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Margaret Thatcher: Global reactions to passing of 'Iron Lady'

April 08, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hailed by many world leaders -- but also remembered less fondly by others.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hailed by many world leaders… (Johnny Eggitt / Agence France-Presse…)

Political leaders past and present reacted Monday to the death of Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain, by spotlighting different parts of her global legacy.

For some, their careful or brazen words reflected the sharp disagreements they had with Thatcher, a polarizing figure. Others lionized the late Thatcher unabashedly as an ally and friend. Here are snippets from the outpouring of reactions worldwide:

President Obama: “As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. ... As an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise. Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history — we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond: “Margaret Thatcher was a truly formidable prime minister whose policies defined a political generation. No doubt there will now be a renewed debate about the impact of that legacy. Today, however, the proper reaction should be respect and condolences to her family."

European Parliament President Martin Schulz: "Margaret Thatcher marked British and European political life. Despite our clear political differences, Margaret Thatcher is a figure of historic significance. Margaret Thatcher at the beginning of her tenure was a committed European, signing and pushing for the Single European Act which transformed the EU single market. No matter whether one agrees with her policies or not, Margaret Thatcher showed that politics still has the capacity to be a force for change."

Former South African President F.W. de Klerk: “Although she was always a steadfast critic of apartheid, she had a much better grasp of the complexities and geo-strategic realities of South Africa than many of her contemporaries. She consistently, and correctly, believed that much more could be achieved through constructive engagement with the South African government than through draconian sanctions and isolation. … I am honored to have had Margaret Thatcher as a friend.”

The African National Congress of South Africa: “Her passing signal(s) the end of a generation of leaders that ruled during a very difficult period characterized by the dynamics of the Cold War. ... The ANC was on the receiving end of her policy in terms of refusing to recognize the ANC as the representatives of South Africans and her failure to isolate apartheid after it had been described as a crime against humanity; however, we acknowledge that she was one of the strong leaders in Britain and Europe [and] that some of her policies [dominated] discourse in the public service structures of the world.”

Former President George H.W. Bush: “Margaret was, to be sure, one of the 20th century's fiercest advocates of freedom and free markets -- a leader of rare character who carried high the banner of her convictions, and whose principles in the end helped shape a better, freer world. The personal grief we Bushes feel is compounded by the knowledge that America has lost one of the staunchest allies we have ever known; and yet we have confidence that her sterling record of accomplishment will inspire future generations.”

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams of Northern Ireland: “Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister. Working-class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies. Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator [Augusto] Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge. Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labor [Party] government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world. ... Even if you disagreed with her as I did on certain issues and occasionally strongly, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain’s national life.”


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