Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tributes flood in for Margaret Thatcher

Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
The Union Flag is lowered to half mast at the Houses of Parliament after the death of Baroness Thatcher
A man lays a bunch of flowers outside the home of Lady Margaret Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death

Friends and foes alike have been marking the end of an era after Baroness Thatcher died at the age of 87.

The ex-prime minister is to have a funeral at St Paul's Cathedral with full military honours - the same status as accorded to the Queen Mother - in recognition of her huge influence on the country.

The Queen was said to be "sad" at news of the death, while David Cameron praised her as a "great leader" and a "great Briton". For Labour, Ed Miliband said she had "moved the centre ground of British politics", and Tony Blair credited her with changing the world.

Global leaders added their voices to the tributes, with Barack Obama saying Lady Thatcher had been a "true friend" to the US.

However, others on the Left condemned the social impacts of her policies encouraging the free market and stripping power from unions. Respect MP George Galloway sparked anger by tweeting "Tramp the dirt down" - a reference to an anti-Thatcher Elvis Costello song from the 1980s.

Lady Thatcher's place in the history books was secure as soon as she won the keys to Downing Street in 1979, becoming the UK's first woman premier. But over the next 11 years she demonstrated that she had far more to offer than her gender. The Tory leader's impact was underlined by the reaction to her death at the Ritz Hotel in London, where she suffered a stroke while recuperating following a minor operation.

Mr Cameron cut short an official trip to Europe and announced that Parliament was being recalled from its Easter recess on Wednesday to give MPs the chance to pay tribute. Labour and the Tories have suspended campaigning ahead of next month's key local elections, and the Lib Dems are also not expecting to hold any events. Flags were flying at half-mast on public buildings.

As Lady Thatcher's health deteriorated, the issue of whether she should be granted a state funeral - as Churchill was - grew increasingly controversial. However, it has emerged that she rejected the idea herself, and also insisted she did not want her body to lie in state or money to be spent on a fly-past.

Instead, the streets will be cleared for a procession from Westminster to St Paul's, where there will be a televised service attended by dignitaries from around the world. The event will take place next week, but the day has yet to be confirmed.

In a statement outside Number 10 this evening, Mr Cameron said: "Margaret Thatcher didn't just lead our country - she saved our country. We can't deny that Lady Thatcher divided opinion. For many of us, she was and is an inspiration. 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 she did - it was her lion-hearted love for this country. She was the patriot prime minister and she fought for Britain's interests every single step of the way."

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