Brighton and Hove’s two Conservative MPs led the tributes locally to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who died this morning (Monday 8 April).
She became Tory leader in 1975 and served as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, winning three general elections.
She came to Brighton several times, notably for party conferences, most famously in October 1984 when she survived the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel.
At the Brighton Centre in 1980, at her first party conference as Prime Minister, she received a standing ovation when she came out with one of her best-known sayings.
She said: “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: ‘You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!’”
After the Grand Hotel bombing, which claimed five lives and left 31 people injured, she returned with her party for one last conference as leader in 1988.
The occasion proved controversial. The Labour Mayor of Brighton, Councillor Pat Hawkes, broke with convention to make a party political speech rather than sticking to the traditionally neutral welcome.
Mr Weatherley said that Lady Thatcher, 87, was one of Britain’s greatest Conservative politicians.
He said: “I was incredibly saddened to learn that Baroness Thatcher passed away this morning.
“Thatcher was an inspiring Conservative politician and formidable Prime Minister.
“We have lost a great leader of the 20th century and my thoughts are with Baroness Thatcher’s family and friends.”
Mr Kirby said: “I was extremely sorry to hear of the death of Baroness Thatcher earlier today.
“She was an inspirational woman, a remarkable leader and our greatest peacetime Prime Minister.
“She will be remembered fondly in Brighton where she demonstrated her immense courage in the wake of the 1984 bombing and sent out a strong message that the country would not bow to terrorism.
“Through her tenacity, vision and belief in Britain she revived this country’s fortunes and made us a force in the world.
“It is a sad day and a chance to remember all that she achieved in her own life and as our first female Prime Minister.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “As Britain’s first female Prime Minister, and a true icon in that respect, it came as a great disappointment that Margaret Thatcher did so little for women – inside or outside Parliament – while also pursuing a political agenda which sought to marginalise the poor, undermine the very notion of ‘society’ and attack the fundamental principles of the welfare state.
“Whatever you think of her policies, Margaret Thatcher clearly made a massive and lasting impact on the political landscape, both here and abroad, and was incredibly effective in getting her message across.
“It’s just a tragedy that it was in the wrong direction.”
Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Brighton and Hove City Council, danced with Margaret Thatcher when he was Mayor of Brighton in 1982.
He said that he had a picture on his mantelpiece of them dancing at the conference ball in Brighton. The ball was one of three events that he spent with Mrs Thatcher during the week.
Councillor Theobald said: “I opened the party conference and that was quite an experience. She sat through my speech.
“I remember her very well and her husband Denis. I had tremendous admiration for her and I thought she was a great Prime Minister. She was a life changer.
“She will be long remembered and I think history will treat her extremely well.”
Steve Bassam, who was the Labour leader of Brighton Borough Council during the final years of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister, said: “Margaret Thatcher’s legacy was to break the post-war consensus and begin the destruction of the compassionate side of Britain.”
Lord Bassam, Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords, said: “She is admired for being the first woman to be Prime Minister and her determination to win.
“The down side of those attributes was a class-based and divisive politics which still affects us today as Cameron’s cuts bite and poverty increases.
“She gave us privatisation and council house sales for which future generations are now paying a heavy price and during her time in government we virtually ceased being a nation of makers and engineers.
“She deregulated the City and made us a financial centre but boom and bust economics are still features of our economic performance.
“History will always see her as a strong Prime Minister but I preferred the strength of a Churchill and the purposefulness of Attlee for my favourites.”
Margaret Thatcher was elected as the MP for Finchley in London in 1959 and retired from the House of Commons in 1992. She then took a seat in the House of Lords as a life peer. She will be given a state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Lady Thatcher, who was widowed ten years ago, is survived by her two children, twins Carol and Mark.
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