1951 elections, she fought the safe Labour seat of Dartfordmarker. Although she lost out to Norman Dodds, she reduced the Labour majority in the constituency by 6,000. She was, at the time, the youngest ever female Conservative candidate and her campaign attracted a higher than normal amount of media attention for a first time candidate. While active in the Conservative Party in Kent, she met Denis Thatcher, whom she married in 1951, conforming to his Anglicanism. Denis was a wealthy divorced businessman who ran his family's firm; he later became an executive in the oil industry. Denis funded his wife's studies for the Bar. She qualified as a barrister in 1953 and specialised in taxation. In the same year her twin children Carol and Mark were born, delivered by Caesarean section while their father watched a Test match at the Ovalmarker. With a mother climbing the political ladder, the children were left to a nanny. "My mother was prone to calling me by her secretaries' names and working through each of them until she got to Carol," recalled her daughter.

Thatcher began to look for a safe Conservative seat in the mid-1950s and was narrowly rejected as candidate for the Orpington by-election in 1955, and was not selected as a candidate in the 1955 election. She had several further rejections before being selected for Finchley in April 1958. She won the seat after hard campaigning during the 1959 election and was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP). Her maiden speech was in support of her Private Member's Bill (Public Bodies Act 1960) requiring local councils to hold meetings in public, which was successful. In 1961 she went against the Conservative Party's official position by voting for the restoration of birching.

Within two years, in October 1961, she was given a promotion to the front bench as Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. She held this post throughout the administration of Harold Macmillan, until the Conservatives were removed from office in the 1964 election. When Sir Alec Douglas-Home stepped down, Thatcher voted for Edward Heath in the leadership election of 1965 over Reginald Maudling. She was promoted to the position of Conservative spokesman on Housing and Land; in this position, she advocated the Conservative policy of allowing tenants to buy their council houses. The policy would prove to be popular. She moved to the Shadow Treasurymarker team in 1966. As Treasury spokesman, she opposed Labour's mandatory price and income controls, which she argued would produce contrary effects to those intended and distort the economy.

Thatcher established herself as a potent conference speaker at the Conservative Party Conference of 1966, with a strong attack on the high-tax policies of the Labour Government as being steps "not only towards Socialism, but towards Communism". She argued that lower taxes served as an incentive to hard work. Thatcher was one of few Conservative MPs to support Leo Abse's Bill to decriminalise male homosexuality and voted in favour of David Steel's Bill to legalise abortion, as well as a ban on hare coursing. She supported the retention of capital punishment and voted against the relaxation of divorce laws.

In 1967 she was selected by the Embassy of the United States in Londonmarker to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (then called the Foreign Leader Program), a professional exchange program in which she spent about six weeks visiting various U.S. cities, political figures, and institutions such as the International Monetary Fundmarker. Later that year, Thatcher joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Fuel spokesman. Shortly preceding the 1970 general election, she was promoted to Shadow Transport and, finally, Education.

Education Secretary (1970–1974)

When the Conservative party under Edward Heath won the 1970 general election, Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science. In her first months in office, Thatcher came to public attention as a result of the administration of Edward Heath's decision to cut spending. She gave priority to academic needs in schools, and imposed public expenditure cuts on the state education system, resulting in, against her private protests, the abolition of free milk for school-children aged seven to eleven. She believed that few children would suffer if schools were charged for milk, however she agreed to give younger children a third of a pint, daily, for nutritional purposes. This provoked a storm of protest from the Labour party and the press, and led to the unflattering moniker "Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher". Of the experience, Thatcher later wrote in her autobiography, "I learned a valuable lesson. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit."

She successfully resisted the introduction of library book charges. She did not volunteer spending cuts in her department, contrary to her later beliefs. Her term was marked by support for several proposals for more local education authorities to close grammar schools and to adopt comprehensive secondary education. Thatcher, committed to a tiered secondary modern / grammar school system of education, was determined to preserve grammar schools, which prepared more students for admission to universities. She abolished Labour's commitment to comprehensive schooling, and instead left the matter to local education authorities.

Leader of the Opposition (1975–1979)

The Heath government experienced many difficulties between 1970 and 1974. The government executed a series of reversals in its economic policies, dubbed "U-turns". The Conservatives were defeated in the February 1974 general election, and Thatcher's portfolio was changed to Shadow Environment Secretary. In this position she promised to abolish the rating system that paid for local government services, which was a favoured policy proposal within the Conservative Party for many years.

Thatcher thought that the Heath Government had lost control of monetary policy—and had lost direction. After her party lost the second election of 1974 in October, Thatcher, determined to change the direction of the Conservative party, challenged Heath for the Conservative party leadership. She promised a fresh start, and her main support came from the Conservative 1922 Committee. Unexpectedly, she defeated Heath on the first ballot, and he resigned the leadership. On the second ballot, she defeated Heath's preferred successor, William Whitelaw, and became Conservative Party leader on 11 February 1975. She appointed Whitelaw as her deputy. Heath remained disenchanted with Thatcher to the end of his life for what he, and many of his supporters, perceived as her disloyalty in standing against him.

In these years Thatcher began to work on her image, specifically her voice and screen image. "The hang-up has always been the voice" wrote the critic Clive James, in The Observer. "Not the timbre so much as, well, the tone - the condescending explanatory whine which treats the squirming interlocutor as an eight year old child with learning deficiencies. News Extra rolled a clip from May 1973 demonstrating the Thatcher sneer at full pitch. She sounded like a cat sliding down a blackboard." She worked to change this image and James acknowledged ; "She's cold , hard , quick and superior, and smart enough to know that those qualities could work for her instead of against."

Thatcher appointed many of Heath's supporters to the Shadow Cabinet, for she had won the leadership as an outsider and then had little power base of her own within the party. Thatcher had to act cautiously to convert the Conservative Party to her monetarist beliefs. She reversed Heath's support for devolved government for Scotlandmarker.

On 19 January 1976, she made a speech in Kensington Town Hall in which she made a scathing attack on the Soviet Unionmarker. The most famous part of her speech ran:

In response, the Soviet Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) gave her the nickname "Iron Lady". She took delight in the name and it soon became associated with her image as having an unwavering and steadfast character. She was later nicknamed "Attila the Hen" as well.

In an interview in January 1978, Thatcher raised the prospect of the number of Pakistani and Commonwealth Britons doubling to four million by the end of the century, remarking, "people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture". White liberals and black leaders, and some liberals who were not white, and some whites who were not liberals, accused Thatcher of pandering to xenophobia. Thatcher received 10,000 letters thanking her for raising the subject of immigration, and the Conservatives, previously level with Labour on 43% in opinion polls, took a 48% to 39% lead.

