Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s longest serving prime minister, is dead at 87. Known as the “Iron Lady,” the conservative leader died of a stroke, according to a family spokesman.
A divisive leader, Thatcher was the country’s first woman prime minister. She led the country from 1979 to 1990 and advocated conservative ideals including lowering taxes, privatizing state-owned utilities, and reducing the power of unions.
“She was an incredibly divisive figure in British politics,” commented Katty Kay, anchor of BBC’s World News America, during Monday’s Morning Joe. “She took on the unions, she changed British economic life, she changed British political life, she changed British class life, and she was tough as nails in her decision to do so.”
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, a Republican, described her impact on the conservative movement within Great Britain and beyond (watch video above).
“Margaret Thatcher did not change history–Margaret thatcher bent history. She took over a dead party in 1975. Conservatives were really about as weak as could be,” Scarborough said. “Over the next four years, this shop keeper’s daughter, who was excluded from men’s clubs and elite circles in Great Britain, she led a revolution. In four years, Tories took control of 10 Downing Street, and she led for over 10 years.”
NBC News correspondent and msnbc host Andrea Mitchell pointed to Thatcher’s influence on conservative hero former President Ronald Reagan–and through him U.S. policy–as an important part of her legacy.
“I covered eight years of Ronald Reagan and as large as her influence was on economic policy, social policy–the first middle-class, working, grocer’s daughter to become prime minister–but the influence on Ronald Reagan was immeasurable,” Mitchell said. “He looked to her for guidance and she had a huge influence on him on not only economic policy, but also on political policy regarding the Cold War.”
As a reporter, Mitchell remembered Thatcher as a fierce character and ally of President Reagan.
“During those years, if you tried to interview her and said anything at all that was challenging of the Reagan administration, she’d just go after you,” Mitchell said. “People would ask me who were the toughest people I’d interviewed, and I would say Margaret Thatcher first and foremost, and perhaps Fidel Castro second. She was that tough.”