Various outlets are reporting that the U.K.’s longest serving post-war prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, has succumbed to a stroke. From The Telegraph:
Lord Bell, her spokesman, said: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning.A further statement will be made later.”
Known as the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher governed Britain from 1979 to 1990.
She will go down in history not only as Britain’s first female prime minister, but as the woman who transformed Britain’s economy in addition to being a formidable rival on the international stage.
Lady Thatcher was the only British prime minister to leave behind a set of ideas about the role of the state which other leaders and nations strove to copy and apply.
Just over a year ago Peter Hitchens reassessed her legacy in these pages, and recalled his earlier days covering her with the traveling press:
It was not intimate contact, but we saw more of her than most people ever could. Sometimes we would be summoned to her cabin for interminable briefings which never yielded anything worth writing—for to us she was just the same in private as she was in public. What journalists want from close contact is indiscretion and mischief. She, being a real leader, who sought power to do what she thought was good, was simply not interested in that. She was not really a politician, but a real human being who had entered politics to do what she wanted.
Once, wrongly thinking she had finished a foreign-policy harangue, I rose awkwardly to my feet to leave the presence, and she gave me such a stare that my cheap suit almost caught fire. I think she gave us another half-hour of her opinions on Korea just to punish me.
I did not pause in those days to question the great myths by which she was surrounded. She possessed that unmistakable magic of authority and majesty that settles on some people and bypasses thought. The fact that she was a woman, and a very feminine woman, made that magic even more potent. You might admire her, as I mostly did, or hate her as the embodiment of all that was evil, as many British people also did. But you would never have missed the chance to be close by in the years of her greatness. Power crackled and flickered around her presence.
Update — The BBC’s obituary is now online:
For many, her philosophy was summed up in a magazine interview she gave in 1987.
“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!'; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?
“There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.
“It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations.”