The Labour Government was running into difficulties with industrial disputes and rising unemployment, and eventually collapsing public services during the winter of 1978–79, popularly dubbed the "Winter of Discontent". The Conservatives attacked the government's unemployment record, and used advertising hoardings with the slogan "Labour Isn't Working" to assist them.

In the run up to the 1979 General Election, most opinion polls showed that voters preferred James Callaghan of the Labour party as Prime Minister, even as the Conservative Party maintained a lead in the polls. After a successful motion of no confidence in spring 1979, Callaghan's Labour government fell. The Conservatives would go on to win a 44-seat majority in the House of Commons and Margaret Thatcher became the United Kingdom's first female Prime Minister.

Prime Minister (1979–1990)

Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979, with a mandate to reverse the UK's economic decline and to reduce the role of the state in the economy. Arriving at 10 Downing Streetmarker, she said, in a paraphrase of St. Francis of Assisi:

Thatcher was incensed by one contemporary view within the British Civil Service that its job was to manage the UK's decline from the days of Empire and she wanted the country to assert a higher level of influence and leadership in international affairs. She represented the newly energetic right wing of the Conservative Party and advocated greater independence of the individual from the state and less government intervention. She became a very close ally, philosophically and politically, with President of the United States Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980. During her tenure as Prime Minister she was said to need just four hours' sleep a night.

First government (1979–1983)

New economic initiatives

Thatcher's political and economic philosophy emphasised reduced state intervention, free markets, and entrepreneurialism. She wished to end what she felt was excessive government interference in the economy, and therefore privatized many nationally-owned enterprises and sold public housing to tenants at cut prices. Influenced by monetarist thinking as expoused by Milton Friedman, she began her economic reforms by increasing interest rates to try to slow the growth of the money supply and thereby lower inflation. She also placed limits on the printing of money and legal restrictions on trade unions, in her quest to tackle inflation and trade union disputes, which had bedevilled the UK economy throughout the 1970s. In accordance with her anti-interventionist views, she introduced cash limits on public spending and reduced expenditures on social services such as education (until 1987) and housing. Later, in 1985, as a deliberate snub, the University of Oxfordmarker voted to refuse Thatcher an honorary degree in protest against her cuts in funding for higher education.

GDP and public spending

by functional classification
% change in real terms

1979/80 to 1989/90
GDP +23.3
Total government spending +12.9
Law and order +53.3
Employment and training +33.3
Health +31.8
Social security +31.8
Transport -5.8
Trade and industry -38.2
Housing -67.0
Defence -3.3

At the time, some Heathite Conservatives in the Cabinet, the so-called "wets", expressed doubt over Thatcher's "dry" policies. Civil unrest in Britain resulted in the British media discussing the need for a policy u-turn. At the 1980 Conservative Party conference, Thatcher addressed the issue directly, armed with a speech written by the playwright Ronald Millar which included the lines: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning!"

Thatcher lowered direct taxes on income and increased indirect taxes instead, as the Early 1980s recession deepened, despite concerns expressed in a letter from 364 leading economists. Unemployment soared, and in December 1981 Thatcher's job approval rating fell to 25%, the lowest of her entire premiership, a lower rating than recorded for any previous prime minister, although she remained more popular than her party.

A month later, in January 1982, the worst post-war slump bottomed out, inflation dropped to 8.6% from an earlier high of 18%, and interest rates fell, although unemployment was now in excess of 3,000,000 for the first time since the 1930s.

Thatcher's job approval rating recovered to 32%. By 1983, overall economic growth was stronger and inflation and mortgage rates were at their lowest levels since 1970, though manufacturing output had dropped 30% from 1978 and unemployment had more than doubled to 3.6 million.

The term "Thatcherism" came to refer to her policies as well as aspects of her ethical outlook and personal style, including moral absolutism, nationalism, interest in the individual, and an uncompromising approach to achieving political goals. American author Claire Berlinski, who wrote the biography There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, argues repeatedly throughout the volume that it was this Thatcherism, specifically her focus on economic reform, that set the United Kingdom on the path to recovery and long term growth.

Northern Ireland

The hunger strike was begun by a number of Provisional IRA and Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in Northern Irelandmarker's Maze Prisonmarker to regain the status of political prisoners which had been revoked five years earlier under the preceding Labour government. Bobby Sands began the strike, saying that he would fast until death unless prison inmates won concessions over their living conditions. Thatcher refused to countenance a return to political status for the prisoners, famously declaring "Crime is crime is crime; it is not political" and felt that Britain should not negotiate with terrorists. However, despite holding this view in public, the British government made private contact with republican leaders in a bid to bring the hunger strikes to an end. After nine more men had starved to death and the strike had ended, some rights were restored to paramilitary prisoners, but official recognition of political status was not granted.

Later that year, Thatcher and Irish Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald established the Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental Council, which would act as a forum for meetings between the two governments. On 15 November 1985, Thatcher and FitzGerald signed the Hillsborough Anglo-Irish Agreement; the first time a British government gave the Republic of Ireland an advisory role in the governance of Northern Ireland.

The Falklands

On 2 April 1982, the ruling military junta in Argentinamarker invaded the Falkland Islandsmarker and South Georgia, British overseas territories that Argentina claimed. The following day, Thatcher sent a naval task force to recapture the islands and eject the invaders. The conflict escalated from there, evolving into an amphibious and ground combat operation. Argentina surrendered on 14 June and the operation was hailed a great success, notwithstanding the deaths of 255 British servicemen and three Falkland Islanders. 649 Argentinians also died, half of them after the cruiser ARA General Belgrano was torpedoed by HMS Conqueror. Victory in the South Atlanticmarker brought a wave of patriotic enthusiasm and support for the government. Thatcher's personal approval rating rose from 30% to 59%, as measured by Mori, and from 29% to 52%, according to Gallup. Conservative support climbed from 27% to 44%, while Labour's slipped from 34% to 27%.

