Margaret Thatcher remembered as an ‘inspiration’ to Barnet politics
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Tributes have flooded in from political figures across Barnet following the death of former Finchley MP and prime minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher today.
The 87-year-old passed away at The Ritz hotel, in Piccadilly, this morning following a stroke.
Her spokesman Lord Bell said: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning. A further statement will be made later.”
Baroness Thatcher, dubbed the “Iron Lady” for her uncompromising politics and leadership style, was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th Century and the only woman to have held the post.
She was first elected as an MP for the now defunct Finchley constituency in October 1959, progressing to become leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 and prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
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Mike Freer, incumbent Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said Baroness Thatcher was the reason he got “involved in politics”.
“At university, I got involved in student politics and I heard her speak and became completely bowled over by her,” said Mr Freer.
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“When she came into a room, you knew she was there before you were told she had arrived. I was totally in awe of her.”
Hampstead Garden Suburb councillor John Marshall became friends with Baroness Thatcher in 1979 after his election as a Conservative MEP for London North.
He said: “She was a loyal friend to her supporters. She was also a very, very considerate person.
“I remember on one occasion when Sydney Chapman’s brother died she immediately sent her parliamentary aide out to find me. He said ‘the prime minister is writing to Sydney tonight so can you tell me [about his relationship with his brother].
“It summed her up in once instance because she was determined to do what was right despite the fact she had all the state affairs [to deal with].”
As MP for the Finchley constituency, which was abolished in 1997, Baroness Thatcher represented a portion of Hampstead Garden Suburb up until 1974 when boundary changes meant the entire Suburb became part of the Hendon South constituency.
Cllr Marshall, who served as Hendon South MP between 1987 and 1997, said: “She always teased me and said Hendon South had taken the best bit of her constituency!”
Barnet Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius said: “Mrs Thatcher was an inspiration to all Conservatives as prime minister. She took on the unions, won the Cold war and reined back the state.
“The economic reforms that she instituted gave us fifteen years of prosperity. She was a great prime minister of a Great Britain.”
Baroness Thatcher’s policies in government, which have come to be known as Thatcherism, gained her supporters and opponents in equal measure.
Her approach to expanding the free market by privatising public services and reducing the power of trade unions caused outrage among those on the left of the political spectrum.
But Mr Freer, who was elected to parliament in 2010, said there was respect from all parties for Baroness Thatcher.
“People may not have agreed with her decisions but they knew where they stood. The House of Commons will be saddened because even the opposition respect her towering contribution.”
Recalling his last meeting with the former prime minister, he said: “A few months after my election we had coffee in the Commons in one of the tea rooms. She was bright as a button and looking forward to her holiday, I think she was going to Italy.
“It’s a very sad day and I feel desperately sad for her family and friends who have been looking after her.”
For more reaction to the death of Baroness Thatcher, see this Thursday’s Ham&High.