Margaret Thatcher - as decisive with her policies as she was divisive with her people

Margaret Thatcher has died aged 87.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister for 11 years, as decisive with her policies as she was divisive with her people.

After a Chemistry degree from Cambridge and a 20-year stint as MP for Finchley, she came to power in 1979 and represented the end of consensus politics in Britain.

Immediately she set about an attack on nationalised industry and chronic inflation.

Some of her policies were so unpopular that even members of her own cabinet urged her to rethink.

But her response came in the form of one of her most famous soundbites: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

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A bold but successful Falklands campaign saw off the real possibility of electoral defeat after just one term.

“Britain is not prepared to be pushed around," she said. “We have ceased to be a nation in retreat.”

David Cameron poses for a photograph with Thatcher in 2010. Credit: Reuters

For many regions of Britain, Mrs Thatcher’s pit closures meant an end to a generations-old way of life. “Horrific and dangerous and wrong,” said Tony Benn.

“She had the strategic sense to deal with them at the right moment. She had the country behind her,” says William Hague.

She later came to within a few feet of assassination at the hands of the IRA in a 1984 bomb attack that killed five people in a Brighton hotel. Defiant, Mrs Thatcher promised that her party’s conference there “will go on as usual.”

Margaret Thatcher and husband Denis Thatcher

Few would doubt the part she played in helping end the Cold War. It was the Soviets who dubbed her The Iron Lady and her introducing of Mikhail Gorbachev to US President Ronald Reagan helped to bring the two superpowers together.

She won a third term in 1987 after a series of privatisations in business had led to economic prosperity in Britain.

Soon after, her poll tax plans sparked violent protests on the streets of London and after 11 years of power, the country was falling out of love with its leader.

The poll tax issue, a faltering economy and a stubborn stance on Europe led to cabinet resignations and loss of support.

On 28th November 1990, a tearful Mrs Thatcher left Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister.

“We leave the United Kingdom in a very much better state than when we came here 11 and a half years ago,” she said.

After politics, deteriorating health meant Lady Thatcher was only seen in public on selected state occasions and a series of strokes would give her an increasingly frail appearance.