On 26 July 1982, a service of thanksgiving for the victory was held in St Paul's Cathedralmarker, and the Archbishop of Canterury Robert Runcie delivered a sermon which asked the congregation to share the grief of both British and Argentinian mourners alike. Thatcher did not approve. Privately, according to an aide, she agreed with Edward du Cann, Julian Amery and other Tory MPs who saw the Runcie sermon as proof that the Government still had many enemies who deserved denouncing. "Not the least of the Falklands after-effects was the start of a long, sometimes venomous distancing, which continued through the 1980s, between the leading representatives of Church and state. "

1983 election

Economic recovery from the spring of 1982 bolstered the Thatcher government's popularity, and although many contemporary commentators saw the ensuing national poll as a khaki election that was decided by the "Falklands factor", the war had produced a disaggregated boost to Conservative support of no more than 3% for 3 months, suggesting Thatcher's sustained improvement was due instead to successful macroeconomic management. She also faced a divided opposition: Labour was bitterly split; the party had responded to the New Cold War by moving to the left and adopting a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, and had lost many senior leaders to the new Social Democratic Party in alliance with the Liberal Party, preventing the formation of an electoral pact against the Conservatives. Labour leader Michael Foot was a left-winger and generally regarded as unelectable, while Conservatives viewed Thatcher as 'their greatest electoral asset'. In the June 1983 general election, the Conservatives won 42.4% of the vote, the Labour party 27.6% and the Alliance 25.4% of the vote. Although the Conservatives' share of the vote had fallen slightly (1.5%) since 1979, Labour's vote had fallen by far more (9.3%) and under the first past the post system, the Conservatives won a landslide victory with a massive majority. This resulted in the Conservative party having an overall majority of 144 MPs.

Second government (1983–1987)


The policy of privatisation has been called "a crucial ingredient of Thatcherism". After the 1983 election the sale of large state utilities to private companies accelerated.

British Petroleum was privatised in stages in October 1979, September 1983 and November 1987; British Aerospace in January 1981 and 1985; the government share in British Sugar in July 1981; Cable and Wireless in November 1981; Amersham International and National Freight Corporation in February 1982; Britoil in November 1982 and August 1985; Associated British Ports in February 1983; Jaguar in July 1984; British Telecom in November 1984; the National Bus Company in October 1986; British Gas in December 1986; British Airways in February 1987; the Royal Ordnance in April 1987; Rolls-Royce in May 1987; the British Airports Authority in July 1987; the Rover Group in August 1988; British Steel in December 1988; the Regional Water Authorities in November 1989; Girobank in July 1990; and the National Grid in December 1990.

In 1983 Thatcher also broke up and privatised British Shipbuilders, which had been amalgamated and nationalised by Callaghan in 1977 in the lean times following the 1973 oil crisis, and which still employed 86,000 people building naval and commercial vessels, many in the north-east of England. Few of the privatised shipyards subsequently survived competition against East Asian cheap labour, with the single largest private sector group, BVT, now employing a fraction of the nationalised group's number, just over 7,000 people working on Navy contracts in the Clyde and Portsmouthmarker yards.

The process of privatisation, especially the preparation of nationalised industries for privatisation, was associated with marked improvements in performance, particularly in terms of labour productivity. But it is not clear how far this can be attributed to the merits of privatisation itself. The "productivity miracle" observed in British industry under Thatcher was achieved not so much by increasing the overall productivity of labour as by reducing workforces and increasing unemployment. A number of the privatised industries, such as gas, water and electricity, were natural monopolies for which privatisation involved little increase in competition. Furthermore, the privatised industries that underwent improvements often did so while still under state ownership. For instance, British Steel made great gains in profitability while still a nationalised industry under the government-appointed chairmanship of Ian MacGregor, who faced down trade-union opposition to close plants and more than halve the workforce. Regulation was also greatly expanded to compensate for the loss of direct government control, with the foundation of regulatory bodies like Ofgas, Oftel and the National Rivers Authority. Overall, there was no clear pattern between the degree of competition, regulation and performance among the privatised industries. While the output and profits of the privatised companies grew, margins increased, and employment declined, the exact relationship of these changes to privatisation is uncertain.

Many people took advantage of share offers, although many sold their shares immediately for a quick profit and therefore the proportion of shares held by individuals rather than institutions did not increase. By the mid 1980s, the number of individual stockholders had tripled, and the Thatcher government had sold 1.5 million publicly owned housing units to their tenants.

The privatisation of public assets was combined with deregulation of finance in an attempt to fuel economic growth. Notably, in 1979 Geoffrey Howe abolished Britain's exchange controls to allow more capital to seek profits overseas and the Big Bang of 1986 removed many restrictions on the activities of the London Stock Exchange. The Thatcher government encouraged the growth of the financial and service sectors to replace Britain's ailing manufacturing industry. Susan Strange called this new financial growth model, flourishing in Britain and America under Thatcher and Reagan, "casino capitalism" - as speculation and trading in financial claims became a more important part of the economy than industry.

Trade unions

Thatcher was committed to reducing the power of the trade unions, whose leadership she accused of undermining parliamentary democracy and economic performance through paralysing strike action. Several unions launched strikes in response to legislation introduced to curb their power, but resistance eventually collapsed. Only 39% of union members voted for Labour in the 1983 general election. According to the BBC, Thatcher "managed to destroy the power of the trade unions for almost a generation."

The number of stoppages across the United Kingdom peaked at 4,583 in the crisis year of 1979 that brought Thatcher to power, with over 29 million working days lost. 1984, the great year of industrial confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), saw 1,221 stoppages and over 27 million working days lost. Stoppages then fell steadily through the rest of Thatcher's premiership, to 630 by 1990, with under 2 million working days lost, and continued to fall thereafter. Trade union membership also fell, from over 12 million in 1979 to 8.4 million in 1990.

The miners' strike was the climax of the confrontation between the unions and the Thatcher government. In March 1984 the NUM ordered a strike, without a national ballot, in opposition to National Coal Board proposals to close 20 pits out of 174 state-owned mines and cut 20,000 jobs out of 187,000. Two-thirds of the country's miners downed tools. Thatcher refused to meet the union's demands, and said: "We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty."

Violence was common on the picket lines during the miners' strike; controversial police tactics were used against strikers. The strike resulted in at least three deaths. Two miners, Joe Green and David Jones, were crushed to death by lorries while picketing. Two miners, Dean Hancock and Russell Shankland, were sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for the manslaughter of taxi driver David Wilkie who was taking a working miner to his colliery. Some 20,000 people were injured in the course of the strike. 11,300 miners and their supporters were arrested and charged with criminal offences.

The NUM's failure to ballot and the picket line violence and intimidation cost the strike public support. A MORI poll in June 1984 found that 41% of people backed the Coal Board, and 35% the miners. By August support for the Board had risen to 46%, while support for the miners had fallen to 30%. The position remained unchanged at the end of the year. The miners' strike also split the trade union movement, with lorry drivers, dockers and power station employees crossing picket lines or handling coal. The strike was described as "one of the most aggressive trade union struggles since the 1926 General Strike", with some commentators even suggesting it was "the nearest the country had come to civil war for 400 years". Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie accused Thatcher personally of fostering a "politics of confrontation", and blamed her policies for high unemployment, which he said had created "despair about the future".

