Margaret Thatcher has died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell says

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Margaret Thatcher has died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell says
Published 8-04-2013, 13:56
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at 87 following a stroke, her spokesman has said. VoR's Jim Ensom looks back at the life of the woman Russia called the Iron Lady, whose hatred of communism gave way to a thawing of Moscow-London relations.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on his Twitter page:

"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"

Margaret Thatcher was given her famous moniker, the Iron Lady, by Yury Gavrilov, a young soldier working for the Red Army's Red Star newspaper in 1976, days after Thatcher delivered her Britain Awake speech.

In it, she derided the then Labour government for cutting back on arms, while the Soviet Union was investing heavily.

"The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen,"she said.

Gavrilov told the Daily Mail in 2007: "At the time it seemed that everyone liked the label. Her opponents thought it reflected her stubbornness and inflexibility. But her supporters took it as a sign of strength.”

And so, the Iron Lady legend was born in the pages of the Red Star.

Political analyst Yevgeny Satarov told The Voice of Russia:

"I think that Margaret Thatcher was a unique politician of the 20th century for several reasons: first of all, her political career was quite a challenge for her. Let me remind you that she did not come from a well-off family, and she was a member of the Tories and later became the first ever woman to lead the party. After that she became Europe’s first ever female prime minister in Europe. She made an absolutely unprecedented contribution. Finally, she was a person of unique qualities: talented, hard-working, she combined rigidity of a prime minister with feminine charm. A unique and fantastic person she was! May she rest in peace."


Early life

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (née Roberts) was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire on October 13th, 1925. She was to become Britain’s first woman Prime Minister and its longest serving 20th century premier.

She spent her childhood living in a flat above one of her father’s grocery shop. She went to Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School where she eventually became head girl.

She was offered a place at Oxford where she studied chemistry and graduated with a second class honours BSc.

It was while she was at Oxford that she joined and became president of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946.

She became a research chemist at BX Plastics in Holbrook, Suffolk.

Step into politics

She ran as the Conservative candidate for the strong Labour seat of Dartford at the General Elections of 1950 and 1951, winning national publicity as the youngest woman candidate in the country. She lost both times.

She met her husband, Denis Thatcher, a businessman in Dartford who ran his family's firm before becoming an executive in the oil industry. They married in 1951. Twins, Mark and Carol, were born in 1953.

She was elected to Parliament in 1959 as Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley, a north London constituency, which she continued to represent until she was made a member of the House of Lords (as Baroness Thatcher) in 1992.

Milk Snatcher

Under Edward Heath, she was appointed Education Secretary and began a series of spending cuts, including removing free school milk for the over sevens. This was deeply unpopular and led to her being dubbed "Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher".

But it was as leader of the Conservative Party and winning the general election in 1979 that she became famous worldwide.

She engaged on a vicious fight with the unions and the sale of state utilities in an attempt to make Britain more competitive. This resulted in the long miners’ strike which split communities and families for a generation.

In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, so the astonishment of the Foreign Office and it fell to Thatcher to summon a task force to retake the islands, which they successfully did a few weeks later.

Thaw in Cold War

Thatcher was PM during the last years of the Cold War and aligned herself closely with US President Ronald Reagan, based on their shared distrust of Communism.

However, she was one of the first western leaders to respond warmly to friendly advances from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

After a summit with Gorbachev in 1988, she declared: "We're not in a Cold War now", but rather in a "new relationship much wider than the Cold War ever was".

 

After Gorbachev and Thatcher first met in London in 1984, she declared: "I like Mr Gorbachev, we can do business together.”

Overall, the woman dubbed the Iron Lady by Russia did much to enhance the image of the Soviet Union worldwide, and in the United States in particular.

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