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Still dividing opinion: reactions to the death of Margaret Thatcher

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Still dividing opinion: reactions to the death of Margaret Thatcher
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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has led tributes to Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday following a stroke at the age of 87.

Cameron cut short what was meant to be a brief European tour to return to the UK. He was in Madrid for talks with Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy when he heard the news. He described her as a “great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton.”

Sentiments shared by his Spanish counterpart who said: “I share the pain of all British citizens. Margaret Thatcher was one of the most important political leaders of the 20th century, who governed in a moment of huge difficulties with her determination, courage, and her vision of the future. This has guaranteed her place in history as one of the most important leaders of our continent.”

In the UK Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party which spent more than a decade at loggerheads with Thatcher, said: “The Labour Party always disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.”

Miliband’s predecessor Tony Blair said of her: “Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of the country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast.”

Tributes to Thatcher flowed also across the Atlantic. US President Barack Obama said “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.” He added that she “stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered.”

Words of condolence came also from Russia. The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, described her as “a great politician and an exceptional person” who helped end the Cold War.

There were less kind words from Ireland, where Thatcher is remembered by many for a hardline stance on hunger strikers, ten of whom died, in 1981. As part of the Irish Republican Army’s guerrilla war against British rule in Northern Ireland, she was targeted by IRA bombers in 1984
Irish republican leader Gerry Adams – whose voice Thatcher banned from British television – said: “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.”

There were harsher words still on social networks, with hundreds of thousands of people ‘liking’ facebook pages that celebrate Thatcher’s death. Fliers appeared in London promoting a party in Trafalgar Square.

“She wanted to crush the trade unions, the working class movement; she didn’t finish us off but that was what her aim was,” said the editor of the Socialist Worker newspaper Judith Orr, “I’m glad to see the back of her.”