After a year out on strike, in March 1985, the NUM leadership conceded without a deal. The cost of the strike to the economy was estimated at least £1.5 billion. The strike was also blamed for much of the pound's fall against the US dollar. The government proceeded to close 25 unprofitable pits in 1985; by 1992, a total of 97 pits had been closed, with the remaining being sold off and privatised in 1994. These actions had great effect on the industrial and political complexion of the country. The eventual closure of 150 collieries, not all of which were losing money, resulted in a loss of tens of thousands of jobs and devastated entire communities, delivering a blow from which the coal industry, with 50 mines employing 6,000 people, has barely begun to recover, with plans for 58 new open-cast mines and up to a dozen new deep mines.

Brighton bombing

On the early morning of 12 October 1984, the day before her 59th birthday, Thatcher narrowly escaped injury in the Brighton hotel bombingmarker carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Five people were killed in the attack, including the wife of Cabinet Minister John Wakeham; a prominent member of the Cabinet, Norman Tebbit, was injured, and his wife Margaret was left paralysed. Thatcher was staying at the hotel to attend the Conservative Party Conference, and insisted that the conference open on time the next day. She delivered her speech as planned in defiance of the bombers, a gesture which won widespread approval across the political spectrum, and measurably enhanced her personal popularity with the public. A Gallup poll that month found her personal approval rating up from 40% to 50%, and the Conservative lead over Labour widening from 1% to 12%.

Cold War

Thatcher took office in the final decade of the Cold War, a period of strategic confrontation between the Western powers and the Soviet Unionmarker and its Warsaw Pactsatellites. During her first year as prime minister she supported NATOmarker's decision to deploy U.S. Cruise missiles and Pershing missiles in Western Europe. She permitted the United States to station more than 160 nuclear cruise missiles at Greenham Commonmarker, arousing mass protests by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Thatcher became closely aligned with the policies of U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1981–1989), and their closeness produced transatlantic cooperation. His policy of deterrence against the Soviets contrasted with the policy of détente which the West had pursued during the 1970s, and caused friction with allies who still adhered to the idea of détente.

Thatcher was among the first Western leaders to respond warmly to reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. They met in London in 1984, three months before he became General Secretary. Thatcher declared that she liked him, and told Reagan, saying, "we can do business together". Following the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings from 1985 to 1988, as well as multiple reforms enacted by Gorbachev in the USSR, Thatcher declared in November 1988, "We're not in a Cold War now" but rather in a "new relationship much wider than the Cold War ever was." She continued, "I expect Mr Gorbachev to do everything he can to continue his reforms. We will support it."

Thatcher initially opposed German reunification, telling Premier Gorbachev that “this would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.” She expressed concern that a united Germany would align itself closer with the Soviet Union and move away from NATO. Recent records attribute Gorbachev as stating that "the West doesn’t want German reunification but wants to use us to prevent it", possibly because of the line taken by Thatcher and other European leaders such as France's Mr Mitterrand who was even thinking of a military alliance with Russia to stop it, “camouflaged as a joint use of armies to fight natural disasters”.

Thatcher's premiership outlasted the Cold War, which ended in 1989, and those who share her views on it credit her with a part in the West's victory, by both the deterrence and détente postures.

Nuclear deterrent

In March 1982 Thatcher approved the modernisation of the strategic nuclear force by ordering a new generation of Trident submarines to replace Polaris at a cost of £10 billion, creating 25,000 British jobs. She justified the expenditure on the basis that the United Kingdom was acquiring only the minimum deterrent against Soviet aggression and rejected participation in START negotiations unless the U.S. and Soviet arsenals were substantially reduced. She committed the government to using savings from co-operation with the United States in the nuclear field to strengthen British conventional forces.

Hong Kong

On 19 December 1984, Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping of the People's Republic of Chinamarker signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which committed Hong Kongmarker to the status of a Special Administrative Region. Britain agreed to leave the region in 1997.

Bombing of Libya

In April 1986 Thatcher, after expressing initial reservations, permitted U.S. F-111s to use RAF bases for the bombing of Libya in retaliation for the alleged Libyan bombing of a Berlin discothèquemarker, citing the right of self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Thatcher told the House of Commonsmarker: "The United States has more than 330,000 forces in Europe to defend our liberty. Because they are there they are subject to terrorist attack. It is inconceivable that they should be refused the right to use American aircraft and American pilots in the inherent right of self-defence to defend their own people."

The United Kingdom was the only nation to provide support and assistance for the U.S. action. Polls suggested that more than two out of three people disapproved of Thatcher's decision to accede to the U.S. request.

Despite the Lebanon hostage crisis in in April 1986, the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in September 1986, and the Lockerbie bombing in December 1988, Thatcher insisted that the raid had deterred further Libyan attacks.

Supplementary Extradition Treaty

Thatcher also contended that her support for the U.S. bombing of Libya imposed an obligation on the United States to ratify a new extradition treaty with the United Kingdom in order to stand up to IRA violence. "What is the point," she asked, "of the United States taking a foremost part against terrorism and then not being as strict as they can against Irish terrorism, which afflicts one of their allies?" The U.S.-U.K. Supplementary Extradition Treaty, restricting the application of the political offence exception, signed in June 1986, and coming into force in December, was "hailed as a major improvement in the efforts of democratic nations to fight international terrorism".

Westland affair

Thatcher's preference for defence ties with the United States was also demonstrated in the Westland affair of 1986 when she acted with colleagues to allow the helicopter manufacturer Westland, a vital defence contractor, to refuse to link with the Italian firm Agusta in order for it to link with the management's preferred option, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of the United States. Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine, who had pushed the Agusta deal, resigned in protest after this, and remained an influential critic and potential leadership challenger.

South Africa

In July 1986 Thatcher expressed her belief that economic sanctions against South Africa would be immoral because they would make thousands of black workers unemployed. Public dissatisfaction with her position grew steadily, reaching 65% in a MORI poll for The Times published in August 1986, following a boycott of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh by 32 nations. However just 49% of people surveyed said they would approve of an end to new investment by British companies, and a complete ban on trade, air or sporting links also failed to attract majority support. 46% said sanctions would not help bring an end to apartheid, while 44% said they would.

Local government devolution

In 1986, in a controversial move, the Thatcher government abolished the Greater London Council, then led by the left-wing Ken Livingstone, as well as six Labour controlled metropolitan county councils. The government stated that they ordered this to decrease bureaucracy and increase efficiency, and encouraged transferring power to local councils for increased electoral accountability. Thatcher's opponents, however, held that the move was politically motivated, as the GLC had become a powerful centre of opposition to her government, and the county councils were in favour of higher local government taxes and public spending.

