Thatcher's guru attacks her 'back-stabbing allies'

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Indy Politics

The man regarded as Margaret Thatcher's policy guru has attacked her former cabinet colleagues from beyond the grave.

Sir Alfred Sherman denounced the former deputy prime minister William Whitelaw as "the main enemy", said the Conservative Research Department was "a hotbed of bisexualism" and said Michael Heseltine would have been "no worse than John Major" if he had become prime minister.

Sir Alfred, who established the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies with Baroness Thatcher and the late Sir Keith Joseph in 1974, made his trenchant comments in a series of interviews before his death in August. The think-tank helped launch Lady Thatcher as Conservative leader and developed many of the free market ideas for which her government became famous. A CD of Sir Alfred's reminiscences will be published next week.

Lady Thatcher once praised Sir Alfred as a "brilliant polemicist" and declared: "We could never have defeated socialism without Sir Alfred."

The recordings include the outspoken comments for which he was well known. He recalls that "Willie Whitelaw was the main enemy... cunning and always stabbing in the back". He said Chris Patten, the former Conservative chairman and governor of Hong Kong "perpetually undermined the Thatcher regime". He added: "Patten was the political adventurer, he believed in management, not ideas."

He said that Geoffrey Howe, the former chancellor and foreign secretary, "encouraged people to underestimate him but underneath that he was full of resentment. She used to treat him with a certain amount of contempt and he resented it. He looked for a chance to get his own back."

Sir Alfred added: "Michael Heseltine was in many ways the most talented of them all. She perhaps made a mistake in quarrelling with him so strongly and although she would not have wanted to be succeeded by him, he would have been no worse than John Major."

Sir Alfred, who was never given a government position after the Conservatives' election victory in 1979, said: "Margaret Thatcher's people were suspicious of me, partly because I was a Jew and partly because I was a man of ideas."