Cameron says Thatcher made Britain great, others snub her

Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:31pm EDT
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By Andrew Osborn and Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered an emotional tribute to Margaret Thatcher in parliament on Wednesday, but political opponents boycotted the debate on her legacy, underlining how divisive a figure she remains even in death.

MPs were recalled from their holidays for the first time for the death of a public figure since Queen Elizabeth's mother died in 2002, reflecting the "Iron Lady's" place in history.

Thatcher, who died of a stroke on Monday aged 87, not only won three elections to become Britain's longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century, but also reshaped its politics so fundamentally that her status as Britain's only female premier seems almost incidental.

"She drew the lines on a political map that we here are still navigating today," said Cameron, wearing a dark suit and tie. "She made the political weather, she made history and - let this be her epitaph - she made our country great again."

MP after MP from Thatcher's ruling Conservative party stood up in the lower house of parliament's wood-paneled chamber to describe how she had inspired them, many of them drawing parallels with the wartime colossus Winston Churchill.

Among the achievements they listed: her role in ending the Cold War, her forthright defense of British interests in the European Union, her leadership during the 1982 Falklands War against Argentina, and her liberalization of the British economy.

Tulips and lilies were placed at the foot of a statue of Thatcher outside the parliamentary chamber.

But in death as in life her policies provoked a fury freighted with personal loathing among some critics who stressed what many saw as the darker side of her rule.   Continued...

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) speaks during a special session of parliament in London April 10, 2013. Cameron led tributes to Margaret Thatcher on Wednesday, remembering a divisive and combative leader who transformed the country and set a political course still followed today. REUTERS/UK Parliament