Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Baroness Margaret Thatcher: revered and reviled the world over

File photo dated 22/5/89 of Margaret Thatcher fielding questions with Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe (background), at a press conference, in London
File photo dated 22/5/89 of Margaret Thatcher fielding questions with Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe (background), at a press conference, in London
File photo dated 14/11/04 of Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair during the annual National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, London
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, wearing his Saturn hat, greets former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
File photo dated 09/11/1959 of Baroness Thatcher, with her children Mark and Carol, aged 6, at their home in Farnborough, Kent
File photo dated 11/05/83 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher receiving Soviet writer Aleksander Solzhenitsyn at No 10 Downing Street, London
British politician Margaret Thatcher talks to a policeman outside the House of Commons, where she is taking her seat as the Member of Parliament for Finchley, 20th October 1959. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British politician Margaret Thatcher outside the House of Commons, where she is taking her seat as the Member of Parliament for Finchley, 20th October 1959. (Photo by Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
File photo dated 10/2/05 of Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the Churchill Museum Opening, Cabinet War Rooms, London
File photo dated 04/05/1979 of Conservative Leader Margaret Thatcher ariving at Tory Headquarters in London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 10/06/1983 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waving to well-wishers after her election win. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 24/10/2000 of former Conservative Prime Ministers Sir Edward Heath and Baroness Thatcher check their watches as they listen to the debate at the Conservative Party Conference annual conference in Bournemouth. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 12/08/1987 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis walking on the Trevose golf course, Cornwall, on the first day of their summer holidays. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 13/07/1950 of Margaret Hilda Roberts, the Conservative candidate for Dartford, on her way to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, in London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
Baroness Thatcher in Downing Street...Prime Minister David Cameron helps Baroness Thatcher as she leaves Downing Street
File photo dated 04/05/1979 of Margaret Thatcher waving from the doorstep of Number 10 Downing Street
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. 24th January 1950: When not engaged in her political work in Dartford (Kent) where she is standing as Tory candidate, Miss Margaret Roberts, youngest candidate for the general election, is busy with her work as a research chemist. Margaret Roberts went on to become Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. 7th December 1962: Conservative MP Margaret Thatcher has fun on a ski run in Battersea Park with instructor Joe Hoki. (Photo by Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. circa 1950: Conservative candidate Margaret Roberts accompanies four voters on the piano in a sing-song after a brief political argument in the bar of The Bull Inn, Dartford. (Margaret Roberts married Denis Thatcher and went on to become Prime Minister.) (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. November 1976: Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher makes a 'victory' sign outside her home in Chelsea, London. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. October 1985: British prime minister Margaret Thatcher looking pensive at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, London, at the start of her third term in office. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher covering her face with her hand at the 1985 Conservative Party Conference. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. Conservative politician and future prime minister Margaret Hilda Thatcher, wiping dishes whilst a nurse looks on. (Photo by Chris Ware/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Hilda Thatcher, nee Roberts, as the Conservative candidate for Dartford, Kent, and before she married husband Denis. (Photo by Chris Ware/Getty Images)
1980: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. British Conservative politician and first woman to hold the office of Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher speaks at the Tory Party Conference on in Brighton, East Sussex circa 1980. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
File photo dated 4/1/79 of Margaret Thatcher in an inter-ship jackstay for her high-speed shortcut across the Pool feature of the 25th London International Boat Show which she opened at Earls Court in London
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 04, 1979: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. Margaret Hilda Thatcher, nee Roberts (b 1925), with her husband Denis Thatcher (1915 - 2003), waves to the crowds outside the Conservative Party headquarters on May 4, 1979 in London, England. (Photo by John Minihan/Getty Images)
1984: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shares a joke with American President Ronald Reagan, at No. 10 Downing Street, on June 5, 1984 in London, England. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1985: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery. http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=108930459&EditorialProduct=Archival British prime minister Margaret Thatcher holds a chimpanzee in 1985. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
File photo dated 08/11/05 of Margaret Thatcher at the memorial service for former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, at Westminster Abbey in central London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 8/12/07 of Baroness Thatcher who joined Falkland Islanders and former servicemen in London to honour all those who lost their lives in wars in the South Atlantic
20/6/2001 Baroness Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, seated in the House of Lords, London, for the State Opening of Parliament
File photo dated 04/05/2000 of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sitting beside her portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
Libray filer dated 23/11/2001 of the head of the puppet Margaret Thatcher on display at a Sotheby's auction of Spitting Image puppets
Library filer dated 10/11/00 of Sir Denis Thatcher (left), accompanied by his wife and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (centre), after receiving his first honorary degree from the University of Buckingham in Buckinghamshire
File photo dated 12/10/77 of Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher with 16 year old Rother Valley schoolboy William Hague, after he received a standing ovation from delegates at the Tory party conference in Blackpool
Library filer dated 8/6/1988 of Margaret Thatcher standing in the shell of London's old Battersea power station, when she renamed the site 'The Battersea'
File photo dated 21/2/07 of Former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher in front of a bronze statue of herself, inside the Palace of Westminster, London
File photo dated 13/9/07 of Gordon Brown with Baroness Thatcher as she leaves her old official residence at 10 Downing Street
File photo dated 04/05/2000 of former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher sitting alone as she waits for the start of the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 06/12/1990 of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with former US President Ronald Reagan at Claridges, in London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
File photo dated 12/10/84 of the upper floors of the Grand Hotel Brighton, severely damaged in the aftermath of an IRA bomb, which was planted during Tory Party conference week. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
Library filer dated 3/5/1989 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street, in London, with her son Mark, daughter-in-law Diane, and two-month-old grandson Michael
Library filer dated 26/1/1990 of Margaret Thatcher toasting Julie Goodyear and the cast of Coronation Street when she visited the Rovers Return at Granada Television Studios in Manchester
LONDON - 2006: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON, ENGLAND - 2009: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON - JUNE 8: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON - 1987: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON - 2005: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON - 2006: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON, ENGLAND - 2009: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON - 2008: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
1987: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 1: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher poses inside Number 10 Downing Street in London, England on April 01, 1984. (Photo by Express/Getty Images)
1967: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke. Conservative politician and future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher speaking at a party conference on Octobe 21, 1967 in England. (Photo by Harry Dempster/Express/Getty Images)
1983: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her German counterpart, Helmut Kohl, at a press conference at Number 12 Downing Street on April 22, 1983 in London, England. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1951: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke. Margaret Roberts, Conservative candidate for Dartford, Kent and youngest woman candidate in the election, talking to dustmen during her election campaign in October 4, 1951 in England. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
1986: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. Nancy Reagan, the wife of US president Ronald Reagan, meets British prime minister Margaret Thatcher at Number 10, Downing Street on July 22, 1986 in London, England. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 10 NOVEMBER: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. (L-R) Liberal Party Leader David Steel, former Labour Leader James Callaghan and Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher carrying wreaths of poppies during a Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph on November 10, 1980 in Whitehall, London. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Whether they loved her or loathed her, virtually all the world leaders she ever met stood in awe of Margaret Thatcher.

