08/04/2013 11:27 BST | Updated 08/06/2013 06:12 BST

Thatcher: The Leader Who Told Britain, 'Yes We Can'

The terms 'great' or 'iconic' are too readily used in our modern celebrity culture, but Margaret Thatcher was a great and will remain an icon of the second half the 20th Century. Her place in history is secured by her position as Britain's first woman prime minister, and her legacy defined by the incredible transformation of the country under the governments that she led.

The simplicity and purpose of her mission were contained in the opening line of her foreword to the 1979 Conservative Party manifesto where she wrote that "For me the heart of politics is not political theory, it is people and how they want to live their lives". The policies that she introduced were focused on empowering people and giving them more control over their lives.

Mrs Thatcher's governments gave workers a say over whether or not they went on strike, or even whether they were members of a union at all. The popular privatisation of companies like British Telecom not only gave many people the chance to invest in shares for the first time, but laid the foundations for the UK's position today as one of the world's leading centres for digital communications. Hundreds of thousands of families, including my grandparents, took advantage of the opportunity to own a home of their own for the first time, through purchasing their council house. The people of the Falkland Islands know that many leaders would have buckled under the enormous weight of responsibility and the great obstacles that lay in the way of their rescue.

The purpose of the reforms she introduced in her 11 years in Downing Street were focused on turning around the fortunes of the whole country, and ending what seemed to be Britain's almost terminal decline. Before President Obama got there with the catch phrase, she used her first public speech as prime minister to say to the country, "Yes, we can do better". She helped people believe in themselves and believe in their future, and for those who were touched by this spirit, that will be her enduring legacy.

Her message remains relevant to the challenging times in which we live today, with its focus on aspiration, responsibility and the importance of the country, like any home or small business, living within its means. As a champion for freedom around the world, 'the Iron Lady' helped to defeat communism in Europe, and supported the forces that led to the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet Union. Whatever views people held of Margaret Thatcher throughout her career, she was not someone who could be ignored.