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While the world knows Margaret Thatcher for her public persona, many are left wondering what she was like in private life. Nile Gardiner, director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, served as an aide to Thatcher from 2000 to 2002, and helped with her 2003 book "Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World." He last visited Thatcher in December in London, where even from afar, and in declining health, the former prime minister was keeping watch on the U.S.
"She certainly had a concern about U.S. decline," said Gardiner. "In her view, the United States must lead on the world stage, without American leadership, the world is a far more dangerous place."
"She was very, very concerned, because of the economic state, because of cuts to defense spending, that the United States would not be able to live up to that global role," added Gardiner.
Despite the public persona of the "Iron Lady," in person Thatcher was "extremely warmhearted" in person, said her former aide. Thatcher enjoyed making people laugh, said Gardiner, and had a very good sense of humor.
"In fact a lot of her best speeches [were] where she tore into her opponents, but resulted in roars of laughter from the assembled MPs," said Gardiner.
The House of Parliament was a harsh environment for Thatcher, but she succeeded in winning over not just her own side, said Gardiner, but many on the other side of the political aisle as well "who admired her political skill and tenacity and above all, her conviction."