Tributes to Lord Ridley further highlight Tory strife: Baroness Thatcher pays tribute to ideological ally at remembrance service. Will Bennett reports

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Indy Politics
ONE COULD almost hear Lord Ridley, who in life had a formidable talent for becoming embroiled in political controversy, chuckling in the appropriately named St Margaret's Church yesterday.

The victorious past of the Conservative Party came uneasily face-to-face with its troubled present at a service to remember the man who was in the ideological engine room of Thatcherism.

Baroness Thatcher was there to deliver the memorial address, simultaneously extolling the virtues of Lord Ridley and decisive government. John Major had to sit in silence and listen.

Norman Lamont was a steward ushering in former Cabinet colleagues at the door of the church next to Westminster Abbey. The smile never left his face but the grin was not put to the ultimate test. Mr Major, who sacked the former Chancellor, came in via another door with Lord Ridley's family and a handful of VIPs. The privileges of power spared the Prime Minister and Mr Lamont a painful meeting.

Lord Ridley of Liddesdale, formerly Nicholas Ridley, died aged 64 in March, three years after resigning as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry because of an interview in which he expressed controversial views about German influence in Europe.

Almost the whole of the Cabinet and about 80 MPs attended his memorial service. Apart from two or three Opposition members, it was the Tory party at prayer and you could feel the political tension.

From the pulpit, Baroness Thatcher told those who had climbed the ladder during her years as Prime Minister: 'He had great moral courage and he never hesitated to do or say what he thought was right. He had style.'

Mr Major has been called many things during his tenure at Number 10 but nobody has ever accused him of having style. Lady Thatcher pressed on relentlessly describing how Lord Ridley had 'fought vigorously against the faint- hearted'.

She added: 'His courage was spectacular, that ultimate and most lonely virtue.' It was a celebration of her values and her government as well as of her loyal lieutenant. Some MPs stared hard at the floor.

The Rev Roger Holloway, priest vicar of St Margaret's, prayed that the Queen, the Government and MPs might 'never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals'. The congregation murmured 'Amen'. In the sunshine outside, Mr Major and Lady Thatcher shook hands with Lady Ridley, then loitered for a few minutes, talking to anyone but each other, before walking to their chauffeur-driven cars.