Thatcher predicts Tories will lose

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The Independent Online
BARONESS THATCHER deepened Tory party misery yesterday with a prediction that Labour will win the next general election. She also launched an attack on William Hague's stance on Europe.

The former prime minister also blamed the massive Conservative defeat at the last election on the Tories who removed her from office.

Lady Thatcher said that the Labour landslide stemmed from the actions of those colleagues who deposed her, with the clear implication that the party would have avoided defeat if she had remained leader.

In an interview for Saga magazine, the house journal for "older people", she revealed that she was still smarting from her departure at the hands of Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke.

"The people who brought about that incident [her phrase for the circumstances of her downfall] are responsible for the biggest defeat the Conservative Party has ever had.

"They have let the Labour Party in, and big! You won't turn that round in one election."

She said the Labour landslide "was catastrophic for me because I got things right, and that defeat stemmed from that incident".

She said it was unlikely that she would return as leader to save the party, preferring to act as a "backstop, always there for anything anyone may want", but no one should ever try to "go back".

Young people were always ready to take over, she added. And she confessed that even if she had remained prime minister she was not sure she would have stayed beyond another election.

Lady Thatcher also re- ignited the row within the Tory party over its European policy, by saying that it should go into the next election with a pledge never to join the European single currency.

Mr Hague has infuriated his pro-Europe MPs with a commitment to rule out joining the euro for two parliaments.

Lady Thatcher also disclosed that her husband, Sir Denis, 83, is getting arthritis in his hands and "hasn't been able to grasp a golf club for about a year now'', though he does help her wash up.

She also admitted to some weakness of her own, revealing that she was going slightly deaf and that she missed her children and grandchildren.

She said: "My greatest delight is when my daughter-in-law sends me photographs of the grandchildren. Apart from seeing them in the flesh, that is the greatest pleasure I have in the whole year, far exceeding everything else."

And the absence if her own children - Mark is in South Africa with his American wife Diane and Carol lives in Switzerland - was also of sadness to the couple. Lady Thatcher said she understood their decision to live abroad out of the spotlight of the children of the former prime minister.

Belying her once fearsome reputation as the Iron Lady she said: "It's very sad. It's something I thought would never happen. All one's thoughts were to have a nice house for the family ... We see them at Christmas ... sometimes when we are in America we visit ... And there is always the telephone of course.

"There's no point in bewailing what might have been ... I haven't lost my children. They have to live their lives. I took a different life."

Lady Thatcher spoke fondly - perhaps with herself in mind - of her maternal grandmother who lived with her parents when she was growing up, remarking on the "great asset" of having "grannies" about. Returning in part to her old form, she said, while discussing her health, she had refused to have a lift installed at their five storey house in Chester Square, London, saying "climbing stairs is good for the heart".