Relationship with the Queen

As Prime Minister, Thatcher met weekly with Queen Elizabeth II to discuss government business. She was just six months older than the Queen, and their relationship came under close scrutiny, with the media speculating that they did not get along overly well. While they displayed public images that largely contrasted, Tim Bell, a former Thatcher advisor, recalled, "Margaret has the deepest respect for the Queen and all her family". She was said to greet the Queen with a curtsey every time they met.

In July 1986 sensational claims attributed to the Queen's advisers of a "rift" between Buckingham Palacemarker and Downing Streetmarker "over a wide range of domestic and international issues" were reported by The Sunday Times. The immediate cause was said to be "the Queen's fear for the possible break-up of the Commonwealth" because of Thatcher's rejection of comprehensive sanctions against South Africa. Their relationship was characterised as "pragmatic and without any personal antagonism". The Palace issued an official denial, heading off speculation about a possible constitutional crisis. However a MORI poll for the Evening Standard suggested a sharp loss of support for the government following the controversy, giving Labour a 6-point lead, reversing a previous Conservative 6-point lead, while a separate MORI poll for The Times put Labour on 41% with a 9-point lead.

After Thatcher's retirement a senior Palace source again dismissed as "nonsense" the "stereotyped idea" that she had not got along with the Queen or that they had fallen out over Thatcherite policies.

1987 election

At the time of the 1987 general election, Labour leader Neil Kinnock presided over a party deeply divided on policy agendas. Margaret Thatcher, in turn, led her party to victory, winning an unprecedented third term with a 102 seat majority, and became the longest continuously serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since Lord Liverpool (1812 to 1827), as well as the only Prime Minister of the 20th century to serve three terms. She was elected riding on an economic boom against a weak Labour opposition. The Conservatives won 42.2% of the popular vote, while the Labour party won 30.8% and Alliance won 22.6 %.

Third government (1987–1990)

Environmental issues

Thatcher, the former chemist, became publicly concerned with environmental issues in the late 1980s. In 1988, she made a major speech communicating the problems of global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain.

Continuation of economic changes

Thatcher introduced a new system for the government to raise revenue; she replaced local government taxes with a Community Charge or "Poll tax", in which property tax rates were made uniform, in that the same amount was charged to every individual resident, and the residential property tax was replaced with a head tax whose rate would be established by local governments. Thatcher's revolutionary system was introduced in Scotland in 1989 and in England and Wales the following year.

The Thatchers with the Reagans standing at the North Portico of the White House prior to a state dinner, 16 November 1988

A sceptical British public was disenchanted with Thatcher's system of local taxation and it was to be among the most unpopular policies of her premiership. What the Thatcher government did not anticipate was that local councils would raise their total shares from the taxes. As a result, the central Government capped rates that seemed out of line, resulting in charges of partisanship and the alienation of small-government Conservatives. The Prime Minister's popularity declined in 1989 as she continued to refuse to compromise on the tax. Unrest mounted and culminated in a number of riots, the most serious of which occurred at Trafalgar Squaremarker, London, on 31 March 1990; more than 100,000 protesters attended and more than 400 people were arrested.

A BBC Radio poll in September 1989 indicated that almost three-quarters of the public were also against water privatisation. Despite public opposition to the poll tax and the privatisation of water, electricity, and British Rail, Thatcher remained confident that, as with her other major reforms, the initial public opposition would turn into support after implementation. A MORI poll for the Sunday Times in June 1988 found that more than 60% of voters agreed that in the long term the Thatcher government's policies would improve the state of the economy, while less than 30% disagreed; although income inequality had increased the poor were still better off than in 1979: 74% of Britons said they were satisfied with their present standard of living, while only 18% were dissatisfied.


At Bruges, Belgium, in 1988, Thatcher made a speech in which she outlined her opposition to proposals from the European Community, a forerunner to the European Union, for a federal structure and increasing centralisation of decision-making. Though she had supported British membership in the EC, Thatcher believed that the role of the organisation should be limited to ensuring free trade and effective competition, and feared that the EC approach to governing was at odds with her views of smaller government and deregulatory trends; in 1988, she remarked, "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level, with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels". A split was emerging over European policy inside the British Government and her Conservative Party.

On 30 November 1988, when the European Court of Human Rightsmarker ruled that Britain's detention provisions were in breach of European law, the policy split extended to parliament with the presentation of a petition calling for a written British constitution. Thatcher reacted angrily to the ECHR ruling, and to the failure of Belgium and Ireland to extradite a suspected terrorist, Father Patrick Ryan, to face charges in Britain. She told the Commons: "We shall consider the judgment carefully and also the human rights of the victims and potential victims of terrorism."

At a meeting before the Madridmarker European Community summit in June 1989, Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson and Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe sought to persuade Thatcher to agree to circumstances under which Great Britain would join the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a preparation for monetary union, and abolish the pound as British currency. At the meeting, they both said they would resign if their demands were not met. Thatcher, as well as her economic advisor Alan Walters, was opposed to this notion and felt that the pound sterling should be able to float freely, and that membership would constrain the UK economy. Both Lawson and Howe eventually resigned and Thatcher remained firmly opposed to British membership in the European Monetary System.

1989 Leadership election

Thatcher was challenged for the leadership of the Conservative Party by virtually unknown backbench MP Sir Anthony Meyer in the 1989 leadership election. Of the 374 Conservative MPs eligible to vote, 314 voted for Thatcher while 33 voted for Meyer; there were 27 abstentions. Thatcher noted, "I would like to say how very pleased I am with this result and how very pleased I am to have had the overwhelming support of my colleagues in the House and the people from the party in the country", while Meyer said he was delighted as well: "The total result I think is rather better than I had expected". Her supporters in the Party viewed the results as a success, and rejected suggestions that there was discontent within the Party.

Gulf War

Thatcher reviews Bermudian troops, 12 April 1990

Thatcher was visiting the United States when she received word that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had invaded neighbouring Kuwait. She met with US President George H. W. Bush, who had succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1989, during which Bush asked her, "Margaret, what is your view?" She recalled in an interview that she felt "that aggressors must be stopped, not only stopped, but they must be thrown out. An aggressor cannot gain from his aggression. He must be thrown out and really, by that time in my mind, I thought we ought to throw him out so decisively that he could never think of doing it again." She put pressure on Bush to deploy troops to the Middle East to drive the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. Bush was somewhat apprehensive about the plan, so Thatcher remarked to him during a telephone conversation, "This was no time to go wobbly!" Thatcher's government provided military forces to the international coalition in the Gulf War to pursue the ouster of Iraq from Kuwait.


Despite having the longest continuous period of office of any prime minister in the twentieth century, Thatcher had, on average during her premiership, the second-lowest approval rating of any post-war prime minister, at 40%, only beating Edward Heath; even after the Falklands War it had never risen above 55%; polls consistently showed that she was less popular than the Conservative party. A self-described conviction politician, Thatcher always insisted she did not care about her poll ratings, pointing instead to her unbeaten election record.

