Thatcher a 'towering' figure - Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: ''She believed what she said''

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has described Baroness Thatcher as a "towering" figure who left an "indelible" mark on her country and the world.

The Lib Dem leader told MPs he did not agree with much of what she did.

But the clarity of her vision and sincerity of her convictions had made her a "unique" political force.

Prime Minister David Cameron is leading tributes in the Commons to Baroness Thatcher, who died on Monday aged 87.

Mr Cameron told MPs his predecessor at Number 10 had "made this country great again".

Ed Miliband said she had been a "unique and towering figure" but said he had disagreed with much of what she did.

Mr Clegg, seated next to Mr Cameron on the Commons benches, struck a similar tone to the Labour leader but also focused on the "complex" nature of Baroness Thatcher's character.

'Respect'

"As someone who disagreed with many of the things she did, I thought long and hard about what to say," Mr Clegg told the Commons.

"I'm also a Sheffield MP - a city where the mere mention of her name even now, elicits strong emotions."

But he added: "That those of us who are not from her party can shun the tenets of Thatcherism and still respect Margaret Thatcher, is part of what is so remarkable about her.

"Whether you liked her or disliked her it is impossible to deny the indelible imprint Margaret Thatcher made on the nation and the wider world.

"She was among those very rare leaders who became a towering historical figure, not as written in the history books but when still in the prime of her political life.

"Whatever else is said about her, Margaret Thatcher created a paradigm, setting the parameters for economic, political and social debate for decades to come.

"She drew the lines on a political map that we here are still navigating today."

'Clarity'

Despite the caricature of her as an "ideologue", she was "one of the most complex" political figures of her age, argued Mr Clegg, and "much of her politics was subtle, pragmatic, sometimes driven by events".

She had been one of the first political leaders to recognise the significance of climate change and, despite her Atlanticist instincts and staunch patriotism, she had "participated in one of the most profound periods of European integration".

Mr Clegg, who began his political career as an adviser to a Conservative politician, former home secretary Leon Brittan, when he was a European Commissioner, said he had been appalled as a young man by her famous claim that there was "no such thing as society".

But with hindsight he said he had reached a different conclusion: "While I disagreed with the untempered individualism, which those words implied, I never for a second thought that she was being cynical or that she was striking a pose, or taking a position for short term effect.

"You always knew with Margaret Thatcher that she believed what she said."

The Lib Dem leader praised the "uncluttered clarity" of her vision, adding: "The memory of her will continue undimmed, strong and clear, for years to come in keeping with the unusual, unique character of Margaret Thatcher herself."

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