She was respected - and in some cases even feared - right across the world's political spectrum, from the White House to the Kremlin, from Beijing to Buenos Aires.

She was admired, even doted upon, by American presidents, and detested by many leaders of African states. But no-one, least of all her critics, ever treated her as of no consequence.

Perhaps the most difficult world leader, from her viewpoint, was the late Indira Gandhi. Their meetings in Delhi seemed to prove the theory that powerful women, although happy to deal with their equals if male, simply cannot do business together.

Once they emerged from what was obviously a fiery meeting in the Indian capital "with sparks coming out of their heads", to quote a witness at the time.

The people of Moscow, especially during the Cold War, adored her, but Soviet leaders treated her warily. Shortly after she swept to power in 1979, Leonid Brezhnev scoffed in the Kremlin: "She is trying to wear the trousers of Winston Churchill." He soon learned to treat her with less disdain.

But her Kremlin favourite was Mikhail Gorbachev, the man she famously could do business with.

Unlike his grim predecessors, Mr Gorbachev would debate intelligently. She loved it.

Their meetings were once summed up like this: "Like an English summer's day - thunderstorms and sunny periods."

Sir Bernard Ingham, her press secretary, said the chemistry between the two leaders was "quite extraordinary". Mr Gorbachev's wife, Raisa, even appeared to some observers to be jealous.

The Soviet press treated her less kindly. Headlines such as "The Cold War warrior" and "The Wicked Witch of the West" screamed across their front pages.

But it was Red Star, the Soviet army newspaper which did her the biggest favour, although unintentionally, describing her as "The Iron Lady".

Later she was to say: "The Russians said I was an Iron Lady. They were right. Britain needs an Iron Lady."

Across the world was US president Ronald Reagan, who doted on Mrs Thatcher. The feeling was reciprocated and during this period the so-called special relationship between the UK and the US was particularly warm.

In 1983, he said of her: "She is the best man in England."

Her response was fulsome: "America's successes will be our successes. Your problems will be our problems. When you look for friends, we will be there."

Mr Reagan's successor, George Bush senior, was cooler towards Mrs Thatcher, but insisted, nevertheless, that the "special relationship" remained as special as ever.

But it was perhaps in Europe that she left the biggest impression. Her critics to this day accuse her of handbag diplomacy, foghorn diplomacy and high-octane diplomacy. But her table-thumping and shouting had its effect.

Francois Mitterrand, as the president of France, once said of her: "She has the eyes of Caligula, but the mouth of Marilyn Monroe."

Another French president, Giscard d'Estaing, liked her at first, but grew colder because she invariably got the better of him.

Helmut Schmidt, the West German chancellor, described her as "no soft touch" - a considerable understatement.

A different German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, found her altogether overwhelming. Once when they were together in Germany, Mr Kohl pleaded another urgent engagement and made good his escape. A short while later, Mrs Thatcher reportedly spotted him scoffing cream cakes in a nearby cafe.

Meanwhile, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state, thought she was "quite a girl".

But her view of another US secretary of state, Al Haig, who was operating during the Falklands conflict, was that he was "woolly" and "timid". He was plainly awestruck by Mrs Thatcher because after he returned to his suite in Claridges following a tumultuous meeting with her, he cried out: "Somebody get me a drink - and fast. That's one hell of a tough lady."

She did not trust Mr Haig. One aide said: "She was certain that he was fully capable of stabbing her in the back with a middle-of-the-night deal with the Argentines for his own glory.2

What the world admired about Mrs Thatcher - not that they necessarily liked it - was that she would not temper her views, or soften her opinions, or patronise those whose views were the antithesis of hers. If you were not "one of us", you got it in the neck.

Only once did she find, to her dismay, an audience which was visibly underwhelmed by her presence.

She was forced to meet a group of unsmiling workers when her plane landed in the snowy wastes of Siberia to refuel. The conversation lagged. To perk it up, she asked them whether they would like signed photographs of her.

"Nyet!" they cried in a single voice. Perhaps only Siberian trade unionists would have dared...

end

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