Moreover, in relative terms, Thatcher's personal position had remained consistently strong: a Marplan poll for the Sunday Express in October 1988 showed that Thatcher was still trusted by 61% of Britons to lead the country, compared with only 17% for Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Thatcher's capacity to lead was trusted by 87% of Conservative voters and 46% of Labour voters. A Telephone Surveys poll for the Sunday Express in September 1990, during the Gulf crisis, found that 65% of voters preferred Thatcher as a crisis leader to Kinnock, who polled 20%.

A Mori poll for the Sunday Times in September 1989 showed that Thatcher was still the public's preferred choice of Conservative leader, attracting the support of 32% of voters, her pro-European former cabinet colleague Michael Heseltine coming second on 22%. However, by March 1990, in the face of rising inflation and the threat of a recession and inevitable mass unemployment, Thatcher's support had halved to 15%, with Heseltine's doubling to 40%. Opposition to the poll tax and the divisions opening in the parliamentary party over European integration left Thatcher increasingly vulnerable to a challenge.

By November 1990 the Conservatives had been trailing Labour for 18 months. Although a Mori survey for the Sunday Times showed that 83% of Conservative voters were satisfied by the way Thatcher represented the United Kingdom in Europe, a BBC poll found that Labour had increased its lead by 5 points to 14%, its biggest lead since May, while a poll for the Evening Standard found that Labour had nearly doubled its lead over the Conservatives to 13.2 points. Low poll ratings, along with Thatcher's combative personality and willingness to override colleagues' opinions, contributed to discontent in the parliamentary party.

On 1 November 1990, Geoffrey Howe, for 15 years one of Thatcher's most "loyal and self-effacing" supporters, resigned from his position as Deputy Prime Minister over her refusal to agree to a timetable for British membership of the single currency. In his resignation speech in the Commons on 13 November, referring to Thatcher's promise to veto any arrangement which jeopardised the pound sterling, Howe famously complained: "It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find the moment that the first balls are bowled that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain." Howe's resignation put Thatcher's future in doubt, and was afterwards recognised as dealing a "fatal blow" to her premiership. While 59% of the British public polled for The Independent by Number Market Research agreed with Thatcher's opposition to monetary union, 64% still felt she ought to retire.

A few days later Heseltine challenged her for the leadership of the party. A Gallup poll for the Daily Telegraph showed that 28% of voters would be more inclined to vote Conservative if Heseltine were leader, and only 7% would be less inclined. Five separate polls indicated that he would give the Conservatives a national lead over Labour. Heseltine attracted sufficient support from the parliamentary party in the first round of voting to prolong the contest to a second ballot. Although Thatcher initially stated that she intended to contest the second ballot, she consulted with her Cabinet and decided to withdraw from the contest. Thatcher said that pressure from her colleagues helped her to conclude that the unity of the Conservative Party and the prospect of victory in the next general election would be more likely if she resigned. Early on the morning of 22 November, the 65-year-old Prime Minister announced to the Cabinet that she would not be a candidate in the second ballot. Thatcher informed the Queen of her decision, and a statement was released from 10 Downing Street at 09.34:

Some sections of the British public were stunned, but there were also scenes of rejoicing at the news. After visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace, she later arrived at the House of Commons to a debate; Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Opposition, proposed a motion of no confidence in the government, and Thatcher displayed her combativeness. She said:

Later years

Mrs Thatcher retained her parliamentary seat in the House of Commons as MP for Finchley for two years despite returning to the backbenches after leaving the premiership. She supported John Major as her successor and he duly won the leadership contest, although in the years to come her approval of Major would fall away. She occasionally spoke in the House of Commons after she was Prime Minister, commenting and campaigning on issues regarding her beliefs and concerns. In 1991, she was given a five minute, unprecedented standing ovation at the party's annual conference. She retired from the House at the 1992 election, at the age of 66 years; she said that leaving the Commons would allow her more freedom to speak her mind.

After Parliament

Margaret Thatcher became a peer in House of Lordsmarker in 1992 by the bestowal of a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire. Thatcher had already been honoured by the Queen in 1990, shortly after her resignation as Prime Minister, when awarded the Order of Merit, one of the UK's highest distinctions and in the personal conferment of the sovereign. At the same time it was announced that her husband, Denis, would be given a baronetcy, which was confirmed in 1991 (ensuring that their son, Mark, would inherit a title). In 1995, Baroness Thatcher was appointed a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter, the United Kingdom's highest order of Chivalry.

After leaving the House of Commons, Thatcher remained active in politics. She wrote two volumes of memoirs: The Downing Street Years, published in 1993 and The Path to Power published in 1995. A third book followed these, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, detailing her thoughts on international relations since her resignation in 1990.

In August 1992 Thatcher called for NATOmarker to stop the Serbian assault on Goraždemarker and Sarajevomarker in order to end ethnic cleansing and to preserve the Bosnianmarker state. She described the situation in Bosnia as "reminiscent of the worst excesses of the Nazis," warning that there could be a "holocaust" in Bosnia and described the conflict as a "killing field the like of which I thought we would never see in Europe again." She made a series of speeches in the Lords criticising the Maastricht Treaty, describing it as "a treaty too far" and stated "I could never have signed this treaty". She cited A. V. Dicey, to the effect that, since all three main parties were in favour of revisiting the treaty, the people should have their say.

Thatcher at state funeral of Ronald Reagan, June 2004

From 1993 to 2000, Lady Thatcher served as Chancellor of the College of William and Marymarker in Virginia, which, established by Royal Charter in 1693, is the sole royal foundation in the contiguous United States. She was also Chancellor of the University of Buckinghammarker, the UK's only private university.

After Tony Blair's election as Labour Party leader in 1994, Thatcher gave an interview in May 1995 in which she praised Blair as "probably the most formidable Labour leader since Hugh Gaitskell. I see a lot of socialism behind their front bench, but not in Mr Blair. I think he genuinely has moved."

Lady Thatcher visited former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, once a key British ally during the 1982 Falklands War, while he was under house arrest in Surrey in 1998. Pinochet was fighting extradition to Spain for alleged human rights abuses committed during his tenure. Thatcher expressed her support and friendship for Pinochet, who had swept to power on a wave of military violence and torture in the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, thanking him for his support in 1982 and for "bringing democracy to Chile."

In 1999, during Thatcher's first speech to a Conservative Party conference in nine years, she contended that Britain's problems came from continental Europe. Her comments aroused some criticism from Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary under Sir John Major, who said that Lady Thatcher's comments could give the impression that Britain is prejudiced against Europe.

