Tributes paid to Baroness Thatcher

The Church of England - - NEWS - By Amaris Cole

TRIBUTES have been paid fol­low­ing the death of former Prime Min­is­ter Baroness Thatcher on Mon­day morn­ing fol­low­ing a stroke.

Lord Bell an­nounced at lunchtime that the first fe­male Prime Min­is­ter had ‘died peace­fully’ ear­lier that day, af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke.

The ‘ Iron Lady’, as she was widely known, will re­ceive a cer­e­mo­nial funeral at St Paul’s with full mil­i­tary hon­ours like Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Queen Mother it was an­nounced hours later, but not a State Funeral like Win­ston Churchill.

The Con­ser­va­tive leader was in power from 1979 to 1990, the long­est serv­ing Bri­tish leader of the 20th cen­tury and the first to win three elec­tions in a row.

Tributes from across the po­lit­i­cal world and be­yond were quick to flood in, with Twit­ter be­ing taken over by the news.

Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, re­leased a state­ment fol­low­ing the death of Baroness Thatcher. He said: “It was with sad­ness that I heard the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher and my prayers are with her son and daugh­ter, her grand­chil­dren, fam­ily and friends. It is right that to­day we give thanks for a life de­voted to pub­lic ser­vice, ac­knowl­edg­ing also the faith that in­spired and sus­tained her.”

The former Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, Lord Carey, who was ap­pointed dur­ing the Thatcher era, said while he did not agree with her pol­i­tics, the only fe­male Prime Min­is­ter ‘trans­formed’ the UK.

The former Labour Prime Min­is­ter, Tony Blair de­scribed Baroness Thatcher on Mon­day as “a tow­er­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ure”. The former Labour leader said: “Very few lead­ers get to change not only the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of their coun­try but of the world. Mar­garet was such a leader. Her global im­pact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Bri­tain were, in cer­tain respects at least, re­tained by the 1997 Labour Government, and came to be im­ple­mented by gov­ern­ments around the world.”

Born Mar­garet Hilda Roberts in Gran­tham, Lin­colnshire, in 1925, her fa­ther was an ac­tive politi­cian, al­der­man and preacher in the Methodist Church. She was brought up a strict fol­lower of the de­nom­i­na­tion. Speak­ing later on Ra­dio 4 in 1987, she said: “The fun­da­men­tal rea­son of be­ing put on earth is so to im­prove your char­ac­ter that you are fit for the next world.” Faith was al­ways key to the politi­cian through­out her life and work, started by the in­flu­ence of her beloved fa­ther, many say.

Raised in the flat above her fa­ther’s gro­cery shop in the town, she saw him rise through pol­i­tics, as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date, though lib­eral, to be­come Mayor in 1945.

Study­ing Chem­istry at Ox­ford, Mar­garet Roberts left Somerville Col­lege with a Sec­ond Class Hon­ours De­gree, and then moved to Chelms­ford to work as a re­search chemist for a plas­tics com­pany. It was dur­ing this time she at­tended a Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence in Llan­dudno, as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Univer­sity Grad­u­ate Con­ser­va­tive As­so­ci­a­tion, hav­ing led the Ox­ford Tor y group while study­ing there.

Of­fi­cials of the as­so­ci­a­tion were said to be so im­pressed by her that they asked her to ap­ply to be a can­di­date, even though she was not on the Con­ser­va­tive party’s ap­proved list: she was se­lected in Jan­uary 1951 and added to the ap­proved list post ante. It was at a din­ner fol­low­ing her se­lec­tion as the can­di­date for Dart­ford that she met her fu­ture hus­band, De­nis Thatcher.

By the time she fi­nally won a seat in Finch­ley in 1959, she was Mrs Thatcher and had given birth to her chil­dren. She re­garded the area’s Jewish com­mu­nity as ‘her peo­ple’, and be­came a found­ing mem­ber of the An­glo-Is­rael Friend­ship League of Finch­ley, but did be­lieve that Is­rael should trade land for peace.

Oc­to­ber 1961 saw Mrs Thatcher pro­moted to the front benches, as Par­lia­men­tary Un­der­sec­re­tary at the Min­istry of Pen­sions and Na­tional In­surance in Harold Macmil­lan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. Mov­ing to the Shadow cab­i­net when the party were the op­po­si­tion in 1966, she soon be­gan speak­ing out against Labour’s high-tax poli­cies, which she de­scribed as a step ‘not only to­wards So­cial­ism, but to­wards Com­mu­nism’.

Al­ways known for her con­tro­ver­sial views, the Tor y was one of the few mem­bers of the party who sup­ported Leo Abse’s Bill to de­crim­i­nalise male ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, and also voted in favour of le­gal­is­ing abor­tion.

