Margaret Thatcher

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Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher b.1925

Margaret Thatcher was the first woman to become leader of the British Conservative party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a position she held from 1979-1990.

She was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13 1925 in the town of Grantham, the daughter of a grocer. Educated at Somerville College, part of the University of Oxford, she studied chemistry and worked as a research chemist, and later as a tax lawyer.

She was elected to the House of Commons in 1959 as the Conservative MP for Finchley, North London. Later, as Minister of Education and Science under Edward Heath, she provoked a storm of protest by abolishing free milk in schools, earning the nickname "Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher". After the Conservative defeat in 1974, she challenged Heath for the leadership of the party, winning the post in 1975.

Most United Kingdom newspapers supported her, with the exception of The Daily Star, The Mirror and The Guardian, and were rewarded with regular press briefings by her press secretary, Bernard Ingham. This lead to the name "Maggie" being popularised by the tabloids, which in turn lead to the well-known "Maggie Out!" protest song sung throughout that period.

Four years later she led the Conservative Party to form a government on May 4 1979, with a mandate to reverse Britain's perceived economic decline and to reduce the role of government. During Thatcher's years as prime minister, unemployment rose sharply, doubling during the course of her first term.

Thatcher's pro-American stance and her acceptance of US Cruise nuclear missiles on British soil, coupled with her equanimity over the US bombing raid on Libya from bases in Britain did nothing to improve her relationship with the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In 1982 Argentine forces occupied the Falkland Islands, which were claimed by both Argentina and theUnited Kingdom. Thatcher's government sent a force to the Falklands which defeated the Argentinians. On the back of her Falkland Islands policy, Thatcher led the Conservatives to a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections of June 1983.

Thatcher successfully confronted the trade unions during the Miners' Strike (1984-1985), deploying the police to prevent the movement of miners and their pickets. Frequent battles were reported between the Miners and police and the observation was often made that the police were being used for political purposes. One of the fiercest of these battles, the 1984 Battle of Osgrove, was reconstructed on June 17 2001 by a 1,000 strong cast. [1].

In October 1984 she escaped injury when a bomb planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army exploded in Brighton's Grand Hotel during a party conference. A number of people perished in that attack, including the wife of a member of her Cabinet, Norman Tebbit.

By winning the June 1987 elections she became the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 20th century to serve for three consecutive terms. Thatcher worked to diminish the role of the government in the economy. She privatised many nationalised industries (amongst them what were to become British Telecom and British Gas), and cut the budgets of many social programmes.

In 1988 she moved to suppress the Stonehenge free festival and enacted laws to counter New Age travellers.

In 1989 Thatcher introduced a community charge that became known as the poll tax. This was widely disliked across a spread of the British population and resulted in people going willing to jail to avoid payment on principle, mass demonstrations and culminated in a number of riots.

In 1990 controversy over Thatcher's policies on taxation, her handling of the economy, her perceived arrogance and her reluctance to commit Britain to economic integration with Europe resulted in a challenge to her leadership. She resigned on November 22, after the first round of a leadership challenge initiated by Michael Heseltine, and was replaced as party leader and Prime Minister by John Major.

Many United Kingdom citizens remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Margaret Thatcher had resigned and what their reaction was. She tends to bring our strong responses from people who have heard of her, whether they love or hate her.

In 1992 she become Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven and entered the House of Lords. In addition Denis Thatcher, her husband, was given a Baronetcy, which is a rare kind of hereditary knighthood. He became Sir Denis Thatcher, Bt. This assured that Margaret Thatcher's son, Mark Thatcher will inherit a title.

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