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Former British PM Margaret Thatcher Dead At 87

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Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, known as the "Iron Lady" for her tough political style, died Monday at the age of 87. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following report.

She was a grocer's daughter who became the first female prime minister of Great Britain.

Margaret Thatcher was called the "Iron Lady" for her personal and political strength.

The Tory leader swept into office in 1979 with the promise of transforming the British economy, which was suffering from strikes and inflation.

"We decided there was no alternative to tough medicine and it was going to have to be sustained for some time, and it was accepted because there was no alternative," said Geoffrey Howe, a deputy prime minister under Thatcher.

She cut taxes, privatized state industries and deregulated financial markets.

Opponents accused the prime minister of widening the gap between the rich and poor.

Thatcher also restored Britain's clout in world affairs and built a special bond with her American counterpart and political soul mate, Ronald Reagan. The leaders had their disagreements, but they shared similar conservative worldviews.

"It was closer ideologically and warmer personally than any relationship between any other British prime minister and any other American president," said Geoffrey Smith, author of "Thatcher and Reagan".

Thatcher convinced Reagan that Mikhail Gorbachev was a soviet leader they could do business with.

"He was willing to admit that some things were wrong in the Soviet Union, which was very unusual," Thatcher said on CNN in 1993.

And Reagan backed the prime minister in Britain's 1982 Falklands War with Argentina. The conflict cost 255 British lives and cemented Thatcher's reputation as a resolute leader.

"A prime minister never expects to send people into battle. I was agonized over it," Thatcher said. "But you couldn't leave our people captive of a military junta of the Argentine."

Thatcher was the only British prime minister in the 20th century to serve three consecutive terms.

In 1990, after a leadership struggle within her own party, Thatcher was forced to resign.

Though no longer on the front lines, Thatcher still had political sway as Baroness Thatcher, sitting in Britain's upper chamber, the House of Lords.

Later in life, as her health deteriorated, public appearances became rare, but Thatcher's reputation was already set as a dominant figure of the 20th century whose influence is still being felt today.

City's British Consulate Honors Thatcher


Thatcher is being remembered at the British consulate on the East Side with a condolence book in the lobby.

British Consul-General Danny Lopez said it's no surprise so many have come to sign it.

"Those were difficult and challenging times when much was achieved, and much was achieved as a result of the partnership betweem President Reagan and Lady Thatcher," Lopez said. "I talk a lot here in New York about the relationship we have between Britain and the U.S., and that partnership, that relationship symbolizes what can be achieved. We will remember that for a long time."

"She was very influential within the Conservative Party and hated by a lot of those who were against the bank boys of the '80s and what have you," said one person. "But she will be missed. She will be missed."

The condolence book will eventually be sent to London for Thatcher's funeral.

Current British Prime Minister David Cameron said she will be remembered as one of the greatest leaders in British history.

"As our first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds," Cameron said. "And the real thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she didn't just lead our country. She saved our country. And I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peace-time prime minister."

Flags were lowered to half staff Monday over the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street and at Buckingham Palace.

President Obama also released a statement on Thatcher's death, which read, in part, "...the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend."

Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for her performance as Thatcher in the 2011 film "The Iron Lady."

She said it's hard to imagine a part of our current history not affected by measures Thatcher put forward in the U.K.

She called the late leader a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit.

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