Thatcher to name Clarke as 'traitor': Attack on 'assassins' threatens effort to end Tory conflict. Colin Brown reports

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The Independent Online
THE BITTERNESS felt by Baroness Thatcher about her downfall at the hands of her own Cabinet spilled out at the weekend, raising fresh doubts about John Major's ability to end the feuding in the Conservative Party.

One source who has seen Lady Thatcher's memoirs said she was excoriating about the 'traitors' in the Cabinet who brought her down. She names Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, as a key player in what her supporters call her 'assassination'.

Her account, and an associated BBC series, Thatcher: the Downing Street Years, is certain to put renewed pressure on the Prime Minister as he tries to pull the party together after its battles over Maastricht. Mr Major escapes direct blame for Lady Thatcher's downfall, although she is said to have damned his performance as Prime Minister by faint praise.

However, her allies have cast doubts on Mr Major's role. Alan Clark, the former defence minister, said in his memoirs: 'Her sense of betrayal is absolute, overrides everything. Lamont had been scheming. Patten plotted the whole thing. Kenneth Clarke had led the rout from the Cabinet room. Rifkind was a weasel. Even John Major . . . is by no means cloud-free.'

Lady Thatcher has tried to avoid the charge of sabotaging the annual conference in Blackpool by delaying publication of her book until 18 October, a week after the party conference.

But the bile began to leak out yesterday with the publication of an account of the downfall in the memoirs of Kenneth Baker, the former Conservative Party chairman.

Mr Baker accused Mr Major of ignoring an appeal by Lady Thatcher's allies to rally support behind her in an extract from his memoirs, The Turbulent Years, in the Sunday Times.

Mr Major seconded her ballot papers for the leadership election but Mr Baker said Mr Major, recuperating after an operation for the removal of a wisdom tooth, remained 'literally silent on Margaret's behalf'.

After Lady Thatcher failed to win outright in the first ballot, Mr Baker said he was confronted by five Cabinet ministers, whom he called 'the frightened five', who wanted her to stand down. They were Norman Lamont, Chris Patten, William Waldegrave, Malcolm Rifkind, and Tony Newton. 'Lamont acted as spokesman and said it was their unanimous view that 'Margaret should withdraw'. The clear impression I got was that they were searching for an executioner.'

Mr Baker's implied criticism of Mr Major was dismissed as 'for the birds' by Sir Bernard Ingham, Lady Thatcher's former press secretary. Some Tory MPs said that Mr Baker was settling old scores. He resigned from John Major's Cabinet when he refused to be demoted to Secretary of State for Wales from Home Secretary - the job given to Mr Clarke.