Iain Duncan Smith has paid tribute to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after she passed away following a stroke, revealing she was the reason he got into politics.

The Chingford and Woodford MP and work and pensions secretary said Baroness Thatcher had restored “real leadership” to politics after she took power in 1979, winning three elections before leaving office in 1990.

The Baroness died aged 87 after becoming the first ever woman to hold the post of Prime Minister.

Duncan Smith said: "Baroness Thatcher was the reason I came into politics.

“Watching her set out to change Britain for the better in 1979 made me believe there was, at last, real purpose and real leadership in politics once again.

“She bestrode the political world like a colossus. This is dreadfully sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with her family."

The former Prime Minister leaves behind a lasting legacy as one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century.

She brought in bills to curb unions’ power, to privatise state industries and to allow council home owners to buy their houses.

She also introduced the poll tax in 1987, a flat-rate tax for local services based on individual need rather than the value of their property.

Cllr Chris Robbins, Labour leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “I’m sorry to hear of her death, as with any individual that passes away.

“But I don’t think she was a force for good. She polarised the country. She did shoot through the Tory ranks at an extraordinary rate, you can't undermine the power of the woman herself.

“But that didn’t necessarily come through with policies which were healing. She increased class divisions at a difficult time and unemployment peaked under her leadership.”

The leader of the council's Conservative group, Cllr Matt Davis, also paid his respects.

He said: “I’m very sad to hear of the passing of Baroness Thatcher, who led the Conservative Party through our greatest period of post-war power and achieved many very necessary changes for our country.

“As an election winning force she was unbeatable. May she rest in peace.”