VOICEOVER: She was the daughter of a greengrocer in Lincolnshire, but her influence on British politics is unmatched. Margaret Thatcher was elected to parliament for the first time in 1959, and there was already talk of a job on the front bench.
MARGARET THATCHER: Well I think we’ll just try to be a very good backbencher first. Certainly until these two are a little older, I couldn’t take on any more political responsibilities.
VOICEOVER: From softly spoken housewife to Iron Lady, she rose quickly through the ranks.
MARGARET THATCHER: This chap Callaghan must go!
MARGARET THATCHER: I stand before you tonight … the Iron Lady of the western world. VOICEOVER: By the late 1970s she was Tory Party leader.
REPORTER: Mrs Thatcher, the morning after your election, how do you feel about it now?
MARGARET THATCHER: Well, perfectly alright, perfectly alright. There’s so much to be done.
VOICEOVER: Mrs Thatcher was ready for government.
MARGARET THATCHER: (picking up brush) I presume this is to enable us to sweep Britain clean of socialism.
VOICEOVER: She won a landslide election victory in 1979, and had a clear message for the people of Britain.
MARGARET THATCHER: Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new administration, and I have accepted. 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.
VOICEOVER: But in trying to fix the economy, the Prime Minister found herself on a collision course with some of the country’s most powerful unions. Mrs Thatcher went on the offensive, and couldn’t be budged.
MARGARET THATCHER: The lady’s not for turning.
VOICEOVER: She was steadfast abroad too. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, she sent troops to take them back.
MARGARET THATCHER: We have ceased to be a nation in retreat.
VOICEOVER: With her reelection secured, the Iron Lady turned her attention to another enemy – this time on the home front. She defeated the miners’ union, and ended a way of life for thousands.
ARTHUR SCARGILL, NUM PRESIDENT: 1984, Great Britain.
VOICEOVER: 1984 was a turbulent year for the Prime Minister. Hunger strikes and the death of Bobby Sands prompted an IRA attempt on her life. A bomb exploded at Brighton’s Grand Hotel.
MARGARET THATCHER: You hear about these atrocities, these bombs, you don’t expect them to happen to you.
VOICEOVER: By the mid-eighties the economy was booming though, and Thatcherismappeared to be working. Abroad, she formed a close relationship with Ronald Reagan. Both played important roles in ending the Cold War.
MARGARET THATCHER: The talks have been very deep, very wide-ranging, and very friendly, and as always, we got to grips with the real issues.
VOICEOVER: Mrs Thatcher won a third successive election, previously unheard of in British politics.
MARGARET THATCHER: It is wonderful to be entrusted with the government of this country, this great country once again.
VOICEOVER: But was Thatcherism about to fall apart? She was told it would be unpopular, but she ploughed on with her poll tax plan anyway, while her party became deeply divided over Europe. Ministers resigned, Michael Heseltine launched a leadership challenge, and the Iron Lady saw her support melt away.
MARGARET THATCHER: I most earnestly believe that I shall be in Number 10 Downing Street at the end of this week.
REPORTER: Mrs Thatcher, when are you going to resign?
VOICEOVER: Mrs Thatcher left Downing Street in 1990, undefeated in the polls.
MARGARET THATCHER: We’re leaving Downing Street for the last time, after eleven and a half wonderful years, and we’re very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven and a half years ago.
VOICEOVER: Margaret Thatcher paved the way for political change in the UK. Some believe even New Labour owed its existence to Thatcherism. She remained a divisive figure in retirement but public interest in her never waned. She was even the subject of a blockbuster film.
MERYL STREEP AS MARGARET THATCHER: Your problem is that you haven’t got the courage for this fight.
VOICEOVER: The Iron Lady showed Mrs Thatcher as a strong woman who needed thick skin, and with satire like Spitting Image around at the time, she needed it.
WAITRESS PUPPET: And what about the vegetables?
MARGARET THATCHER PUPPET: Oh, they’ll have the same as me.
VOICEOVER: Mrs Thatcher could always look back on a unique set of achievements. She was the UK’s first female Prime Minister, she won three successive elections, and she left a legacy that shaped politics.