In the years that fol­lowed, Mrs Thatcher was pro­moted to the Shadow cab­i­net as the Fuel spokesper­son and then Shadow Trans­port spokesper­son and later to Ed­u­ca­tion.

When Ed­ward Heath won the 1970 Gen­eral Elec­tion, she was ap­pointed Sec­re­tary of State for Ed­u­ca­tion and Sci­ence. In this role, her ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to cut spend­ing at­tracted much at­ten­tion, abol­ish­ing free school milk for chil­dren over seven, which won her much crit­i­cism and the moniker ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher’.

Though not the ob­vi­ous re­place­ment for Ed­ward Heath when his lead­er­ship was called into ques­tion fol­low­ing their de­feat to Labour in 1974, she even­tu­ally be­came viewed as a promis­ing con­tender, of­fer­ing a fresh start.

When the premier­ship of Mar­garet Thatcher be­gan in 1979, she para­phrased the prayer of Saint Fran­cis on ar­riv­ing at 10 Down­ing Street. “Where there is dis­cord, may we bring har­mony. Where there is er­ror, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is de­spair, may we bring hope,” she said.

Pri­vati­sa­tion, eco­nom­ics, in­dus­trial re­la­tions and North­ern Ire- land made her time in of­fice prolific. The first fe­male Prime Min­is­ter sur­vived as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts from the IRA, strikes that re­sulted in the loss of 29mil­lion work­ing days and the Falk­lands War.

In de­fence of her views, the Prime Min­is­ter once vis­ited Scot­land to give a speech that the press there dubbed the Ser­mon on the Mound. Speak­ing to the Church in Scot­land, she gave the­o­log­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for her ideas on cap­i­tal­ism and the mar­ket econ­omy, claim­ing ‘Chris­tian­ity is about spir­i­tual re­demp­tion, not so­cial re­form’.

She went on to quote St Paul: “If a man will not work he shall not eat.”

The theme of ‘choice’ was also used to de­scribe the Thatcherite re­forms, claim­ing choice was also Chris­tian by ex­plain­ing that Christ chose to lay down his life and that all in­di­vid­u­als have God­given right to choose be­tween good and evil. Many in the Church at the time dis­agreed with this view, with one cler­gy­man present de­scrib­ing the sen­ti­ment as ‘a dis­grace­ful trav­esty of the gospel’.

In 1990, she was re­placed as Prime Min­is­ter and party leader by Chan­cel­lor John Ma­jor. She re­tired from the House two years later at the age of 66, say­ing that leav­ing the Com­mons would al­low her more free­dom to speak her mind.

The first former Prime Min­is­ter to es­tab­lish a Foun­da­tion fol­low­ing her re­tire­ment, Lady Thatcher con­tin­ued be­ing a prom­i­nent pub­lic fig­ure. Her health de­clined in 2002 how­ever, af­ter suf­fer­ing sev­eral small strokes, and on March 23 an­nounced that her doc­tors had ad­vised her to can­cel all pub­lic speak­ing en­gage­ments and not to ac­cept any­more.

A year later, Dennis Thatcher died. In the book The Down­ing Street Years, she wrote: “Be­ing Prime Min­is­ter is a lonely job. In a sense, it ought to be: you can­not lead from the crowd. But with De­nis there I was never alone. What a man. What a hus­band. What a friend.”

Though opin­ion of the Iron Lady is hugely di­vided, her legacy is un­de­ni­able. Mar­garet Thatcher changed the po­lit­i­cal land­scape and saw more than a mil­lion fam­i­lies buy their coun­cil homes, an in­crease from seven per cent to 25 per cent of adults own­ing shares and per­sonal wealth ris­ing by 80 per cent. Women’s pay also rose con­sid­er­ably dur­ing the time, and many cite the Iron Lady as an in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure to grow up with.

Her premier­ship of 11 years and 209 days means she was the long­est serv­ing Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter since Lord Sal­is­bury in 1885. A BBC Poll in 2002 ranked her 16th of the 100 Great­est Bri­tons.

In Fe­bru­ary, 2007, Lady Thatcher be­came the first liv­ing ex-Prime Min­is­ter to have a statue of her­self un­veiled in the House of Com­mons. She said: “I might have pre­ferred iron, but bronze will do. It won’t rust and this time, I hope, the head will stay on.“

The flag flew at half-mast over Down­ing Street on Mon­day, and the cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter, David Cameron, re­turned from meet­ings in Europe to at­tend to the sit­u­a­tion.

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