Lawson and Howe go on the offensive: Thatcher memoirs are 'sour, peevish'

A STORM of fierce denunciation of Baroness Thatcher erupted yesterday from the two principal victims of her explosive memoirs, the former Cabinet ministers Lords Howe and Lawson.

In refuting her claims, published in Sunday newspaper extracts from the book, they angrily accused her of seeking scapegoats after her downfall.

Lord Howe, branded an ambitious trouble-maker, said there were many errors of fact and judgement which he would seek to correct, while Lord Lawson described as 'cock and bull' an accusation that he had allowed inflation to rise while pursuing a policy of shadowing the German mark that she was unaware of.

Even the one-time arch-admirer Alan Clark, former defence minister, said Lady Thatcher had not behaved in a 'responsible or imperial' way since she stood down.

Downing Street declined to be drawn on Lady Thatcher's strictures about John Major, whom she describes in the run-up to joining the exchange rate mechanism as having 'swallowed so quickly the slogans of the European lobby'.

Of Mr Major's apparent willingness to 'fudge' on the issue of a single currency with his suggestion for an 'opting-in' mechanism, he was intellectually 'drifting with the tide,' according to extracts from The Downing Street Years in the Sunday Times.

In a tone more patronising than damning, she writes of her sense that Mr Major was 'going wobbly' on full monetary union: 'I tried to stiffen his resolve and widen his vision . . .

'I felt that, much as I liked John and valued his loyalty, we had to bring others (Nicholas Ridley and Douglas Hurd) who were more at ease with large ideas and strategies into the discussion.'

The vitriol is reserved for, particularly, Lord Howe, the former Foreign Secretary, who displayed 'bile and treachery' in his Commons resignation speech. Lord Lawson was guilty of 'folly' as Chancellor in attempting to manage the exchange rate.

Both are denounced for 'blackmail' in threatening to resign unless Britain joined the ERM by a specified date, while Lord Howe is singled out for special ire with claims that he put Lord Lawson up to the ambush and deployed 'calculated malice' by praising the latter following his resignation.

She describes Lord Howe as a man with his eye on Downing Street and an insatiable appetite for compromise.

Lord Howe told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: 'My only sin is having worked together with her for 18 years, 14 of them as her partner. From time to time I dared to disagree . . . She became incapable of keeping colleagues.'

Lord Lawson said: 'She has not really got an insight into the reasons why the party decided she must go.' He said Lady Thatcher was 'well aware' of his policy to keep downward pressure on inflation. 'Inflation would have been higher had she had her own way.'

Lord Healey, the former Labour Chancellor, said the extracts of the book, to be published next Monday, showed a 'sour, peevish, embittered old woman with monstrous egoism'.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, revealed yesterday that he 'did a deal' with Lady Thatcher not to reveal details of the Westland affair in 1986. 'If she sticks to the deal, I'll stick to the deal,' he said.

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