Key pays tribute to Thatcher

HAMISH RUTHERFORD IN SHANGHAI
Last updated 08:57 09/04/2013
Former British PM Margaret Thatcher
Reuters
IRON LADY: Former British PM Margaret Thatcher

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Prime Minister John Key has paid tribute to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, saying her death was a "sad day for Great Britain".

Britain's only woman Prime Minister, Dame Margaret led the Conservative Party in three consecutive elections, governing from 1979 to 1990, and remaining as one of the most recognisable leaders in recent history.

Thatcher died overnight Monday of a stroke, aged 87. 

"The passing of Margaret Thatcher is obviously a very sad day for her family and Great Britain," Key told reporters in Shanghai, where he is leading a major trade delegation.

"She will be remembered as a very strong and determined leader that faced some real challenges."

These included the war over the Falkland Islands against Argentina, a long running conflict with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) "and tremendous economic challenges that Great Britain faced,'' Key said.

"I think she has left a strong and permanent legacy for Great Britain, the challenges that she faced were quite unique at the time. She was very determined as a leader but she believed passionately in what she was doing and I think she'll be missed by many people in Britain."

Key said he had admired the woman, known widely as the "Iron Lady".

"I think you had to admire a woman who has such courage of her convictions...She stood up for what she believed in, she was fiercely determined all the way through.

He did not believed her style or policies had influenced his own thinking or approach, Key said, but while she was often tough, she was a one of a number of leaders in a difficult period who did what they believed was correct.

This included major neo-liberal economic reforms which were highly controversial at the time.

"There would be many people who would agree and some that would disagree on the direction she took Great Britain."

Key had met Dame Margaret once at an event when he was working in London in the 1990s, after she had left politics and before he became an MP. The meeting was only brief, but "I think I was somewhat in awe of her as a person, who was such a well recognised and well known world leader".

When Key has visited Britain as Prime Minister he was looked after by the same security detail who had been looking after Dame Margaret and "they certainly talked about her in very warm terms".

A decision had not been made but Key believed there was every chance a Government Minister would be sent to her funeral in Britain.

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