On this day in history….22nd November 1990

On this day in history : 22nd November 1990 – Margaret Thatcher announces that she is standing down as the UK’s Prime Minister – after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership….

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1925….

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Margaret Hilda Roberts, aged 12 or 13 in 1938 – Attributed to Mr. Lee – Public domain

She married businessman Denis Thatcher in 1959 and they became the parents of twins…. During the 1960s Mrs Thatcher progressed quickly through the ranks of the Conservative Party and it was in 1967 that she joined the Shadow Cabinet – sitting in opposition to Harold Wilson’s Labour Government….

A Conservative victory in the 1970 election saw Margaret Thatcher become Secretary of State for Education and Science in Edward Heath’s government…. Labour came back into power in 1974 and Mrs Thatcher acted as joint Shadow Chancellor…. She replaced Edward Heath as leader of the Conservatives in February 1975…. It wasn’t long before she became known as the ‘Iron Lady’ – a nickname she herself embraced and given to her by a Soviet journalist in 1976….

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Mrs Thatcher, late 1975 – Marion S. Trikosko – Public domain

In March 1979 Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan was defeated by a vote of no confidence and on May the 3rd a general election took place – which was won by the Conservatives, with a 44 seat majority in Parliament…. The following day Margaret Thatcher was sworn in – making her Britain’s first woman Prime Minister….

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Margaret and Denis Thatcher in Northern Ireland, late 1982 – OGL 3

In 1987 Mrs Thatcher was elected for a third term but soon began to alienate some members of her own party – particularly over her poll-tax policies and opposition to integrating Britain further into the EU…. The cracks began to appear and in 1990 she failed to win a majority in the Conservative Party’s annual vote for selection of a leader and so she withdrew her nomination…. Six days later John Major, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, succeeded her as leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently became Prime Minister….

Margaret Thatcher’s three consecutive terms in office made her the longest serving Prime Minister since 1827…. After retiring from the House of Commons she was given a life Peerage as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, Lincolnshire – which entitled her to sit in The House of Lords…. She died on the 8th of April 2013 following a stroke….

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The Right Honourable Baroness Thatcher – The Margaret Thatcher Foundation CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….30th November 1982

On this day in history : 30th November 1982 – A letter bomb, sent by animal rights activists, goes off at No.10 Downing Street – injuring a member of staff….

Image credit : Number 10 via Flickr

The bomb had been addressed to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was in her study at No.10 at the time of the blast – but was not hurt….

The bomb had arrived in a padded envelope and had immediately aroused suspicions…. It was whilst it was being examined by office manager Peter Taylor that the package ignited, burning his hands and face…. He was taken to nearby Westminster Hospital but thankfully had suffered only minor injuries and was soon back at work….

A forensic examination of the device showed it to be gun powder based and designed to flare up and burn rather than fully explode…. Four more letter bombs were intercepted, addressed to Labour’s Michael Foot, SDP’s Roy Jenkins, Liberal’s David Steel and Timothy Raison of the Home Office….

Mrs Thatcher told all MPs that they should be on their guard – “Letter bombs anywhere are most distressing and I’m afraid we are all vulnerable”….

On this day in history….28th November 1990

On this day in history : 28th November 1990 – A tearful Margaret Thatcher makes her last speech as Prime Minister outside No.10 Downing Street….

Mrs Thatcher had formally tended her resignation to the Queen earlier that morning…. John Major had been elected as her successor by the Conservative party the previous day – after a leadership challenge had been mounted by Michael Heseltine on the 14th of November…. Mrs Thatcher reportedly regarded her ousting as a betrayal….

As she appeared outside No.10 it was to applause from the gathered Press…. She addressed the reporters : “Ladies and Gentlemen”….her voice cracking on the ‘Gentlemen’….”We’re leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we’re very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven-and-a-half years ago”….

Mrs Thatcher went on to thank the staff who had supported her and to say what a privilege it had been to serve the country…. She finished by wishing John Major all the luck in the world – adding “He’ll be splendidly served and he has the makings of a great Prime Minister”….

After her speech she and husband Denis were driven to Buckingham Palace where they had a half hour meeting with the Queen – and then returned to their home in Dulwich, South London…. Margaret Thatcher remained MP for Finchley until 1992….

On this day in history….15th June 1971

On this day in history : 15th June 1971 – Opposition grows to Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher’s plans to end free school milk for the over sevens…. Some councils threaten to defy the ban….

Ministry of Information Photo Division – Public domain

School children began to receive a third of a pint of milk per day in 1946 with the advent of the welfare state…. However, the Labour Government had already stopped milk for secondary schools by 1968…. When the Conservatives came to power it was to a bleak economic situation – but election promises on tax had to be met….

Margaret Thatcher knew how controversial stopping the free milk would be – and she was absolutely horrified when Health Secretary Ken Clarke suggested it also be stopped for nursery school children…. She had considered other measures, such as charging admission to museums, or charging to borrow library books….but in the end it was with reluctance that she put forward the proposal…. The Bill received a second reading on the 14th of June and was passed by 281 votes to 248….

Local authorities were urged not to break the law by deliberately going against government policy…. Some Labour councils had threatened to put up rates in order to fund school milk…. It was argued that withdrawing milk could potentially harm children’s diets and health…. Thatcher reasoned that the money saved could be spent in other ways, such as on school buildings…. Indeed the milk bill was coming in at £14m a year – double the amount being spent on books….

Margaret Thatcher -Public domain

Needless to say the political storm raged on – and the public also showed their anger…. The playground taunt ‘Thatcher, Thatcher milk snatcher!’ was heard far and wide…. In fact the cuts did not stop there – with various measures put into place with regards to education funding…. A £200m package was approved in September 1971, which also saw the cost of school dinners raised….