Margaret Thatcher death: Live Report

Judith Evans
1 / 6

A picture dated March 29, 1987 shows then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher greeting curious Moscovites

A picture dated March 29, 1987 shows then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher greeting curious Moscovites who gathered to see her in Moscow, during her official visit in USSR. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady" who shaped a generation of British politics, died following a stroke on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87, her spokesman said

We are now closing AFP's live report on reactions to the death of "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, who changed the face of Britain and helped bring Soviet-era communism to an end.

Thatcher died, aged 87, at London's Ritz hotel following a stroke this morning, having been in poor health for some years.

Her death prompted tributes from around the world, including from Mikhail Gorbachev -- with whom she navigated the end of the Cold War -- and from the Falkland Islands, which Britain fought to retain after an invasion by Argentina during her rule.

She also won warm praise from free-marketeers for her liberalisation of Britain's economy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said she "didn't just lead our country, she saved our country".

But reactions were colder from her greatest foes, Irish republicans and trade unions, with whom she fought some of the defining battles of her premiership.

Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral at London's St Paul's Cathedral, probably next week. Her divisive legacy is likely to be debated even beyond that. LIVE REPORT ENDS.

1725 GMT: Members of the public will not be invited to attend the funeral but will be able to watch the procession go by.

1723 GMT: Thatcher's funeral will take place at St Paul's Cathedral in London next week.

The funeral will be televised and her coffin will be carried through the British capital from Parliament to St Paul's.

The 10 Downing Street website is going to be putting up a condolence page on which people will be invited to write messages for the Thatcher family.

1715 GMT: "For many of us, she was and is an inspiration," Cameron adds.

"For others, she was a force to be defined against.

"But if there is one thing that cuts through all of this -- one thing that runs through everything that she did -- it was her lion-hearted love of this country.

"She was the patriot Prime Minister and she fought for Britain's interests every step of the way."

1713 GMT: Parliament is to be recalled from its current recess for a special session Wednesday in which tributes will be paid to her, Cameron says.

1711 GMT: Prime Minister David Cameron has just started making a statement on Thatcher's death outside 10 Downing Street.

"Margaret Thatcher took a country that was on its knees and made Britain stand tall again," he says.

1645 GMT: Fellow female national leader Julia Gillard, of Australia, praises Thatcher for her "strength of conviction" and adds: "Her service as the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom was a history-making achievement."

1641 GMT: Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar for best actress in 2012 for her performance as Thatcher in "The Iron Lady", issues a statement calling her "a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics".

"Her hard-nosed fiscal measures took a toll on the poor, and her hands-off approach to financial regulation led to great wealth for others," notes Streep.

"But to me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit...To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable."

1639 GMT: Parliament may be recalled in the coming week to allow lawmakers to pay tribute to Thatcher, British media are reporting.

1636 GMT: Thatcher, who will receive a ceremonial funeral in London's St Paul's Cathedral, did not want a state funeral and thought a fly-past over the service would be a "waste of money", says spokesman Tim Bell.

"She specifically did not want a state funeral and nor did her family. She particularly did not wish to lie in state as she thought that was not appropriate," said Bell, after some lawmakers from Thatcher's Conservative party called for a full state ceremony.

"She didn't want a fly-past as she thought that was a waste of money - somewhat in character you might think. She expressed those views to me personally and she will get what she wanted," he adds.

1634 GMT: Producers of the hit London stage production The Audience, in which Haydn Gwynne plays Thatcher in a long scene of her talking to the queen, say the show will go ahead tonight as usual.

The play depicts a series of private audiences between serving prime ministers and the long-reigning monarch, played by Helen Mirren.

The author of the production, Peter Morgan, will give a speech before the start of Monday's show as "a mark of respect".

1628 GMT: US media report that Nancy Reagan, wife of former US President Ronald, says: "Ronnie and Margaret were political soul mates, committed to freedom and resolved to end Communism.

"As prime minister, Margaret had the clear vision and strong determination to stand up for her beliefs at a time when so many were afraid to 'rock the boat.'"

1621 GMT: More evidence of Thatcher's enduring power to divide Britons from Tony Gallagher, editor of the conservative-leaning Telegraph newspaper, who tweets: "We have closed comments on every #Thatcher story today -- even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse."

