Former Westmorland and Lonsdale Conservative MP Tim Collins, who worked as a speechwriter to Margaret Thatcher, has paid tribute to the former Prime Minister.

He said: "Margaret Thatcher was the reason I went into politics.

"In her life, her words and her policies she embodied the principle that success should not be inherited, subsidised or snatched but earned.

"She took over a country which was a wreck and an international laughing stock – she left us the most dynamic, successful and influential country in Europe.

"We are free today – perhaps even alive today – because of her determination to resist those who wanted to dismantle our defences and hand our country over to the Soviet dictatorship.

"One of my fondest memories is working with her on her very last party conference speech as Prime Minister – still as clear in her views as ever, but utterly baffled when we inserted a Monty Python reference.

"Like Elizabeth I, Nelson, and Churchill she will enter legend as the saviour of her nation, and like them she will be remembered as long as British history endures."

Sir Christopher Audland, who now lives near Milnthorpe, was serving as a senior official of the European Commission in Brussels and saw Mrs Thatcher ‘at close range,’ while attending meetings of the Communities’ Heads of Government (now known as meetings of the European Council of the EU, and also meetings of the then World Economic Summit.

Sir Christopher said: “People often think of Lady Thatcher as being opposed to everything to do with the European Union. Certainly, on appointment in 1979, she at once started demanding to “have our money back”; and at a meeting of the European Council – the Communities’ Heads of Government - in Dublin, soon afterwards, she swung her handbag on that subject to good effect, leading eventually to a limit on the British contribution to the EU’s finances being unanimously agreed.

"But, once the concept of changing some of the Treaty rules had been thus accepted, other Member States also started to propose changes.

"A long process of negotiation led, in 1987, to the entry into force of the Single European Act, the biggest amendment to the European Community Treaties ever undertaken up to that time, and the biggest concession of sovereignty to the EU’s supra-national Institutions since the original Treaties were written in the 1950’s. So Lady Thatcher’s contribution to an 'ever closer Union' of the EU Member States was more important than is often supposed.”