Obama leads tributes from world leaders
‘Thatcher an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered’
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and and then US president Ronald Reagan are seen at the White House in February 1985. Photograph/The New York Times
Mr Obama was one of many in capital cities across the world, who focused on her role as Britain's first female prime minister. He said: “She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered.”
But in marked contrast to many foreign leaders and commentators who described the 87-year-old who died today as divisive and intransigent, Mr Obama said: “She helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best.”
He added: “As an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the cold war and extend freedom's promise.”
In Moscow, the former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, saluted Thatcher as “a great politician” who would “go down in our memory and in history”, while in Jerusalem the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, said he was in mourning and described her as “a truly a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength; a woman of greatness”.
He continued: “She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders. I send my most sincere condolences to her family and to the government and people of Great Britain.”
In South Africa, the legacy of Thatcher's stance over both the governing African National Congress, which she once described as “a typical terrorist organisation”, and the apartheid government, divided opinions.
“I say good riddance. She was a staunch supporter of the apartheid regime,” said Pallo Jordan, the ANC's chief propagandist in exile during the apartheid era. “She was part of the rightwing alliance with Ronald Reagan. In the end I sat with her in her office with Nelson Mandela in 1991. We knew she had no choice. Although she called us a terrorist organisation, she had to shake hands with a terrorist and sit down with a terrorist. So who won?”
But the country's last apartheid era president, FW De Klerk, described Thatcher as “one of Britain's greatest prime ministers” and said she played a positive role in the process of non-racial constitutional transformation.
“Although she was always a steadfast critic of apartheid, she had a much better grasp of the complexities and geo-strategic realities of South Africa than many of her contemporaries,” he said. “She consistently, and correctly, believed that much more could be achieved through constructive engagement with the South African government than through draconian sanctions and isolation.”
Ghana's former president John Agyekum Kufuor said: “Thatcher was warlike, and uncompromising in her ways. I know that in her country some people admired her for that, but to many of us that wasn't impressive. Her position on the ANC wasn't acceptable. She proved to be too conservative. She didn't seem to appreciate the rapidly changing world.”
But he was among those who saluted her economics.
“She believed that there are only a few creators in this world, entrepreneurs and investors, and that you protect them - they are the people who will increase the wealth of the nation and create jobs for people. That is a philosophy I also subscribe to.”
In China, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the populist state-run tabloid Global Times, wrote: “People's most striking memory is of her being tough. As a successful woman in politics, she was revered. As a politician, her experience and policies stirred feelings.”
But he added: “The 'Iron Lady' era is over. Today is the era of co-operation.”
“Margaret Thatcher led the UK government at a key moment in history,” he said. “Her unerring commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law, as well as her firm determination to reform, constitute a most valuable legacy for European leaders who, akin to the 80s when it was her turn to be in power, have to face very complex challenges which require greatly ambitious stances and political courage.”