In the 2001 general election, Lady Thatcher supported the Conservative general election campaign but this time did not endorse Iain Duncan Smith in public as she had done previously for John Major and William Hague. In the Conservative leadership election shortly after, she supported Iain Duncan Smith because she believed he would "make infinitely the better leader" than Kenneth Clarke.

Activities since 2003

Thatcher was widowed upon the death of Sir Denis Thatcher on 26 June 2003. A funeral service was held honouring him at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea on 3 July with Thatcher present, as well as her children Mark and Carol. Thatcher paid tribute to him by saying, "Being Prime Minister is a lonely job. In a sense, it ought to be—you cannot lead from a crowd. But with Denis there I was never alone. What a man. What a husband. What a friend".

Now in her declining years, she began complaining about her "lost" family, (Mark in South Africa, Carol in Switzerland), but her daughter was less than sympathetic; "A mother cannot reasonably expect her grown-up children to boomerang back, gushing cosiness and make up for lost time. Absentee Mum, then Gran in overdrive is not an equation that balances."

The following year, on 11 June, Thatcher travelled to the United States to attend the state funeral service for former US President Ronald Reagan and one of her closest friends at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Thatcher delivered a eulogy via videotape to Reagan; in view of her failing mental faculties following several small strokes, the message had been pre-recorded several months earlier. Thatcher then flew to Californiamarker with the Reagan entourage, and attended the memorial service and interment ceremony for President Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Librarymarker.

Thatcher attends the official Washington, D.C. memorial service marking the 5th anniversary of the 11 September attacks, pictured with Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney.
Thatcher talks with then-United States Secretary of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, 12 September 2006
marked her 80th birthday with a celebration at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park, London on 13 October 2005, where the guests included the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Alexandra and Tony Blair. There, Geoffrey Howe, now Lord Howe of Aberavon, said of his former boss, "Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible."

In 2006, Thatcher attended the official Washington, D.C. memorial service to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. She attended as a guest of the US Vice President, Dick Cheney, and met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit. On 12 November, she appeared at the Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaphmarker in London, leaning heavily on the arm of Sir John Major. On 10 December she announced she was "deeply saddened" by the death of Augusto Pinochet.

In February 2007, she became the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to be honoured with a statue in the Houses of Parliament while still living. The statue is made of bronze and stands opposite her political hero and predecessor, Sir Winston Churchill. The statue was unveiled on 21 February 2007 with Lady Thatcher in attendance; she made a rare and brief speech in the members' lobby of the House of Commons, reposting, "I might have preferred iron — but bronze will do... It won't rust." The statue shows her as if she were addressing the House of Commons, with her right arm outstretched. Thatcher said she was thrilled with it.

On 13 September 2007, Thatcher was invited to 10 Downing Streetmarker to have tea with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife, Sarah. Brown referred to Lady Thatcher as a "conviction politician."

On 30 January 2008, Thatcher met incumbent Conservative Leader David Cameron at an awards ceremony at London's Guildhallmarker where she was presented with a 'Lifetime Achievement Award'.

In May 2009, she traveled to Rome to meet Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience at the Vatican. She had previously met Paul VI in 1977 and John Paul II in 1980.

Lady Thatcher was invited back to Number 10marker in late November 2009 to be at the unveiling of an official portrait by the artist, Richard Stone, who had previously painted The Queen and the late Queen Mother. Lady Thatcher was invited along with guests including the current Conservative Leader, David Cameron, as well as former members of Lady Thatcher's Cabinet and members of the Conservative-supporting newspapers throughout the 1980s including the Chief Political Commentator of The Telegraph, Benedict Brogan, and former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie.

It is a rare honour for a living Prime Minister to have a commissioned painted portrait hanging in the Prime Minister's residence: all other living prime ministers having photographs only that line the stair walls of Number 10. Baroness Thatcher and only two other Prime Ministers have their portraits painted as well as a hung photograph on display. Sir Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George are the only other Prime Ministers to have hung painted portraits on display in Number 10 Downing Street.


Thatcher suffered several small strokes in 2002 and she was advised by her doctors not to engage in any more public speaking. As a result of the strokes, her short term memory began to falter. Her former press spokesman Sir Bernard Ingham said in early 2007, "She's now got no short-term memory left, which is absolutely tragic."

Thatcher was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital, Central London on 7 March 2008, for tests after collapsing at a House of Lordsmarker dinner. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she spent one night. The incident was probably caused by her low blood pressure and stuffy conditions within the dining hall.

On 24 August 2008 it was publicly disclosed that Thatcher has been suffering from dementia. Her daughter Carol described in her 2008 memoir, A Swim-on Part in the Goldfish Bowl, first observing in 2000 that Thatcher was becoming forgetful. The condition later became more noticeable; at times, Thatcher thought that her husband Denis, who died in 2003, was still living. Carol Thatcher recalls that her mother's memories of the time she spent as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 remain among her sharpest.

In June 2009 Thatcher broke a bone in her arm in a fall at home. She underwent a 45 minute surgical procedure to insert a pin into her upper arm. She spent a total of three weeks in hospital before being discharged.

On 13 November 2009, rumours of Thatcher's death were erroneously circulated within the Canadianmarker Government whilst they attended a black-tie dinner, after transport minister John Baird sent a text message announcing the death of his pet tabby called Thatcher. However, the news was reported to prime minister Stephen Harper as the death of Baroness Thatcher, and almost caused a diplomatic incident between Canada and the United Kingdom, but the Canadian Government rang Downing Street and Buckingham Palace to seek verification.


Thatcher remains identified with her remarks to the reporter Douglas Keay, for Woman's Own magazine, 23 September 1987:

To her supporters, Margaret Thatcher remains a revolutionary figure who revitalised Britain's economy, impacted the trade unions, and re-established the nation as a world power. But Thatcher was also a controversial figure, in that her premiership was also marked by high unemployment and social unrest, and many critics fault her economic policies for the unemployment level. Yet speaking in Scotlandmarker in April 2009, before the 30th anniversary of her election as prime minister, Thatcher declared: "I regret nothing," and insisted she "was right to introduce the poll tax and to close loss-making industries to end the country's 'dependency culture'." Critics, however, have regretted her influence in the abandonment of full employment, poverty reduction and a consensual civility as bedrock policy objectives. The tone of many recent biographers has been 'that of a policeman examining a nasty crime scene' and Michael White writing in The New Statesman in February 2009 wondered if the ' hubristic collapse of the free-market model of capitalism that she promoted [had] dealt her another blow. Who was it who first removed the seat belts and airbags from the safe-but-boring Volvo that the West built after 1945? 'Her freer, more promiscuous version of capitalism' in Hugo Young's phrase is reaping a darker harvest."

