America has lost a 'true friend' in Thatcher: Obama
Reuters in Washington, Agence France-Presse in Berlin and London
President Barack Obama mourned the late Margaret Thatcher on Monday, saying “America has lost a true friend” who strengthened US ties with Britain and helped win the cold war.
Obama led an outpouring of US affection for the “Iron Lady” of British politics who died on Monday after a stroke.
As prime minister, Thatcher was an important ally to American leaders throughout the 1980s, developing close ties with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama, who has two young daughters, Malia and Sasha, said Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, “stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered.”
Thatcher was closely aligned with Reagan in building up defences against the Soviet Union, policies that were seen as important to the eventual breakup of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war.
“She knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise,” Obama said.
“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,” he said.
Ex-British prime ministers, Falklands hail Thatcher
Former British prime ministers on both sides of the political divide paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher’s grit and determination following her death on Monday.
John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Britain’s remaining living former premiers, said their predecessor was a “towering” leader of rock-solid conviction.
Meanwhile former political opponents, whom Thatcher spent her 1979-1990 premiership bashing, also paid tribute.
And the Falkland Islands, liberated by a British task force sent by Thatcher following the 1982 Argentine invasion, said they would always be grateful for her determined stance.
Major, who took over as prime minister following Thatcher’s resignation in 1990, was backed by her for the Conservative Party leadership but struggled to get over her off-the-cuff comment that she would be a good “backseat driver” during his premiership.
“In government, the UK was turned around under – and in large measure because of – her leadership,” Major said.
“Her reforms of the economy, trades union law, and her recovery of the Falkland Islands elevated her above normal politics, and may not have been achieved under any other leader.”
Labour premier Tony Blair, who defeated Major at the 1997 general election, said he had often called on Thatcher’s support and experience while in office, despite the political divide.
“Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure,” he said.
“Her global impact was vast.”
He added: “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.”
Gordon Brown, Labour prime minister from 2007 to 2010, welcomed her back to Downing Street during his term in office, hailing her as a “conviction politician”, which upset grass-roots Labour supporters at the time.
“Even those who disagreed with her never doubted the strength of her convictions and her unwavering belief in Britain’s destiny in the world,” he said.
Many in Britain consider Thatcher’s decision to send a military task force to liberate the Falkland Islands following the 1982 Argentine invasion as her finest hour.
“She will be forever remembered in the islands for her decisiveness in sending a task force to liberate our home following the Argentine invasion in 1982,” said Mike Summers, on behalf of the islands’ legislative assembly.
“Her friendship and support will be sorely missed, and we will always be thankful for all that she did for us.”
Thatcher spent much of the 1980s battling Labour leader Neil Kinnock in often heated twice-weekly exchanges in parliament. She led the Conservatives to a third straight general election win over Kinnock’s Labour in 1987.
“I recognise and admire the great distinction of Baroness Thatcher as the first woman to become leader of a major UK political party and prime minister,” Kinnock said.
Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein – the political wing of the Irish Republican Army which tried to assassinate Thatcher in a deadly 1984 bomb attack – said her Irish policy “failed miserably”.
“Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic (Irish republican) hunger strikes of 1980 and 81,” he said.
“Her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering.”
Merkel hails Thatcher as ‘extraordinary leader’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday, as an “extraordinary leader” who played a pivotal role in overcoming Europe’s cold war division.
“She was an extraordinary leader in the global politics of her time,” Merkel said in a statement. “I will never forget her part in surmounting the division of Europe and at the end of the cold war.”
Merkel, a fellow conservative who was often compared to Thatcher when she became chancellor in 2005, said Thatcher would not be remembered as a “female politician” but one who had blazed a trail for women in the halls of power.
“As she took the highest democratic offices as a woman before that was common, she set an example for many,” Merkel said.
She said that Thatcher’s values and principles served as a beacon while Europe was still divided into opposing blocs.
“The liberty of the individual stood at the heart of her convictions – Margaret Thatcher recognised the power of the freedom movements of Eastern Europe early on and lent them her support,” she said.