She was easily Britain’s most divisive leader of the past 100 years, but it was a testimony to Margaret Thatcher’s historic influence that no British politician was unmoved by word of her death at age 87 — more than two decades after she left political office. As the news spread across the U.K. that the former Prime Minister had passed after suffering from a stroke, politicians both active and retired offered their public condolences and recalled the legacy of the Iron Lady. The flag at 10 Downing Street was lowered to half-mast.
“We’ve lost a great Prime Minister, a great leader, a great Briton. As our first woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds,” said Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, from Madrid where he was meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister. He would cut short his European tour to return to the U.K. Recalling the former Prime Minister and fellow Tory’s radical economic policies in the 1980s, Cameron added, “The real thing about Margaret Thatcher is she didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.”
(MORE: Farewell to the Iron Lady)
Less glowing, but equally respectful, was the response from Labour Party leader Ed Miliband who said, “She moved the center ground of British politics, and she was a huge figure on the world stage. The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did, and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and personal strength.”
Britain’s remaining former Prime Ministers reflected on the impact Thatcher had on Britain — and the world. Sir John Major, who immediately succeeded Thatcher as Prime Minister, said, “Her reforms of the economy, trades-union law and her recovery of the Falkland Islands elevated her above normal politics, and may not have been achieved under any other leader.” Tony Blair, who served as Labour Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, said, “Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret Thatcher was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world.”
Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson took to Twitter to share his thoughts, writing, “Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.”
Other politicians referred to the personal influence Thatcher had on their own careers. Former Conservative Party leader and current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said, “Watching her set out to change Britain for the better in 1979 made me believe there was, at last, real purpose and real leadership in politics once again. She bestrode the political world like a colossus.”
Lord David Young, who served in Thatcher’s Cabinet from 1984 to 1989, tweeted, “Very sad to learn of the death of Margaret. She changed my life but all our lives. I doubt we will see her like again.” While Lord Alan Sugar, an entrepreneur who hosts the British version of The Apprentice, tweeted, “Baroness Thatcher in the 80’s kicked started this entrepreneurial revolution that allowed chirpy chappies to succeed and not just the elite.”