Fighting talk from Thatcher's doorstep

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Indy Politics
Baroness Thatcher took just three hours to follow John Major's example and hold her own doorstep press conference in an effort to quash any suggestion that she might do an Enoch Powell and recommend voting Labour.

Standing on the steps in front of her office in Belgravia, central London, she clearly wanted to distance herself from her recently reported remarks that Tony Blair would not let Britain down. She stressed that new Labour was little different from old Labour, saying "the phrase `new Labour' is cunningly designed to conceal a lot of old socialism. Don't be taken in".

Looking rather distracted, perhaps by the 12-starred European flag flying on the German embassy opposite, she responded to questions about her reported remarks on Mr Blair by saying: "I do not expect to see Prime Minister Blair."

Then, confusingly, she added: "Mr Blair is different from Prime Minister Blair" but she noticeably did not deny having made the original supportive remarks of the Labour leader.

When, as she was walking back inside it was suggested to her by The Independent that Tony Blair was "a good chap", she stopped, turned round and, eyes ablaze with all the old fire and finger pointing, she said: "I hope you think Thatcher's a good woman, otherwise why have you come in such numbers?"

She had clearly been briefed by Conservative Central Office, because earlier she had given out the line which was yesterday's launch theme for the campaign: "I hear people saying `Time for a change'. That's absurd. If you have got a good builder or, dare I say it, a good grocer or a good government, you don't change. You stick with them, and I hope you'll stick with us."

She was clearly trying to be helpful to John Major in saying "I am fighting for Prime Minister Major and I am fighting with every effort I can bring forth".

But again, her remarks became rather Delphic when she added that voters should "Stay with us until we cross the finishing line."

Where or when was this finishing line? On 1 May or long into the next millennium? And did it mean that afterwards, people no longer had to stick with the Tories? She was not in a mood for explanation and felt that the three minutes she had given was plenty.

Perhaps she is holding back for a string of appearances. Lady Thatcher's doorstep performance may be the first of many during the next six weeks. She boasted that she had received 51 invitations to speak and that more were coming in all the time. But she did not say whether she had accepted any.