Obituary: Iron Lady Thatcher changed face of Britain

Mon Apr 8, 2013 11:19am EDT
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By Stephen Addison and Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) - Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady", was a towering figure in British 20th century politics, a grocer's daughter with a steely resolve who was loved and loathed in equal measure as she crushed the unions and privatized large swathes of industry.

She died on Monday, aged 87, after suffering a stroke. During her life in politics some worshipped her as a modernizer who transformed the country, others bitterly accused her of entrenching the divide between the rich and the poor.

The abiding images of her premiership will remain those of conflict: huge police confrontations with the miners' union, her riding a tank in a white headscarf, and flames rising above Trafalgar Square in the riots over a local tax which ultimately led to her downfall.

During her 11 years in power, she clashed with the European Union, agreed to hand back the colony of Hong Kong to China, and fought a war to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine invaders.

She struck up a close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the Cold War, backed the first President George Bush during the 1991 Gulf War, and declared that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was a man she could do business with.

She opposed sanctions on South Africa as a means to end apartheid and was a firm supporter of Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator.

To those who crossed her she was blunt to a degree - "the lady's not for turning", she once informed members of her own Conservative Party who were urging her to moderate her policies.

Others who crossed her path, particularly in Europe, were subjected to withering diatribes often referred to as "handbaggings", named after the glossy black leather bag she invariably carried.   Continued...

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and husband Denis Thatcher outside her residence at 10 Downing Street, London in this undated file photo. REUTERS/David Osborn/Files