Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her family spokesman announced Monday.
Lady Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol said their mother, who suffered bouts of ill health in recent years, died peacefully on Monday morning.
Baroness Thatcher, nicknamed the “Iron Lady”, was Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, the first woman to hold the post.
Her death has drawn great attention both at home and abroad.
British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted shortly after the news broke out, “It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We’ve lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton.”
Cameron, who was in Madrid for meetings with EU leaders, decided to cut short his trip and will return home this afternoon.
The Queen is “sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher and will send a private message of sympathy to the family,” said the Buckingham Palace.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described Lady Thatcher as one of the “defining figures in modern British politics.”
“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,” said Clegg.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was launching his local election campaign on Monday, cancelled the party’s operations as a mark of respect.
He said, “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 center ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.”
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair called the ex-PM a “towering political figure” who exercised a huge influence over Britain and the world.
“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,” he said.
London Mayor Boris Johnson tweeted, “Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.”
British Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called Lady Thatcher a “great inspiration.”
“Whether you loved her or hated her, nobody could deny that she was a great patriot, who believed passionately in this country and her people. A towering figure in recent British and political history has passed from the stage. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
French President Francois Hollande described Thatcher as 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.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed Thatcher as an “extraordinary leader” who played a pivotal role in overcoming Europe’s Cold War division.
“She was an extraordinary leader in the global politics of her time,” Merkel said in a statement. “I will never forget her part in surmounting the division of Europe and at the end of the Cold War.”
Merkel, a fellow conservative who was often compared to Thatcher when she became chancellor in 2005, said Thatcher would not be remembered as a “female politician” but one who had blazed a trail for women in the halls of power.
But not every one speaks highly of Thatcher’s legacy. One of her most significant opponents gave a critical assessment.
Ken Livingstone, twice the mayor of London and a former Labor MP as well as the former leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) which was abolished by Lady Thatcher, said many of Britain’s current problems were her legacy.
Livingstone said, “She created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis, and she created the benefits crisis. It was her government which started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register them as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was broadly full employment.”
He added, “She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we are struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong.”
No. 10 said Thatcher will not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.
The ceremony, with full military honors, will take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Both the Downing Street and the Buckingham Palace have lowered their flags at half mast.
The streets between Westminster and St Paul’s will be cleared for the procession, the date of which is yet to be decided. The route will be lined with members of Armed Forces.
Lady Thatcher retired from public speaking in 2002. Over the decade, She suffered acute short-term memory loss and a series of strokes.
Her husband Denis died in 2003 and her children Mark and Carol both live abroad.