First female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies


Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87.

The Conservative politician, who took office in 1979 and remains this country's longest serving leader, suffered a stroke on Monday morning.

She was elected as MP for Finchley in 1959, where during the campaign she infuriated local Conservatives by standing with the Liberals to fight a golf club's exclusion of Jews.

As a child, Baroness Thatcher had had direct exposure to the situation for Jews in wartime Europe, when Edith Muhlbauer, an Austrian Jewish teenager came to stay with her family in Grantham, after escaping Nazi persecution

Her associations with Anglo-Jewry continued as she entered Downing Street, while her cabinet included several Jewish members, among them Nigel Lawson, Malcolm Rifkind, Keith Joseph and Leon Brittan.

Mr Lawson told the JC: "She was completely untouched by antisemitism. She took individuals on their own merits and recognised ability where she found it."

Her time in office coincided with Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, which she strongly opposed. Although she was broadly supportive of Israel as Prime Minister, she had few positive things to say about Menachem Begin, who led the country for two periods during the 1980s. She described him as the "most difficult" man she had to deal with.

David Cameron paid tribute to his predecessor, saying today: "We have lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton."

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: "Baroness Thatcher was a giant who had a transformative impact on Britain. I first got to know her early on in my life when she was the local MP. She was loved and admired by many in the Jewish community who will miss her deeply. Few people in my lifetime have left such a personal imprint on British life."

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