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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 22:26 GMT
Iron Lady is honoured in bronze
Lady Thatcher and statue
Lady Thatcher is the only living ex-PM to have a Commons statue
Baroness Thatcher has become the first living ex-prime minister to be honoured with a statue in the House of Commons.

A 7ft 6ins bronze sculpture was unveiled on Wednesday, with her immediate successor John Major and Tory leader David Cameron attending.

Commons speaker Michael Martin said the tribute was a "fitting" tribute to Britain's first female prime minister.

Baroness Thatcher, 81, said it was "an honour", adding: "I might have preferred iron but bronze will do."

The statue, in the members' lobby of the Commons, depicts the former prime minister in mid-debate, jabbing her finger in the air to make a point.

'Won't rust'

It will face that of her predecessor and political hero Winston Churchill.

An earlier statue of Lady Thatcher in white marble, which had been on display in the Guildhall Art Gallery, in the City of London, awaiting transfer to the Commons, was decapitated by a protester in 2002.

At Wednesday's unveiling, Baroness Thatcher, who officially gave up public speaking in 2002 because of ill health, said: "I might have preferred iron - but bronze will do.

"It won't rust. And, this time I hope, the head will stay on."

Lady Thatcher's statue will take its place in the lobby alongside those of other prime ministers, such as Clement Attlee and David Lloyd George.

Speaking in the Commons earlier on Wednesday, Labour MP Paul Flynn said the unveiling of a statue of "one of the four giants of 20th century politics" was a "very happy event".

But he added: "The decision to have this statue erected is in conflict with a long tradition of the House and while most members will agree this tradition should be disregarded in this instance, I'd like to know why it was not taken by the House and it taken in an almost semi-secretive way..."

However, at the unveiling ceremony, Mr Martin told Baroness Thatcher: "I came into the House the same day that you became prime minister.

"I watched from afar. You were formidable in responding to attack.

"Never personal. Always respecting the traditions of the House, and protecting those traditions."

Baroness Thatcher was prime minister from 1979 to 1990.

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