Margaret Thatcher dies, hailed as 'saviour' of Britain

The Iron Lady was the most influential prime minister after wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.

Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher has died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London.

Lady Thatcher was Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990 and the most influential after wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.

She was Britain’s first woman to hold the role and was instrumental in reviving right-wing politics as a force for change – rolling back the power of the state, privatising of government-owned businesses and curbing the power of trade unions.

In foreign affairs she waged a war against Argentina after the invasion of the Falkland Islands, supported US President Ronald Reagan’s policies that helped end the Cold War and an inspiration to Eastern European states wanting to overthrow communism.

Tributes flow
World leaders and senior UK politicians have been paying tribute to Lady Thatcher.

US President Barack Obama said the world had "lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty" and that "America has lost a true friend.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would "never forget her part in surmounting the division of Europe and at the end of the Cold War.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key commented during his trip to China, describing her as a "strong and determined leader."

ABOVE: "The Lady's not for turning" - coining a catchphrase at the 1981 Conservative Party conference.

UK Prime minister David Cameron cancelled talks in Paris with President François Hollande and told the BBC: "Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds. The real thing is she didn't just lead our country; she saved our country. I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister."

He also made a statement outside No 10 Downing St, where the union jack is has been lowered to half mast.

He described Lady Thatcher as "the patriot prime minister" and said she had "taken a country that was on its knees and made it stand tall again."

"Margaret Thatcher loved this country and served it with all she had. For that she has her well-earned place in history - and the enduring respect and gratitude of the British people," he said.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "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."

Funeral arrangements
Baroness Thatcherwill not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

The ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London's St Paul's Cathedral.

The funeral parade will begin at Chapel of St Mary Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster. A hearse will take the body to the RAF Chapel at the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand.

Her coffin will be transferred to a gun carriage and drawn by the Kings Troop Royal Artillery to St Paul's Cathedral. The route is to be lined by all three armed forces

Lady Thatcher, who retired from public speaking in 2002, had suffered poor health for several years.

Her husband Denis, whom she married in 1951, died in 2003. She had been staying at the Ritz hotel since being discharged from hospital at the end of last year.

Political career
Her parliamentary career began in 1959 on election as MP for Finchley. In 1970 she became minister of education in the Heath government.

In 1975, after defeat in an election, she became leader of the opposition and in 1979 became prime minister after defeating a Labour government plagued by strikes during the “winter of discontent.”

She was re-elected in 1983 and survived an assassination attempt by the IRA at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, in 1984.

Baroness Thatcher won a third term in 1987 but resigned as leader in 1990 after the Conservative party lost faith in her leadership.

She left parliament in 1992 and was made a member of the House of Lords.

A life on film
Several films and TV dramas were made about her life, the best known being The Iron Lady (2011) for which Meryl Streep won an Oscar in the lead role.

Her early political career was depicted in The Long Walk to Finchley.

She was also the target of much criticism in many films that depict “Thatcherism” as an attack on the working class.

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