||04-08-2013 12:30 PM
Margaret Thatcher passes away
As the international community learned of former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher's death, a mixed reaction began to emerge over her reputation as the tenacious and strong-willed woman who led the country from 1970 to 1990.
Not everyone was mourning the death of the Iron Lady, who accumulated many opponents during her political reign, culminating in a failed assassination attempt on her life in 1984.
Thatcher was as polarizing in death as in life, said CBC's John Northcott, who was rounding up online reaction to Thatcher's death.
Online, some people started organizing parties to celebrate her death, he said. One online site invoked one of Thatcher's quotes, saying, "This lady's not returning" and asked, "How are you celebrating?"
"Thatcher described Nelson Mandela as a 'terrorist.' I was there. I saw her lips move. May she burn in the hellfires," tweeted British MP George Galloway. Two hours earlier, he sent out the controversial tweet apparently referring to an Elvis Costello song: "Tramp the dirt down."
"Margaret [Thatcher] marked British and European political life. Despite political differences, initially she was a committed European," tweeted Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament.
"She did make war on a lot of people in Britain, and I don't think it helped our society," Tony Benn, a 1970s labour minister and Thatcher's political opponent, said in a Reuters report.
"Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister," wrote Gerry Adams, president of the Irish party Sinn Féin, in a statement on the party's website. "Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies. Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent …. Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations …. Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and '81. Her Irish policy failed miserably."
"She created today's housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefit crisis. It was her government that started putting people on incapacity benefit rather than register them as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was broadly full employment. She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry that she could live with two or three million unemployed, and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we are struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong," the Guardian reported former mayor of London Ken Livingstone saying.
After the monarchy announced Monday that Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St. Paul's cathedral in the coming days, many posted on Twitter complaining about the decision, using the hashtag #nostatefuneral.
Many online called for a respectful tone — regardless of how people felt about her politics.
"The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure," said Edward Miliband, the leader of the Labour party and the opposition. "But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and personal strength."
"It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We have lost a great leader, a great prime minister, and a great Briton," tweeted David Cameron, prime minister of the United Kingdom. "Lady Thatcher didn't just lead our country, she saved our country."
"The world has lost a giant among leaders," wrote Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a statement. "Lady Thatcher's leadership in time of conflict and during the generous peace she helped bring forth, was an example to the world. As a result, millions now live with the dignity and freedom that she envisioned for them, during the darkest moments of the post-war years …. Laureen and I join all Canadians in saluting the proud life and legacy of Lady Thatcher."
"The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend," wrote U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement. "We carry on the work to which she dedicated her life — free peoples standing together, determined to write our own destiny."
"She was a lady with a great personality …. She was very important in the history of Great Britain," former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien told CBC News by phone. Chrétien said he had the opportunity to work with Thatcher while he was Canada's minister of justice, and met her several times while he was prime minister. Although she had very strong political views, he said, she could be a very pleasant person and quite charming in private."
"Let us not kid ourselves, she was a very divisive figure," said Bernard Ingham, Thatcher's press secretary for her entire term. "She was a real toughie. She was a patriot with a great love for this country, and she raised the standing of Britain abroad."
"RIP Margaret Thatcher, one of the great leaders of the 20th century," tweeted U.S. Senator John McCain.
"Margaret Thatcher was a truly remarkable, [galvanizing] figure — did not share her politics but admired her determination and tenacity," tweeted Bob Rae, Liberal MP for Toronto-Centre.
"Dad said Thatcher would change name of country, depending on who she wanted to sit next to at summits: UK next to US, England next to Canada," tweeted Ben Mulroney, son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Queen Elizabeth issued a statement saying she was sad to hear the news and she plans to send a private message to Thatcher's family.
Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain during her time as UK prime minister, a Chester Conservative MP has said.
Stephen Moseley said: "We have lost a great leader of the Conservative Party and a great prime minister."
However, Baroness Thatcher, who has died aged 87 after suffering a stroke, was a divisive figure on Merseyside.
Tony Mulhearn, a former leading member of Liverpool City Council, said she inflicted "catastrophic damage" on the working class.
Mr Mulhearn, who clashed with Thatcher's government in the late 1980s, said: "An elected dictatorship, that is what it was like to negotiate with Thatcher's government.
"I am sorry she has died because I wanted her to live another 100 years so she could witness the rebirth of socialism in Britain.
"On the other hand it is totally without regret, I think the damage she inflicted on the working class was catastrophic."
He said her cabinet's policies proved to be a "catastrophe" for the "overwhelming majority", but very beneficial to the "already very rich".
Mr Mulhearn added: "She came to power on the basis of handing power back to local authorities, in fact the opposite happened.
"She got all the power for herself, plus she introduced the most draconian trade union laws in history."
But Tony Caldeira, chairman of the Liverpool Conservatives, said the country should remember Baroness Thatcher's achievements.
He said: "I think it is a very sad day, I think the Queen is right. It is a very unfortunate day for the country and I hope she gets a state funeral.
"You have to remember some of her outstanding achievements, where as the first woman prime minster, she reversed Britain's relative post-war decline and helped end the Cold War.
"Love her or hate her, you can't help but admire her achievements and in most cases she got what she wanted."
Former trade unionist Joe Bennett said: "I don't think anyone in Kirkby will be mourning Mrs Thatcher."
He said many people in the town will still remember her visit to Merseyside in 1989, which coincided with the closure of the Bird's Eye factory with the loss of 1,000 jobs.
"They were announcing that we had lost our jobs while she has holding a press conference at the Pier Head in Liverpool," said Mr Bennett, who was a union official at the plant.
Rest in peace Margaret, you forever changed the world.