1619 GMT: Germany's ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl praises Thatcher for her "love of freedom" and honesty.

"I greatly valued Margaret Thatcher for her love of freedom, her incomparable openness, honesty and straightforwardness," Kohl, considered the father of Germany's 1990 reunification, says.

Kohl, 83, says fellow conservative Thatcher was "an upstanding fighter and representative of the interests of her country."

Kohl was a driving force behind European enlargement and integration after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, leading to German reunification, which Thatcher initially vehemently opposed.

1613 GMT: "It is not surprising that she espouses the middle class-values of thrift, hard work, and law and order, that she believes in individual choice, maximum freedom for market forces, and minimal power for the state," an unnamed US diplomat continued, in the 1975 account of Thatcher.

"Her immaculate grooming, her imperious manner, her conventional and somewhat forced charm, and above all her plummy voice stamp as the quintessential suburban matron, and frightfully English to boot.

"None of this goes down well with the working class of England (one-third of which used to vote conservative), to say nothing of all classes in the Celtic fringes of this island."

1608 GMT: Britain's Telegraph newspaper has unearthed a cable from US diplomats reporting on Margaret Thatcher, "Britain's newest political star", after her party leadership in 1975.

"She will bring badly needed fresh blood into the shadow cabinet and revitalise a demoralized party," said one diplomat, while a more comprehensive take written a week later said the grocer's daughter was "the personification of a British middle-class dream come true".

1603 GMT: A single daffodil has been placed at the feet of a statue of Margaret Thatcher in the lobby outside the lower house of parliament, media reports say, along with a card saying: "You were an inspiration to women."

1559 GMT: "Thatcher lived off 4hrs sleep, never read the papers, drank a LOT of whiskey and liked poking men (incl me!) in the chest with bony fingers," recalls British journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan, on Twitter.

1557 GMT: Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger says Thatcher was a "gutsy personality ... who learned the fact that a leader needed to have strong convictions."

1555 GMT: Pollsters YouGov note that in a 2011 poll, they found that 43 percent of Britons thought Margaret Thatcher was good for Britain, while 38 percent said she was bad for the country.

1551 GMT: Another celebrated line from Thatcher, in 1982 after the Falklands conflict: "We have ceased to be a nation in retreat... We rejoice that Britain has re-kindled that spirit which has fired her for generations past and which today has begun to burn as brightly as before."

1543 GMT: Margaret Thatcher's spokesman adds that her funeral will be in about 10 days' time.

1542 GMT: Thatcher's spokesman, Lord Tim Bell, confirms that she died at the Ritz.

1535 GMT: British media, including Sky News and London's Evening Standard newspaper, are reporting that Thatcher died at the Ritz hotel in Piccadilly, a byword for opulence.

The reports say she had been living there for much of this year after leaving hospital following a minor bladder operation in December 2012.

Thatcher's husband, Denis, died in 2003, while her children, Mark and Carol, are both said to live overseas.

1531 GMT: Former US president George HW Bush hails Thatcher as "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."

Bush -- who also served as vice president to Ronald Reagan, with whom Thatcher shared a close bond -- says she "helped shape a better, freer world".

1526 GMT: More than 500 people now say on Facebook that they will attend a street party in Brixton, south London, to celebrate Thatcher's death, an event which has come in for some local criticism as being tasteless.

1522 GMT: Another tribute to Thatcher, from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who says: "Prime Minister Thatcher was one of the greatest leaders the world knew."

1519 GMT: AFP is running a list of key quotes from Thatcher, including the longer text of the comments surrounding her famous statement that "there is no such thing as society", in an interview in 1987:

"There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people, and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate."

1511 GMT: Flowers and tributes are being left outside Thatcher's home in central London, but along with them someone has placed a pint of milk -- a reference to Thatcher's 1970s vilification as "milk snatcher".

The nickname originates from her period as education minister, when she implemented budget cuts that ended free milk provision in schools for seven to 11-year-olds.

1505 GMT: France's Socialist President Francois Hollande calls Thatcher a "great figure who left a profound mark on the history of her country".

