Margaret Hilda Thatcher (née Roberts)
13th October 1925 - 8th April 2013
Rest in Peace
Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly the greatest British Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. She is also, so far, the only female British Prime Minister, but so far as I am concerned her gender was immaterial (as I rather think it was to her) - she had the capacity to do the job and she did it splendidly, although the fact that she was female equally undoubtedly meant that in order to overcome this "handicap" she had to be (and was) better than the other leading (male) politicians of her generation.
On becoming Leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, in succession to Edward Heath MP (of whom I was, and remain, a great supporter, however controversial that may appear to some), Margaret Thatcher successfully took the Conservative Party to electoral victory in the 1979 General Election.
At the time of her election as Prime Minister I was living in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), having last lived in the UK in early 1973, during the dying days of the last Conservative Government of Edward Heath. I vividly recall from those days when I lived in London the regular electricity cuts and the difficulty of merely getting to and from the office as a result of the intransigence of the then-powerful (over-powerful!) unions and their tactics/policy of bringing chaos to the country to further their (nefarious) aims by carrying out regular strikes. On election night in 1979 I was one of about 10 British colleagues and spouses who gathered together in one of our houses to listen to the unfolding events back in the UK on the BBC World Service on short-wave radio (this being some years before satellite television became a reality, or even imagined, except for very special occasions). At around 5am Jeddah-time (or 2am UK-time, so far as I recall) it became clear that the Thatcher-led Conservative Party had succeeded in turfing out the discredited Labour Party under Prime Minister James Callaghan so we thought it time to crack open the half-dozen or so bottles of champagne we had jointly acquired (at relatively-vast expense, given that that any type of alcohol was officially prohibited in that country, even though our supplies had come from impeccable [Royal] sources - quite literally) to celebrate what we all saw as the possibility of a change of direction in Britain's fortunes, from being what it was widely-viewed then as being - the "sick man of Europe" and a country on an unstoppable spiral of decline, managed by successive governments over the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. By the end of the 1980s no one talked about Britain that way any more - she permanently transformed both the reality and perceptions of the UK very substantially for the better, however much her critics hated what she and her government was doing, even though when one tackled them on the economic mess that the then current "managed decline" had left the country languishing in they had no practical solutions to offer. I regard her and her government as quite simply the saviours of post-war Britain, but like any human being she was not infallible, most notably with her insistence on introducing the economically sensible, but politically disastrous Community Charge (which is often referred to as the 'poll tax'). However, the balance of what she stood for and did was overwhelmingly in her and the country's favour.
You can read a fuller obituary for Baroness Thatcher in the Telegraph here.