- Margaret Thatcher, 87, dead after stroke
- PHOTOS: Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013
- Reaction to Margaret Thatcher's death
- Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott express their condolences
- From grocer's daughter to the highest job in the land
USUALLY, when a public figure dies, even their staunchest enemies briefly suspend hostilities in respect for the dead.
Thatcher described Nelson Mandela as a 'terrorist'. I was there. I saw her lips move. May she burn in the hellfires.George Galloway
But with Margaret Thatcher that was never going to be the case. She was loathed by too many, for too long.
Revellers celebrate the death of Britain's former prime minister Margaret Thatcher at a party in Brixton, south London. Photo: Reuters
For some, the wounds left by Thatcher's Britain are still raw.
By mid-afternoon on the day of Lady Thatcher's death, the editor of the London Daily Telegraph announced he had closed comments on every Thatcher story.
"Even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse," he said.
A woman celebrates the death of the former British PM. Photo: AFP
Social media was overflowing with people writing "Ding Dong!" in reference to the Wizard of Oz song, and posting pictures of themselves drinking in celebration of "Margaret Thatcher Death Day".
Hundreds of people took to the streets in Brixton, an area of south London which suffered serious rioting in the 1980s, to celebrate Lady Thatcher's death. Holding notices saying ‘‘Rejoice - Thatcher is dead’’, about 200 people gathered in the neighbourhood, a hotspot of alternative culture, and toasted her passing by drinking and dancing to hip-hop and reggae songs blaring from sound systems.
‘‘I’m very, very pleased. She did so much damage to this country,’’ said one man brandishing an original newspaper billboard from 1990 announcing Thatcher’s resignation. Others scrawled ‘‘Good Riddance’’ on the pavement.
Celebrating: people gather during a 'party' after the death of Margaret Thatcher. Photo: AFP
‘‘We’ve got the bunting out at home,’’ said Clare Truscott, a woman in her 50s wearing a sparkly beret and holding a homemade sign reading ‘‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’’.
‘‘I’m from the north, where there were no jobs, where the industry was rapidly disappearing, and her policies ensured it went more quickly.’’
Brixton was the scene of fierce riots in 1981, two years after Lady Thatcher became prime minister. Carole Roper, a full-time carer in her 50s from north London, said: ‘‘We’re here to celebrate her death.’’
Revellers spray a bottle of champagne in Glasgow. Photo: Reuters
Sipping from a can of beer, she insisted: ‘‘I don’t think it’s vindictive. It’s not so much about the death of Thatcher but what she has done, the policies she introduced to this country.‘‘
Compare the coverage to that when Chavez died - she’s being eulogised. It’s been wall to wall coverage on the BBC, but she did nothing to help the poor people of this country.’’
In the Scottish city of Glasgow more than 300 people gathered to hold their own impromptu ‘‘party’’. Anti-capitalist campaigners shouted, ‘‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie’’ while the crowd replied ‘‘dead, dead, dead’’.
People dance in celebration in Glasgow. Photo: Getty Images
Among her old foes many – at least temporarily - laid aside old grudges and paid public tribute to her achievements as Britain's first female prime minister.
But others did not hesitate to express their continuing disgust and anger at Lady Thatcher’s policies and her (in their words) disastrous, divisive impact on Britain’s industry and people.
George Galloway, the Respect member of parliament for Bradford West and former Labour firebrand, led the charge with a simple Tweet: "Tramp the dirt down".
Revellers hold up posters to celebrate the death of Britain's former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Photo: Reuters
It was a reference to a 1988 Elvis Costello song of the same name, a virulent attack on the then prime minister that contains the lines "when they finally put you in the ground / I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down."
Mr Galloway added on Twitter: "Thatcher described Nelson Mandela as a 'terrorist'. I was there. I saw her lips move. May she burn in the hellfires."
His Twitter feed quickly became an echo chamber for criticism of Thatcherite policies, which one commenter said were "selling off public utilities, encouraging personal greed and befriending murderous dictators".
