I learnt with shock and sadness of the death of Baroness Thatcher whilst I understood that her health was poor I nevertheless am shocked by her death. For me, I feel as if I have lost a good friend and an inspiration.
If it hadn't of been for Margaret I would never have won my seat in 1983 or went on to have retained it in the following elections. What a privilege it was for me to have worked under her leadership in my first Parliament from 1983 - 1987.
She was without doubt the dominant force in Parliament and in the world. She changed our country and the world and made them better places in which to live. She was a force for good.
Whether it be through her philosophy that we should all make the most of our god given talents or opportunity for all she transformed our nations circumstances from the dark days of 1979. The constituency that I represented first of Basildon embraced Margaret's philosophy of aspiration for everyone.
So it was then that when my seat seemed under siege from all groups in 1992, she paid her final visit to support me in my campaign and ensured my re - election and a historic victory. I will always be grateful for the kindness and understanding that she showed to me and my family on that occasion.
In 1990 I fought to the end to keep her as leader of the Conservative party and was horrified by the way other colleagues who feared for their electoral fortunes turned against our leader. I was incandescent and have always thought that our party never really recovered from that very public argument
In the years that followed I kept in touch as much as I could with Baroness Thatcher whose health slowly declined. She even sent my mother a 100th birthday card last year. Without question she is the greatest national or international politician I have ever met.
It was a privilege to have known and worked with her. I shall never forget her. Her legacy lives on not only in this country but throughout the world. A giant of a politician whose only abiding wish was that each and every one of us be given the opportunity to make the most of our lives.
May God bless her now.