Margaret Thatcher dies, aged 87

David Cameron and the Queen lead tributes as Britain's only female Prime Minister passes away

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Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister and the only woman to have held the post, has died aged 87, her spokesman Lord Bell confirmed today.

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“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” said Lord Bell.

Baroness Thatcher, who had suffered deteriorating health in recent years, is said to have died peacefully. She had undergone surgery shortly before Christmas but returned home prior to the new year.

The current Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to his predecessor, saying: “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.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics.

“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.”

A statement from Buckingham Palace said “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 former Conservative leader, nicknamed The Iron Lady, remains the country’s longest-serving PM, having held the post for 11 years between 1979 and 1990.

Thatcher was elected MP for Finchley in 1959 and appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970 by Edward Heath, before defeating him five years later in the Tory leadership battle.

Her political policies were characterised by an emphasis on privatisation and deregulation and a reduction in the power of the trade unions. Her initial popularity suffered under a recession, and accompanying high unemployment, but the combination of an economic upswing and the Falklands War resulted in her re-election in 1983.

A third term from 1987 saw the introduction of the unpopular “poll tax”, along with disagreements with Conservative party colleagues on Europe and a challenge from Michael Heseltine, which led to Thatcher’s resignation as party leader in 1990.

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Margaret Thatcher has been portayed numerous times on the big and small screen, most recently by Meryl Streep in an Oscar-winning performance in 2011 film The Iron Lady.