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Just a very few – and she was emphatically one of these – refuse to conform. Pitt intuitively discerned the emerging empire, Gladstone brought a profound moral sense to British government, Disraeli created the modern Conservative Party, Lloyd George saved the nation in the First World War.

Churchill – the greatest of them all – rallied the British nation, and then the entire world, against Hitler.

Almost everyone believed that the unions – the new feudal barons – were in control, and there was nothing to be done about it. We should be grateful, however, that her talents were so peculiarly suited to the desperate situation in which this country found itself – and rue the fact that in our current straits, we have no one to match her.

As a result, it was taken for granted that British industry could not compete, and that Britain no longer had a serious role to play on the world stage. She may have divided opinion, and occasionally even outraged it, but she lifted this nation from decline and despair, and restored it to success, influence and prosperity.

It is hard, as we said earlier, to appreciate the scale of her achievements, and to acknowledge the depth of our debt to her.

• Margaret Thatcher dies, latest reaction • Margaret Thatcher dies at age 87 • Parliament recalled for special session on Wednesday • Downing Street announces ceremonial funeral • Sir John Major describes 'force of nature' • David Cameron pays tribute to 'great leader and great Briton' • Queen saddened by death of Baroness Thatcher • Former PM had been suffering bad health • Margaret Thatcher Telegraph coverage in full • Email your tributes to [email protected] 22.00 Charles Moore, Baroness Thatcher's authorised biographer, analyses her personal strengths – and her weaknesses.

It is said, and there is truth in it, that Mrs Thatcher was a divisive figure.

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