Public attack by Thatcher enrages Major

  • @johnrentoul

Political Correspondent

John Major reacted furiously yesterday as Baroness Thatcher made her rift with him public by attacking his policy on Europe and saying "the country is moving rapidly in the wrong direction" in domestic affairs.

Mr Major was "not best pleased", said a Conservative Party source, with deliberate understatement. "He thinks it is a bit rich. He inherited the recession and the party split."

Lady Thatcher's comments came in a Sunday Times trailer for the serialisation of the second volume of her memoirs. In The Path to Power she describes Maastricht as "a treaty too far", and calls for the rolling back of European Union law. Rather than simply vetoing further changes, she wants the Government to pursue "every measure of obstruction and disruption open to us" to restore powers to the British parliament.

She describes the Government's policy on Europe as one of "compromise, sweep it under the carpet, leave it for another day, in the hope that the people of Britain will not notice what is happening to them, how the powers have been gradually slipping away".

Senior Conservatives rallied to Mr Major, playing down Lady Thatcher's well-known disappointment with her chosen successor, and pointing out that the Maastricht negotiations began under her premiership. But the amount of detail in her public criticism will intensify the Tories' civil war, especially in the sensitive run-up to next year's Inter-Governmental Conference to revise the Maastricht treaty.

Despite saying "I wanted to avoid appearing to undermine my successor", her book is bound to reopen the question of Mr Major's leadership. She says she is setting out her views and it is "for others to take the action required".

But Lord Archer, former Conservative Party deputy chairman, insisted yesterday: "One thing I do know is she does not want a leadership election."

Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, said on the BBC's On The Record: "If Margaret was in office now she would be complaining about people reminiscing and slightly rewriting what happened a few years ago, wanting us to look forward and concentrate on attacking the Labour Party and not each other."

Path to betrayal, page 2

Path to betrayal, page 2