Margaret Thatcher - a woman who inspired passion and shaped a political generation

Baroness Thatcher

In an era in which politicians are all too often greeted with indifference, it is easy to forget that Britain was once led by a woman who inspired passion - both love and loathing.

Margaret Thatcher's conviction, her resolve, her iron self-belief led many to see her as Britain's post-war saviour - the woman who cured the so-called "British disease", tamed trade unions and vanquished the Argentine Junta in the South Atlantic.

Many others have and will never forgive her for the deep divisions - economic and social - which they believe resulted from policies rooted in her controversial statement that "there's no such thing as society".

She was not just Britain's first woman prime minister; not just the first to win three consecutive elections and to leave office having never lost one; not just the first successful British wartime leader since Winston Churchill, she also shaped the political generation which followed her.

Even Gordon Brown, who as a young Labour MP wrote an anti-Thatcher polemic called "where there's greed", was delighted to welcome her on the steps of Number 10 when he became prime minister.

Many words will be written and spoken today. Many tributes will be paid. Some will mourn. Others will celebrate. One word though will sum up the leader who died today. Belief.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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