LONDON — Margaret Thatcher made political history Sunday by becoming Britain's longest serving prime minister of the 20th Century, a record she celebrated by declaring the nation to be strong and regaining prestige.
"When I first walked through that door we were known as suffering from the British disease," Thatcher said outside the entrance to her official residence at No. 10 Downing Street.
"Now we're known for the British cure and people come to us, a newly confident country, to see exactly how we've done it," Thatcher said.
She said her task now is to restore the traditional standards that once made the British nation "synonymous with fairness, honesty and courtesy."
Thatcher, 62, took over as prime minister on May 4, 1979--a time when the country was foundering in a wave of labor strikes and government indecision and was widely seen as weak, both politically and militarily.
Britain's prestige rose anew as her government curbed the power of the large labor unions, sold off nationalized industries, created the strongest economy in Europe and defeated Argentina in the Falklands War.
Thatcher, who won reelection to a third term in June, served for eight years and 244 days as of Sunday, surpassing the record of Lord Asquith who served from 1908 to 1916 to become the century's longest continuously serving British prime minister.
But Thatcher has a long way to go before becoming Britain's all-time longest serving prime minister. Lord Salisbury served 13 1/2 years at the end of the 19th Century and Lord Liverpool served 16 years as "first minister" from 1812-27.