"Throughout her public life, with conservative beliefs she fully assumed, she was concerned with the United Kingdom's influence and the defence of its interests," Hollande said.

"She maintained a relationship with France that was frank and honest," Hollande says, adding that Thatcher and former French president Francois Mitterrand shared a "constructive and fruitful dialogue" and made plans for the Channel tunnel.

1501 GMT: British TV channels are playing archive footage of Thatcher's most famous moments, including the climax of an anti-European outburst in 1990 in which she declared to the House of Commons: "No! No! No!"

It was this speech that prompted her deputy to quit and call for her to be challenged for her job, leading eventually to her ouster.

1452 GMT: South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress -- formerly headed by Nelson Mandela -- says it "learned with sadness" of Thatcher's death.

But it says: "The ANC was on the receiving end of her policy in terms of refusing to recognize the ANC as the representatives of South Africans and her failure to isolate apartheid after it had been described as a crime against humanity.

"However we acknowledge that she was one of the strong leaders in Britain and Europe to an extend that some of her policies dominate discourse in the public service structures of the world."

Thatcher's government officially opposed apartheid in South Africa, but resisted pressure to impose economic sanctions on the apartheid government, despite Britain being the country's biggest trading partner.

She also famously referred to the ANC as "terrorists".

1446 GMT: "Margaret was at her best when she had a definable enemy and a definable goal, and in the 1980s there was a rich variety of those," John Major, who succeeded her as prime minister, tells the BBC.

He took over in 1990 after an internal party challenge to Thatcher, who later said of the rebellion: "It was treachery with a smile on its face. Perhaps that was the worst thing of all."

1429 GMT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel hails Margaret Thatcher as an "extraordinary leader" who played a pivotal role in overcoming Europe's Cold War division.

"She was an extraordinary leader in global politics of her time," Merkel says in a statement.

"I will never forget her part in surmounting the division of Europe and at the end of the Cold War."

1419 GMT: US President Barack Obama says America has lost a "true friend" and the world a champion of freedom and liberty.

"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 says in a written statement.

"She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered," he adds.

1419 GMT: Several of Twitter's worldwide trending topics relate to Thatcher, including "Murio Margaret Thatcher" -- "Margaret Thatcher died" in Spanish.

But the highest-ranking hashtag is #nostatefuneral, a call circulating among her critics.

It has already been announced that Thatcher will receive a ceremonial, not a state, funeral in London's Saint Paul's Cathedral.

1416 GMT: A tribute from the people of the Falkland Islands, where Thatcher's government went to war to retain the territory in the face of an Argentine invasion:

"It is with great sadness that we received news of the death of Baroness Thatcher this morning," says Mike Summers on behalf of the islands' legislative assembly.

"She will be forever remembered in the Islands for her decisiveness in sending a task force to liberate our home following the Argentine invasion in 1982...Her friendship and support will be sorely missed, and we will always be thankful for all that she did for us."

1408 GMT: Teenage pop star Harry Styles of boy band One Direction -- who was born in 1994, four years after Thatcher left office -- tweets: "RIP Baroness Thatcher .x"

1357 GMT: A showdown with striking coalmine workers in 1984-85 over pit closures, which ended in government victory, was a defining moment in Thatcher's leadership.

And David Hopper, head of the National Union of Mineworkers in northeast England, is unashamed of his glee at Thatcher's death.

He tells AFP's Katy Lee: "I'm having a drink to it right now. It's a marvellous day. I'm absolutely delighted. It's my 70th birthday today and it's one of the best I've had in my life.

"We're trying to get a party together for the day of the funeral. There's not going to be many tears for her up here. I don't think there'll be many people watching the funeral on telly either -- they'll probably be watching the football."

1355 GMT: Staunchly anti-communist Thatcher was key in hastening the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland's ex-president and anti-communist freedom icon Lech Walesa says.

"She was a great person. She did a great deal for the world, along with (late US president) Ronald Reagan, pope John Paul II and Solidarity, she contributed to the demise of communism in Poland and Central Europe," an emotional Walesa tells AFP.

"I'm praying for her," the founder of the anti-communist Solidarity trade union said.

1347 GMT: Harsh words for Thatcher from Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein -- Northern Ireland's largest Roman Catholic political party and the political wing of the now-defunct paramilitary Irish Republic Army, which has now renounced violence.

"Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister," he says in a statement.

"Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations."

In 1984 an IRA bomb planted at Thatcher's hotel in Brighton on the southern English coast nearly killed her and her cabinet during the Conservatives' annual conference.

1341 GMT: Thatcher was a "towering political figure", says Tony Blair, whose Labour party stormed to victory in 1997, seven years after Thatcher stood down. Blair had hauled Labour into the centre ground, ditching many of its traditional leftist policy positions.

"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," Blair says.

"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."

1336 GMT: Expressing his "deepest regrets" to the UK government, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso says she was "a circumspect yet engaged player in the European Union" who "will be remembered for both her contributions to and her reserves about our common project".

1334 GMT: The Union Jack flag has been lowered to half mast over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

1332 GMT: Many on the British left, for whom Thatcher was an implacable enemy, are urging caution in responding to her death. But some in south London are less respectful.

A group calling themselves Brixton Rebels is holding a street party Monday evening "to celebrate the death of Thatcher and our continuing commitment to fight the legacy she left and that continues to devastate the lives of ordinary people everywhere".

More than 100 people have already signed up on Facebook to attend.

1324 GMT: From Washington, AFP lifestyle editor Robert MacPherson reports:

"Even the Hollywood gossip blogs are remembering Margaret Thatcher.

"'Margaret Thatcher Has Passed After Suffering A Stroke At The Age Of 87,' read the headline at the top of within an hour of news of her death reaching Los Angeles.

"'Regardless of what people may have thought of her post-War policies, she was a force to be reckoned with, and will be missed," the popular and otherwise consistently salacious celebrity blog said. "May she find peace."

1322 GMT: Despite becoming Britain's only female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher was no fan of feminism, Helen Lewis, deputy editor of political magazine the New Statesman, points out.

"The feminists hate me, don't they? And I don't blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison," one of Thatcher's advisers, Paul Johnson, has quoted her as saying.

1319 GMT: AFP's reporter Julie Jammot has been talking to Britons on the streets of London about Thatcher's death.

“She was a very strong prime minister, and being a woman, and the first woman prime minister, I think whether you agreed (with her) or not, she made her mark and she'll always be remembered," says Angela, a teaching assistant.

Another line of Thatcher's, from a 1965 speech, is proving popular on social media: "If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman."

1311 GMT: A former top Labour party adviser, Damian McBride, has a suggestion:

"Surely one appropriate tribute would be for the Falklands to be re-named The Thatcher Islands. I'm sure the islanders would agree," he tweets.

When Argentina invaded the remote British territory of the Falkland Islands in 1982, Thatcher dispatched troops and ships, securing victory in two months.

Sabre-rattling has begun again in recent years over the Falklands, with Argentina frequently reiterating its claim over the islands, which it calls Las Malvinas.

1305 GMT: A reaction in now from the head of the centre-left Labour Party, Ed Miliband, who acknowledges his party's deep antagonism to many of Thatcher's central policies.

After sending his condolences, he says:

"She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain's first woman prime minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.

"The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength."

1301 GMT: Prime Minister David Cameron says he learned of Thatcher's death with "great sadness".

He tells reporters: "She succeeded against the odds.... She didn't just lead our country, she saved our country.

"I believe she will go down in history as the greatest ever British prime minister."

1258 GMT: Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, says that Thatcher was a "great politician" who will go down in history.

Thatcher built a close "special relationship" with US president Ronald Reagan which helped bring the curtain down on Soviet Communism.

1253 GMT: Still no response from Ed Miliband, head of the opposition Labour party, which has strong links with trade unions and in which many saw Thatcher as a key enemy of social justice.

TV network reporters say he will be speaking shortly, however.

1251 GMT: An ambivalent response in from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose centrist Liberal Democrat party is the junior partner in an uneasy coalition with the Conservatives.

"Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics," he says.

"Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no one can deny that as Prime Minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served.

"She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics. My thoughts are with her family and friends."

1250 GMT: Here's how AFP sums up Thatcher's legacy in our full obituary by Katherine Haddon, now out:

"Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister, who died on Monday aged 87, will be remembered as 'The Iron Lady' who helped end the Cold War and whose economic reforms divided the country.