Reaction to the death of Margaret Thatcher: loved and loathed
View a gallery of the reaction to the death of Britian's longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, the ‘Iron Lady’ Baroness Thatcher, a woman loved and loathed. Photo: Bloomberg
On Facebook, a campaign was launched to take the Wizard of Oz song 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' to No. 1.
In the liberal north London enclave of Crouch End a wine merchant tweeted "If for any reason anyone feels like celebrating anything we have Tattinger available at £10 less than usual at 329. Just saying..."
A spokesperson for the liquor chain Oddbins told the Daily Mail the staff member had been suspended for the "inappropriate" tweet.
But he was far from the only one to reveal their true feelings. Mining official David Hopper, who was celebrating his 70th birthday, told AFP "it's a marvellous day" and said he and his colleagues were planning a party to coincide with Lady Thatcher's funeral next week.
Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool where Lady Thatcher was deeply unpopular, said "Tories believe in division and inequality. Thatcher defined that and Thatcherism continues today as bad or worse than her period in office."
VIDEO: The life and legacy of Margaret Thatcher.
When she became Britain's first female prime minister in 1979 she promised harmony. She ended up being one of the most divisive figures in post-war politics.
The ANC in South Africa pointed out Lady Thatcher’s "failure to isolate apartheid".
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams let loose with both barrels, saying "Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister. Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies. Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent."
He also blamed Lady Thatcher for prolonging the war in Ireland and embracing "the killing of citizens by covert operations".
Others in Ireland were less acidic in their comments. Irish prime minister Enda Kenny chose to remember Lady Mrs Thatcher signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement which laid the foundation for eventual peace. But John Hume, former leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour party in Northern Ireland, said Lady Thatcher’s "hard-line, belligerent and uncompromising approach during the hunger strikes won her few friends among nationalists. There is no doubt that her actions caused great hurt and harm."
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, said: "Margaret Thatcher laid the basis for policies which wrecked the lives of millions in Britain. But she should also be remembered as a warmonger."
And former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was the leader of the Greater London Council when it was abolished by Lady Thatcher's government in 1986, said Baroness Thatcher’s policies were fundamentally wrong, and responsible for "every real problem" now faced in Britain.
British people were the third happiest in the world, with a strong manufacturing sector before Lady Thatcher came to power, he told the BBC.
Her time in office was a disaster that "destroyed many lives," he said.
However others on the left of politics decided that the day of Lady Thatcher’s death was not the day to attack her legacy.
Labour leader Ed Milliband sent his "deep condolences" to her family and said Lady Thatcher was a "unique figure (who) reshaped the politics of a whole generation".
"The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure,"he said. "But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength."
Neil Kinnock, the opposition leader for much of the 1980s, wrote: "I recognise and admire the great distinction of Baroness Thatcher as the first woman to become leader of a major UK political party and prime minister."
However he also said her reign had been an "unmitigated disaster" for the country.
Former PM Tony Blair pointed out that his New Labour maintained most of Lady Thatcher’s reforms, and said her global impact was "vast".
And US president Barack Obama said "the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend."
On the right, there was little if any criticism of Lady Thatcher’s legacy.
One of those who came closest to criticism was the man the Conservative party chose to replace Lady Thatcher – Sir John Major.
"Margaret was at her best when she had a definable enemy and a definable goal, and in the 1980s there were a rich selection of them and she pursued them, and we are the beneficiaries of that," he said.
"The economy was in a frightful mess in the 1970s. Nobody believed it would reformed. Nobody believed we could move from a neo-socialist economy to a free market economy. And that's effectively what she achieved in the first eight years."
Others had no qualms and launched full-throated praise of one of the Conservative party’s biggest heroes.
"She didn't just lead our country, she saved our country," said prime minister David Cameron. "I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister."
Foreign minister William Hague, one of Lady Thatcher’s favourite protogees, said she had left "a legacy few will ever equal."
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Lady Thatcher "bestrode the political world like a colossus" and had brought "purpose and real leadership" to politics.
And Tory author Jeffrey Archer simply said she "had a strength of character I have never seen equal in my life."