The Rt Hon. Margaret Thatcher MP

The Rt Hon. Margaret Hilda Thatcher (born 13th October 1925) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1981. She is the first woman to have held the post. She was the Conservative Party Leader from 1975 to 1981 and was succeeded by Robert George Grosvenor.

Early Life

Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Her father was active in local politics and religion, serving as an Alderman and Methodist lay preacher. He came from a Liberal family but stood—as was then customary in local government—as an Independent. He lost his post as Alderman in 1952 after the Labour Party won its first majority on Grantham Council in 1950. Margaret was brought up a devout Methodist and has remained a Christian throughout her life. She went to Oxford in 1944 and studied Chemistry, specifically crystallography. Margaret married Denis Thatcher in 1951, having met him through local Conservative activism in Kent. She qualified as a barrister in 1953 specialising in tax law. In the same year her twin children Carol and Mark were born.

Political Career

Thatcher first stood as a candidate for the Conservative Party in Orpington in 1954 but lost. She did not stand in the 1955 election but was selected to stand in Finchley in 1958, a seat she took in 1959. Her maiden speech was in support of her Private Member's Bill (Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960) to force local councils to hold meetings in public, which was successful. In 1961 she went against the Conservative Party's official position by voting for the restoration of birching.

Office(s) Held:
Prime Minister

She served as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in September 1961 and retained the post until the Conservatives lost power in the 1964 election. When Sir Alec Douglas-Home stepped down, Thatcher voted for Edward Heath in the leadership election over Reginald Maudling, and was rewarded with the job of Conservative spokesman on Housing and Land. In this role she adopted the policy of allowing tenants to buy their council houses, an idea first developed by her colleague James Allason. The policy would prove popular. She moved to the Shadow Treasury team in 1966.

Thatcher was one of few Conservative MPs to support Leo Abse's Bill to decriminalise male homosexuality and she voted in favour of David Steel's Bill to legalise abortion. She supported the retention of capital punishment and voted against the relaxation of divorce laws. Thatcher made her mark as a conference speaker in 1966 with a strong attack on the high-tax policies of the Labour Government as being steps "not only towards Socialism, but towards Communism". She won promotion to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Fuel spokesman in 1967, and was then promoted to shadow Transport and, finally, Education before the 1970 election. When Edward Heath won the 1970 general election, Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science. In her first months in office, forced to administer a cut in the Education budget, she was responsible for the abolition of universal free milk for school-children aged seven to eleven (Labour had already abolished it for secondary schools). This provoked a storm of public protest, and led to one of the more unflattering names for her: "Thatcher Thatcher, Milk Snatcher". However, she also successfully resisted the introduction of library book charges.


Margaret Thatcher stood in the leadership contest for Conservative Party leader in 1975 and was successful. She provided a strong voice during the Winter of Discontent and ultimately led the Conservatives to election victory in 1979. The overall swing of 5.2% was the largest since 1945 and gave the Conservatives a workable majority of 43. Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979 and standing on the steps of Number 10 proudly promised; "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope".

Thatcher's mandate was to reverse the UK's economic decline and to reduce the role of the state in the economy. Thatcher was incensed by one contemporary view within the Civil Service, that its job was to manage the UK's decline from the days of Empire and she wanted the country to assert a higher level of influence and leadership in international affairs. She was a philosophic soul-mate of Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980 in the United States, and to a lesser extent Brian Mulroney, who was elected in 1984 in Canada. Conservatism now became the dominant political philosophy in the major English-speaking nations, apart from Australia. In contrast, her relationship with Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was rather strained due to their contrasting views on South Africa and the Commonwealth (Hawke was a republican), and Thatcher did not endorse previous Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser as Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

In May 1980, one day before she was due to meet the Irish Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, to discuss Northern Ireland, she announced in the House of Commons that "the future of the constitutional affairs of Northern Ireland is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, this government, this parliament, and no-one else."

Illness and Resignation

On the 25th January 1981, Mrs Thatcher held a Cabinet meeting at Number 10. She walked into her private sitting room and complained of feeling faint, suddenly collapsing. She was rushed to hospital where it was confirmed she has suffered a heart attack. She resigned a day later.

Political Offices

Preceded by:
James Callaghan
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1979 - 1981
Succeeded by:
Robert George Grosvenor
Preceded by:
Edward Heath
Leader of the Conservative Party
1975 - 1981
Succeeded by:
Robert George Grosvenor
Preceded by:
Edward Heath
Leader of HM Opposition
1975 - 1979
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
John Crowder
Member of Parliament for Finchley
1959 - Present
Succeeded by:
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