Today we lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton.
Margaret Thatcher didn’t just lead our country – she saved our country. And we should never forget that the odds were stacked against her. She was the shopkeeper’s daughter from Grantham who made it to the highest office in the land.
There were people who said she couldn’t make it; who stood in her way; who said a woman couldn’t lead. She defied them all. She fought her way to a seat in Parliament…to the leadership of her Party…and then to lead our country…winning the backing of the British people three times in a row.
She will be remembered for the big political battles she fought. Taking on the union barons. Privatising industry. Unleashing enterprise. Rescuing the economy. Letting people buy their council homes.
Winning the Falklands War. Strengthening our defences. Helping to win the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher took a country that was on its knees and made Britain stand tall again.
We can’t deny that Lady Thatcher divided opinion. For many of us, she was and is an inspiration. For others she was a force to be defined against.
But if there is one thing that cuts through all of this – one thing that runs through everything she did – it was her lion-hearted love for this country. She was the patriot Prime Minister and she fought for Britain’s interests every single step of the way.
It is over 30 years since she stood here in Downing Street for the first time. And her impact – here and abroad – is still remarkable.
When you negotiate in Brussels, it is still her rebate you are defending. When you stand in Budapest, Warsaw or Prague, you are standing in nations whose liberty she always stood up for.
When today we admire Britain’s strongest companies, very often they are ones she helped transform from failing state monoliths to thriving private sector businesses.
When people said that Britain could not be great again – she proved them wrong. Margaret Thatcher loved this country and served it with all she had.
For that she has her well-earned place in history – and the enduring respect and gratitude of the British people.
To show its respect, the Speaker has agreed to recall Parliament on Wednesday for a special session in which tributes will be paid.
Finally, let’s remember that Margaret Thatcher was not just a great statesman, she was also a mother and grandmother – and our thoughts should be with her family tonight.