The Labour party, in adapting its social democratic agenda, incorporated much of the economic, social and political tenets of Thatcherism. Thatcher's programme of privatising state-owned enterprises has not been reversed. Indeed, successive Conservative and Labour governments have further curtailed direct state management of the economy and have further dismantled public ownership. Yet Thatcher's growth model, as it promoted privatisation of public assets and deregulation of the private sector, particularly the financial sector, its encouragement of the financial sector to 'create new ways of spreading risk and expanding credit' has, since 2008, looked less definitive. The financial revolution in London in the 1980s meant that among the large economies none rivalled Britain for the relative size of its financial sector. Whether the events of 2008-2009, "the collapse of a particular growth model and ideology, the discrediting of many of the prescriptions of neo-liberalism, and the dramatic return of the state, in the form of bank bailouts and nationalizations - constitute a permanent and major political and ideological shift, or whether the changes will only prove to be temporary" - is still to be seen. In his 2009 TV series 'Off Kilter', looking at Scotland, the cultural commentator Jonathan Meades spoke of Thatchers legacy in Fife: "Fife's mining towns and villages were victims, collateral as they say, of that bloody spat of 25 years ago ; - mining might, just might, have been economically exhausted, but it was socially cohesive; its undeniable that jobs do foment pride, they inculcate an idea of self worth. Finchley was quite incapable of empathy. There is much to be said in favour of inefficient industry , not least that that the human cost of efficiency and adherence to the bottom line does not have to be paid, - nor for that matter does unemployment benefit have to be paid to the tens of thousands rationalised into involuntary idleness. Further, the Finchley faith, which became the enthusiastically adopted cross party consensus of the past 25 years, the faith that manufacturing industry was an irrelevance, and that an entire economy, a soufflé economy, might be founded on the no-holds-barred selflessness of deregulated debt rights, peddling expensive money, proved to be just that, a faith, an expression of unfounded wishfulness."

After her resignation in 1990, a MORI poll found that 52% of Britons agreed that "On balance she had been good for the country", while 48% disagreed. In April 2008, the Daily Telegraph commissioned a YouGov poll asking whom Britons regarded as the greatest post-World War II prime minister; Thatcher came in first, receiving 34% of the vote, while Winston Churchill ranked second with 15%.

Recently, proponents of the "end of capitalism" thesis have speculated tentatively about "the death of Thatcherism," linking the 1986 deregulation of the financial industry to the 2008 world financial crisis. The link is rejected by others, The Economists opinion column Bagehot for example, argued that: "There have been too many intervening years, factors and governments for the case to stand up—though it reflects Mrs Thatcher's mythic status that, for some, she must be to blame".

Conversely, Conservative leaders sense in the crisis "the death of New Labour". Thatcher's defenders argue that the current downturn is dwarfed by the wealth generated by decades of growth, and note that the banking crisis began under the divided, tripartite regulatory system introduced by Gordon Brown in 1997. Others, the conservative Claire Berlinski for example, point to Thatcher's control of the money supply and cite the 1986 Financial Services Act as evidence of her own emphasis on "stringent banking regulation", and contend that the big-spending Labour government only lasted as long as it did "because it inherited the best economic situation of any 20th-century government". These arguments are evidence that neo-liberal apologists 'are already seeking to develop their own narrative of the crash and what caused it, arguing that the crisis has been caused by failures of regulation rather than failures of markets. Neo-liberals hope by this means to seize back the ground they have lost. But, like Keynesianism in the 1970s, neo-liberalism has suffered some hammer blows." "The 'efficient markets thesis', the belief that markets if left alone would always price assets correctly, is in ruins."

Thatcher herself made known in April 2009 that she was "appalled" by Brown's handling of the economy, seeing it as "a repeat" of the crisis of the 1970s that had brought her radical reforming government to power. Pointing to the "huge convergence around liberal labour markets, liberal migration policies and high levels of public spending," one leading analyst summed up the new policy paradigm as: "Thatcher plus Keynes".


In addition to her conventional appointment as a Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council (PC) upon becoming Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970 Thatcher has received numerous honours as a result of her career, including being named a Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (LG). She is a Member of the Order of Merit (OM) as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and the first woman entitled to full membership rights as an honorary member of the Carlton Clubmarker, a gentlemen's club.

In 1999 Thatcher was among 18 included in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century, from a poll conducted of Americans. In a 2006 list compiled by New Statesman, she was voted 5th in the list of "Heroes of our time". She was also named a "Hero of Freedom" by the libertarian magazine Reason. In the Falkland Islands, Margaret Thatcher Day is celebrated as a public holiday every 10 January, commemorating her visit on this date in 1983, seven months after the military victory; the decision was taken by the Falklands Islands legislature in 1992. Thatcher Drive in Stanleymarker, the site of government, is also named for her. In South Georgiamarker, Thatcher Peninsula, where the Task Force troops first set foot on Falklands soil, also bears her name.

Upon her death, it has been suggested that Lady Thatcher be granted the rare honour of a state funeral. However, this has proved controversial, and the government has stated that they are undecided on the issue.

Thatcher has also been awarded numerous honours from foreign countries. In 1990, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour awarded by the United States. She was also given the Republican Senatorial Medal of Freedom, Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, and named a patron of the Heritage Foundation. She was also awarded the Grand Order of King Dmitar Zvonimir, the fourth highest state order of the Republic of Croatiamarker.

Cultural depictions

Cultural depictions of Margaret Thatcher have featured in a number of television programs, documentaries, films and plays; among the most notable depictions of her are Patricia Hodge in The Falklands Play (2002) and Lindsay Duncan in Margaret (2009). She was also the inspiration for a number of protest songs. The most famous depiction of Thatcher was, and remains, a Spitting Image puppet, voiced by Steve Nallon.


The style and titles Thatcher has held from birth are, in chronological order:

  • Miss Margaret Roberts (13 October 1925 – 13 December 1951)
  • Mrs Denis Thatcher (13 December 1951 – 8 October 1959)
  • Mrs Denis Thatcher, MP (8 October 1959 – 22 June 1970)
  • The Rt Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP, PC (22 June 1970 – 7 December 1990)
  • The Rt Hon. Margaret Thatcher, OM, MP, PC (7 December 1990 – 4 February 1991)
  • The Rt Hon. Lady Thatcher, OM, MP, PC (4 February 1991 – 16 March 1992)
  • The Rt Hon. Lady Thatcher, OM, PC (16 March 1992 – 26 June 1992)
  • The Rt Hon. The Baroness Thatcher, OM, PC (26 June 1992 – 22 April 1995)
  • The Rt Hon. The Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC (since 22 April 1995)



Further reading

Books by Thatcher
Ministerial autobiographies

External links

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