Courtesy of USA Today
Asked about the death for Margaret Thatcher, Gill Branthwaite recalled a great prime minister but not one beloved by all.
“Her policies were tough and not always welcomed, she led the country through some very difficult times and was always true to her beliefs,” said Branthwaite, 51, of Chertsey just outside London.
The British government said Thatcher, who died of a stroke Monday at age 87, will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honors. Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a trip to Spain and France upon hearing the news.
Queen Elizabeth II has authorized a ceremonial funeral — a step short of a state funeral — to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
She held the office of prime minister in the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. She was the first and only woman to do so.
While many remembered her fondly, especially world leaders, some in the United Kingdom were not so charitable of the conservative leader who assailed the British nanny-state. She helped privatize many economic activities that had been controlled by the state, and stood up to the powerful British unions and the Irish Republican Army.
Cameron, a conservative, has picked up where she left off regarding government spending, presiding over cuts to England’s massive public education system that Thatcher had said in her time was unsustainable spending.
But some say she caused the current budget and financial troubles.
“Her legacy is very clear in the present financial crisis,” said Adam Parker-Rhodes, 72, of London. “Thatcher was responsible for removing restraints on the financial markets – leading the way internationally – which led to the mess we’re in now.”
Hannah Watson, a publisher in London, was concerned that her funeral would be a raucous affair.
“She is hated by so many people it might backfire somewhat,” she said.
President Obama said the world had lost “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.”
“As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise,” Obama said.
Former President Bill Clinton said he was saddened by Thatcher’s death.
“Lady Thatcher understood that the special relationship which has long united our two nations is an indispensable foundation for peace and prosperity,” he said. “Our strong partnership today is part of her legacy. Like so many others, I respected the conviction and self-determination she displayed throughout her remarkable life as she broke barriers, defied expectations, and led her country. Hillary, Chelsea, and I extend our condolences to her family and to the people of the United Kingdom.
Former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, issued a statement Monday morning. “Margaret was, to be sure, one of the 20th century’s fiercest advocates of freedom and free markets — a leader of rare character who carried high the banner of her convictions, and whose principles in the end helped shape a better, freer world. The personal grief we Bushes feel is compounded by the knowledge that America has lost one of the staunchest allies we have ever known; and yet we have confidence that her sterling record of accomplishment will inspire future generations. May God bless the memory of Margaret Thatcher.”
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan recalled the special relationship between Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. “Ronnie and I knew her as a dear and trusted friend, and I will miss her,” Mrs. Reagan said. “The United States knew Margaret as a spirited and courageous ally, and the world owes her a debt of gratitude.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner praised the “daughter of a grocer” for loyalty to conservative values that improved life in the United Kingdom and the world. He lauded her for having “stared down elites, union bosses and communists to win three consecutive elections, establish conservative principles in Western Europe, and bring down the Iron Curtain.
“There was no secret to her values – hard work and personal responsibility – and no nonsense at all in her leadership,” Boehner said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was effusive in her praise for Thatcher.
“(She) was a commanding political figure, a leader of uncompromising strength, and a public servant who never failed to break down barriers. As the first woman—and longest-serving—British Prime Minister, she possessed a singular resilience that commanded the respect of her colleagues, the attention of a nation, and the awe of women and men across the world,” Pelosi said.
Strauss reported from McLean, Va.