She was a mean, hard-ass woman who screwed up Britain just like Reagan started the move toward greater inequality in the U.S. And many, many people in the UK understood her for what she was: a single-minded fanatic determined to steal from the poor to aid the rich. Only the U.S. media remains enthralled by her--reflecting the indirect influence of the malign Rupert Murdoch.
Most Americans know little about her and care less. But to the Brits, she was the personification of the "bloody Tories." Reactionaries on both sides of the pond have made great gains in the past few decades mostly because pusillanimous opponents--like Clinton and Obama--won't take them on directly. The GOP and the Tories have no reluctance to engage in the most down-and-dirty tactics but we have a President now who tries to compromise with people who have no interest in it. He also paid no attention to the sleaze and dirty tactics that the Republicans used to capture the House and take charge of gerrymandering districts across the country to keep control even when the Dems got more votes last year.
With Thatcher, what you saw was what you got. She was a shameless apologist and advocate for no-holds-barred capitalism--this precipitated the financial crisis here and in Britain for which almost no bankers or other fiscal denizens have paid any price whatsoever. She started as education minister and did indeed show her true stripes by cutting out support for poor families' children getting milk at school.
Unlike our supine and hogwashed public, Brits don't ;pay as much mind to what their often blatantly biased media spout. As noted, it remains totally wrong to me to assume that Americans thought very much of her or even thought about her or knew about her at all. She of course benefitted from a low level of opponent--Neil Kinnock, Michael Foot--not bad men but somewhat inept politicians. Tony Blair played a con game by convincing the Labour Party that he could win by riding the middle. So we get a conservative regime followed by a moderate one that does nothing much to turn things around.
The same was true of Clinton. Blair, of course, was sufficiently off his rocker to be persuaded by, of all people, Bush Junior, to support the Iraq war. He also must have tired of holding off Gordon Brown, and must have gotten some minor schadenfreude from seeing the clumsy Brown blow his big chance to get elected in his own right.
Right now, even with a centre-right coalition governing in Britain, things look more promising than they do here. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is gaining in repute as the weaknesses of Cameron--the perfect Etonian--are becoming clear even to the Tories. But if you read or listen to American media, you would think that the left everywhere are inept.