WASHINGTON – Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, held the office for more than 11 years, including during the entire 1980s. In that time, she left a major mark on U.S. politics, mainly through her close relationship with President Ronald Reagan.
Here’s a look back at the five moments that stand out:
1. “The second most important man in my life”: Bound by opposition to communism, Thatcher and Reagan shared a close bond throughout the 1980s. Together, they provided a united Western counterbalance against the Soviet Union. Thatcher once called Reagan the “second most important man” in her life.
2. Strains in the relationship: The Reagan-Thatcher relationship wasn’t always so rosy. Reagan didn’t immediately support Britain in its 1982 conflict with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, urging London to pursue talks. And Thatcher’s government denounced the Reagan-sanctioned invasion of Grenada in 1983.
3. Address before a joint session of Congress: Thatcher addressed the U.S. Congress in 1985, winning rousing applause for a speech in which she vouched for the Reagan administration’s foreign policies. “In an address that stirred applause in the packed House chamber — especially among Republicans — Mrs. Thatcher also stressed that she firmly supported President Reagan’s space-based missile defense research plan,” The New York Times reported at the time.
4. “No time to go wobbly”: Toward the end of her tenure as prime minister, Thatcher helped spur on President George Bush to intervene militarily in the Persian Gulf after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Thatcher famously declared to the U.S. president that “this was no time to go wobbly.”
5. Spurning Sarah Palin: In 2011, The Guardian newspaper reported that Thatcher would not be meeting with Sarah Palin during her trip to London. “Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts,” the paper quoted one Thatcher ally as saying.