MPs will pay tribute to Britain's first female prime minister in a special Commons session.

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Baroness Thatcher had been recovering from a minor operation at the Ritz Hotel in London when she died of a stroke on Monday morning.

The 87-year-old had suffered from ill health in recent years. In December she was admitted to hospital for a minor operation to remove a growth from her bladder.

The former prime minister, who served between 1979 and 1990, also suffered from a series of minor strokes in 2002, and was advised by her doctors to stop making public speeches.

Read more: Margaret Thatcher - the Iron Lady

In 2010 she was unable to attend an 85th birthday party hosted for her by David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

Margaret thatcher has died from a stroke aged 87, her spokesman Lord Bell says (picture: reuters)


'She saved our country'

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street on Monday evening, Mr Cameron announced that MPs will be recalled from their Easter break for a special parliamentary session on Wednesday.

He said: "Today we lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton. Margaret Thatcher didn't just lead our country - she saved our country.

"And we should never forget that the odds were stacked against her. She was the shopkeeper's daughter from Grantham who made it all the way to the highest office in the land."

He added: "We cannot deny that Margaret Thatcher divided opinion. For many of us she was and is an inspiration. For others she was a force to be defined against.

"But if there is one thing that cuts through all of this, one thing that runs through everything she did, it was here lion-hearted love for this country. She was the patriot prime minister and she fought for Britain's interests every step of the way.

"Margaret Thatcher loved this country and she served it will all she has."

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Buckingham Palace said the Queen is sad to hear of the news, and added that she would be sending a private message of sympathy to Baroness Thatcher's family.

The union flag flying above Buckingham Palace, the Queen's official London residence, was lowered to half-mast as a mark of respect.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: "Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics. Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no-one can deny that as prime minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served.

On his Twitter feed, London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today's politics."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.

"She also defined the politics of the 1980s. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and I all grew up in a politics shaped by Lady Thatcher. We took different paths but with her as the crucial figure of that era."

The Labour Party said it will suspend campaigning in the local elections until further notice following the death of Baroness Thatcher.

Her outstanding characteristics will always be remembered by those who worked closely with her. John Major

Former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major described Baroness Thatcher as a "true force of nature" and a "political phenomenon".

He said: "In government, the UK was turned around under - and in large measure because of - her leadership.

Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Tony Blair

"Her reforms of the economy, trades union law, and her recovery of the Falkland Islands elevated her above normal politics, and may not have been achieved under any other leader.

"Her outstanding characteristics will always be remembered by those who worked closely with her: courage and determination in politics, and humanity and generosity of spirit in private."

I didn't agree with her politics at all, at any time, but as a human being I felt very sorry for her towards the end of her life. Lord Healey

Former prime minister Tony Blair said: "Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour Government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world."

Former Labour cabinet minister, and shadow cabinet member opposite Thatcher's government, Lord Healey said: "I'm very sorry that she's died, we became quite friendly in her later years. She was very frail at the time, both physically and mentally, and she even hugged me and gave me a kiss when we met once by accident.

"I disagreed with her violently when she became prime minister, she actually said in public, there is no such thing as society, and had strong opposition inside her own party for a lot of the time she was there.

"I didn't agree with her politics at all, at any time, but as a human being I felt very sorry for her towards the end of her life."

Ceremonial funeral

Baroness Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral, Downing Street said. The ceremony will not be a full state funeral, in line with her family's wishes.

Her friend and advisor Lord Bell said: "She specifically did not want a state funeral and nor did her family. She particularly did not wish to lie in state as she thought that was not appropriate."

"A wide and diverse range of people and groups with connections to Lady Thatcher will be invited," Mr Cameron's office said in a statement. "The service will be followed by a private cremation. All the arrangements being put in place are in line with wishes of Lady Thatcher's family."