The Iron lady of England
Margaret Thatcher planned to stay on as Prime Minister After being ousted as Tory leader Former political secretary makes revelation during lecture Iron Lady considered carrying on as PM without being Tory leader She famously pledged to go ‘on and on’
It has emerged that Margaret Thatcher considered staying on as Prime Minister even after being ousted as Conservative leader.
Baroness Thatcher’s former political secretary, John Whittingdale, made the extraordinary revelation as he delivered the Speaker’s lecture on great parliamentarians in the House of Commons.
Mr Whittingdale, now chairman of the Commons culture committee, said she ‘briefly’ toyed with staying as Prime Minister even after losing the Conservative Party leadership in 1990.
‘She always said she had never been defeated by the people,’ the MP told an audience at the Speaker’s House.
She had only been defeated by her colleagues in the House of Commons and she felt very strongly that it was an act of great disloyalty and betrayal.
'She even briefly thought about whether or not she could continue as Prime Minister without being leader of the Conservative Party.
‘This was not an entirely practical idea but she did feel very strongly that it was improper that she had been forced to leave office on that basis.’
Mr Whittingdale insisted Lady Thatcher only considered the idea fleetingly – though constitutionally, there would have been nothing to stop her refusing to resign as Prime Minister even if someone else had been elected as Tory leader.
He said that at the time of her brutal exit from Number Ten, she had been playing a key role in the build-up to the first Gulf War and was also leading international efforts to win freedom for people in eastern Europe.
‘I think it entered her head very briefly and those of us who were present soon persuaded her this was not a sensible idea,’ Mr Whittingdale said.
‘But what you have to understand is that . . . she was very angry. I don’t think it was a serious possibility.’
Mr Whittingdale described the ‘extraordinary night’ her leadership collapsed as she failed to win an outright victory in a leadership vote, and decided to withdraw rather than face a second.
‘I left Downing Street at 2am after working on what we all knew would be her final speech. The next day she gave a vintage performance, an absolute defence of everything she had achieved as Prime Minister. I have to admit I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks,’ Mr Whittingdale said.
There is renewed interest in Lady Thatcher’s premiership thanks to the film The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep.
But former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit criticised her portrayal, saying: ‘She was never in my experience the over-emotional, over-acting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep,’ he said