Sunday, March 9, 2008

Margaret Thatcher released from hospital

By Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor, and Megan Levy
Last Updated: 6:57pm GMT 08/03/2008

Baroness Thatcher has been released from hospital this afternoon after she was admitted overnight for precautionary tests.

The former Prime Minister smiled and waved as she walked out of St Thomas' Hospital in central London, where she was taken after falling ill last night.

The 82-year-old had been dining with friends in the Lords when she started feeling "slightly nauseous and faint", her private secretary, Mark Worthington, said.

"Her legs gave way a little bit under her," he said, adding that she had not fainted.

"We thought it safest to be sure about these things."

A close friend said: "She has always had low blood pressure. She is absolutely fine. She had a good night and all the tests were fine."

Lady Thatcher's daughter, Carol, said her mother was taken immediately to hospital given her medical history.

"You can see St. Thomas' hospital from [the Lords] and very wisely, at her age and with a history of little strokes, they decided to err on the side of caution," she said. "But it's good news today. She is doing well."

The former Prime Minister's health has been a concern since 2002 when she suffered a series of minor strokes.

She has become increasingly frail, prone to short-term memory lapses and has reduced the number of her public engagements.

In 2002 doctors advised her to stop making speeches in public. However she continued to do so, last appearing in public three weeks ago when she opened a new infirmary for Chelsea pensioners.

In January, she was presented with a lifetime achievement award by David Cameron, the Conservative leader, at a ceremony in London.

Mr Cameron described her as a "towering figure" who had "transformed our country".

Even in recent months the former prime minister has courted controversy, most notably after visiting Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street last autumn.

The visit caused Tory MPs to accuse Mr Brown of hypocrisy and sparked rumblings of protests among some Labour MPs.

Lady Thatcher's husband, Denis, died in 2003. She has two children, twins Carol and Mark.

The "Iron Lady" was prime minister from 1979, succeeding Labour's James Callaghan, until 1990 when she was effectively removed from office by her own party.

During her years in power Britain fought Argentina to regain control of the Falkland Islands, a raft of industries were privatised, trade unions were reformed, income taxes were cut and the government staged a massive programme of council house sales.

Her premiership was also hit by a series of controversies - including the 1984-85 miners' strike, the Westland helicopter crisis and the introduction of the highly controversial poll tax, which saw rioting on London streets. She was succeeded by John Major.

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