Born 13 October 1925, younger daughter of Alfred Roberts and Beatrice Stephenson. Educated at Kesteven and Grantham Girls Grammar School and Somerville College, Oxford. Married 1951 Denis Thatcher. MP for Finchley 1959-92. Joint Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance 1960-4; Secretary of State for Education and Science 1970-4; Leader of the Opposition 1975-9; Prime Minister 1979-90. Left Commons 1992, ennobled (hereditary peerage) the same year. Thatcher’s premiership was remarkable by any standards. She was the first female prime minister in Britain, holding office without interruption for longer than anyone since Liverpool. She was the first serving prime minister to be removed by a ballot of her MPs. She was the only twentieth-century party leader to give her name to what was an ideology-affirming the virtues of limited but firm government-and also a project to rescue Britain from post-war collectivism. According to conventional wisdom Conservative prime ministers travel unencumbered by excessive ideological baggage and without a strong sense of direction: their task is to keep the ship of state bobbing along rather than navigating it-as socialists purportedly wish to do-towards beguiling horizons. But in pursuit of her mission to unravel the corporate state Thatcher displayed an evangelical fervour not seen since Gladstone’s time. With the possible exception of Lloyd George-another formidable outsider who reached the top unaided by a charmed circle of party elders-she was the most combative premier of the twentieth century, despising the ‘fudge and mudge’ of consensus and compromise, believing that a leader’s objectives can best be secured, inside and outside the cabinet, by robust argument and by the ruthless treatment of those enemies, within and without the country, liable to obstruct the march to national recovery. Her natural element appeared to be the politics of warfare, and in the struggle to make Britain great again she was often accused of being humourless, dogmatic and imperious: an impatient workaholic who was sometimes fractious and irritable, and unfailingly fussy, brisk and emphatic. Attlee, the only other twentieth-century prime minister to preside over the installation of a mighty political project-the planned, welfare economy which she was so determined to dismantle-was reserved and conciliatory. She was unflinching in her convictions, apparently relishing skirmishes with those she considered to be either spineless or not clearly ‘one of us’ in the task of restoring to Britain the riches and splendour of a glorious past, and conveying the impression that she wanted to manage everybody and everything.