BRITAIN’S longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, the ‘Iron Lady’ Baroness Thatcher, has died from a stroke aged 87.
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Margaret Thatcher dies, aged 87
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke. Europe correspondent Nick Miller reports from London.
Her spokesman, Lord Bell, issued a statement announcing the news.
“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” he said.
Lady Thatcher will receive a televised ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral next week, Downing Street said. She will not lie in state, according to her wishes.
Flags were lowered across the country, and floral tributes were laid outside her home and in her old constituency. World leaders and politicians of all stripes paid their respects and remarked on her extraordinary legacy.
But many others used the opportunity to express their continued anger at Lady Thatcher's impact on their country in the 1980s. Some even planned celebratory street parties.
Lady Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter and mother of two, was the first, and so far the only woman to be British prime minister.
From 1979 to 1990 she led Britain through a turbulent decade of change, with her signature uncompromising style encapsulated by her famous phrase: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”
She deregulated the financial sector, privatised many state-owned companies, and took on the then-powerful trade unions.
The resulting rise in unemployment and cuts to government spending led to protests and inner-city riots that tested her early leadership. But the 1982 Falklands war cemented her popularity, and she won two more general elections before her "poll tax" proved a bridge too far.
Lady Thatcher also played a key role in the end of the Cold War, leading the West’s embrace of reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
She didn't just lead our country, she saved our country, and I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister.David Cameron
In the last decade her engagements had become fewer, as her health gradually deteriorated. In 2008 her daughter Carol revealed dementia had affected her mother’s memory, leaving her unable to end sentences or clearly remember events, including the death of her husband, Denis.
Lady Thatcher reportedly died at the Ritz Hotel in London, where she has lived since Christmas as her declining health left her in need of care she could not receive at home.
Tributes have poured in through the media and on social media.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "As our first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds.
"She didn't just lead our country, she saved our country, and I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister."
Mr Cameron said Lady Thatcher would be remembered for taking a country that was on its knees "and made Britain stand tall again".
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"She was the patriot prime minister and she fought for Britain's interests all the way."
Mr Cameron had been on a tour of Europe where he was to discuss reform of the European Union, however he immediately returned home, and announced Parliament will be recalled on Wednesday for MPs to pay tribute.
When Mr Cameron became prime minister, one of his first acts was to invite Lady Thatcher to visit him at Downing Street.
Lady Thatcher's funeral, reportedly next Wednesday, will begin with a procession from Westminster through the streets of London to St Paul's cathedral.
The procession will be flanked by members of all three armed forces, and welcomed at the cathedral by Chelsea pensioners who will line the steps, the BBC reported.
It will be televised live.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Lady Thatcher was the reason he entered politics.
“[She] made me believe there was, at last, real purpose and real leadership in politics once again. She bestrode the political world like a colossus.
“This is dreadfully sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
The Thatcher Foundation tweeted: “A very sad day. Our thoughts at this time are with Baroness Thatcher’s friends and family.”
Floral tributes have already started appearing at Lady Thatcher's home in Chester Square, near Buckingham Palace in London.
The BBC reported that one tribute came with the message "RIP Maggie Thatcher. The greatest British leader and a true lady."
Her death is also likely to inspire renewed debate on the ways she has changed Britain – at a time when the ruling Conservative Party is down in the polls and is battling with a party base who want to push the party back towards more Thatcherite policies.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats suspended campaigning in local elections as a mark of respect.
Labour leader Ed Milliband said the Thatcher era had shaped a generation of politicians, including himself.
"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."
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair also paid tribute, remarking that his "new Labour" government had retained some of the changes Lady Thatcher made to Britain.