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Downing Street

In 1975 Margaret successfully challenged Mr Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party, and soon led her party to victory at the General election in 1979

In 1975 Margaret successfully challenged Mr Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party, and soon led her party to victory at the General election in 1979.  This triumph followed on from the bitterness of the “winter of discontent”. 

Not only was Margaret the first female Prime Minister in Britain, she was also the first to serve three consecutive terms.  However, it was not an easy ministry.  Britain was seen as “The sick man of Europe” when she came to power, and the ‘cure’ proved harsher than many people expected.  It led to increased unemployment, stringent tax regimes and the confrontation with the National Union of Mine Workers.  Margaret was also noted for her reluctance to enter into economic integration with Europe, preferring an independent approach for Britain. 

In 1982, during her first term in office, the Argentine military Junta invaded the Falkland Islands.  Possession of these Islands had long been in dispute by the Argentines.  Margaret ordered a Military Task Force to be sent to reclaim the islands.  This had the effect of boosting her popularity, both within her own party and in the country at large. 

Margaret became well known for her early year’s middle class values; temperance, self-reliance and patriotism.  The popular view of Margaret was as a strong leader, but she was at times considered feisty, self-righteous and single-minded, though she could be swayed in Cabinet by strong logical argument.   

She believed in privatising state-owned industries and utilities, reforming trade unions, lowering taxes and reducing government spending. She developed a close relationship with the American president Ronald Reagan and was nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’ by the Russians.

She went on to win two more General Elections in 1983 and 1987, and became the longest serving Prime Minister for more than 150 years.

In December 1990, following an acrimonious challenge to her leadership, Margaret resigned from her position as Prime Minister.  The following year she also stood down as a Member of Parliament.  In 1992 she was elevated to the peerage and became known as Lady Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in Lincolnshire, becoming a prominent figure in the House of Lords. 

In 1993 Margaret wrote her first book, ‘The Downing Street Years’, followed by her second book, ‘The Path to Power’, in 1995.  In 1991 she established her own foundation, ‘The Thatcher Foundation’, whose aim is to advance the cause of political and economic freedom.

Lady Thatcher’s most recent visit to Grantham took place in 1995 when she signed copies of her second book.  Afterwards she attended the Mayor’s Parlour.  Following her visit Margaret said she had been “thrilled to be back in Grantham”.

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Last updated: 18 February 2011

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