"Behind the bouffant hair, trademark handbag and schoolma'am voice was an uncompromising Conservative who regularly cut her male colleagues and opponents down to size with a sharp tongue and even sharper political brain.

"Right-wingers hailed her as having hauled Britain out of the economic doldrums but the left accused her of dismantling traditional industry, claiming her reforms helped unpick the fabric of society."

1248 GMT: "She changed our country forever and all of us owe so much to her. A legacy few will ever equal. Rest in peace Margaret," tweets Foreign Secretary William Hague, who led her Conservative party during its period out of power at the end of the 20th century, following Thatcher's departure.

1242 GMT: Premier David Cameron is expected back in London today after the news, returning from a trip to lobby European Union leaders about reform, says his office.

Cameron was in Madrid for talks with Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy and had been due to travel to Paris on Monday evening for talks with French President Francois Hollande.

Thatcher herself was opposed to greater European integration, a position still shared my many on the right of her party, while even Cameron -- a moderate -- wants to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership of the European Union.

1238 GMT: Thatcher will receive a ceremonial -- not a state -- funeral, says the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street.

"Downing Street can announce that, with the queen's consent, Lady Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours. The service will be held at St Paul's Cathedral," a statement says.

There will then be a private cremation, it adds. More details of the funeral plans will be released "over the coming days".

1236 GMT: Johnson portrays Thatcher as a woman vindicated by history.

"She was right about the unions, she was right about Soviet communism and recent events have shown that she was completely right about the euro. This country is deeply in her debt," he says.

1234 GMT: Reaction from Boris Johnson, the popular mayor of London who has been touted as a future leader of Thatcher's Conservative party.

"Britain has lost its greatest prime minister since Winston Churchill," he says.

"Margaret Thatcher freed millions of people to buy their own homes and buy shares in British companies. She ended the defeatism and pessimism of the post-war period and unleashed a spirit of enterprise...Her legacy is colossal."

In a remark echoing his own reputation for eccentricity, Boris adds: "Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today's politics."

1232 GMT: Thatcher's "iron" reputation comes in part from her having persisted in liberalisation of the economy despite a wave of strikes and protests. Most famously, she said at her party's conference in 1980:

"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."

1228 GMT: Work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith says Thatcher was "the reason I came into politics".

"Watching her set out to change Britain for the better in 1979 made me believe there was, at last, real purpose and real leadership in politics once again," he says.

"She bestrode the political world like a colossus.

"This is dreadfully sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with her family."

1224 GMT: British prime minister David Cameron is to return from a trip to Madrid after hearing the news, cutting short his European trip, his office says.

1222 GMT: On the left, Thatcher was vilified especially for her battles with trade unions, but lawmakers from the centre-left opposition Labour party are also paying tribute.

International development spokesman Ivan Lewis tweeted: "Hoping all Labour supporters will respond with dignity + respect to news of Baroness Thatcher's death. Our thoughts with her family + friends."

Former Labour minister Tony McNulty tweets: "God bless her and thoughts are with her family. RIP."

1219 GMT: Parliamentarians from Thatcher's centre-right Conservative party, now ruling at the head of a coalition government, are among the first to react.

Former cabinet minister Michael Howard says: "She was a titan in British politics. I believe she saved our country."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson tweets: "The dominant figure of post war British politics is dead. Love her or loathe her Margaret Thatcher shaped this country as few others did."

1216 GMT: On Twitter, Britons are circulating a quote famously attributed to Thatcher: "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

1208 GMT: The former premier, who led Britain from 1979 to 1990, suffered from dementia and has appeared rarely in public in recent years.

She was last in hospital in December for a minor operation to remove a growth from her bladder.

1206 GMT: And a statement in now from Buckingham Palace, where the queen meets regularly with all prime ministers, including Thatcher.

"The Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family," the palace says.

1205 GMT: British Prime Minister David Cameron says on Twitter, "It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Lady Thatcher. We have lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton."

WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT after Britain's first female prime minister, "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, died aged 87 from a stroke.

Her spokesman, Lord Bell, 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."

Stay with us for reactions to the death of this key figure in British political history.