ANOTHER VIEW; Time to shut up, Maggie

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The Independent Online
To stir up enormous trouble for your chosen successor as prime minister in order to promote your book may not be within the terms of reference of the Nolan Committee but it is still pretty sleazy. Sleaze is not, however, the most remarkable feature of Baroness Thatcher's recent excesses.

I supported Michael Heseltine against her in the Conservative leadership election contest of 1990 because I thought he would be a good prime minister and undo some of the damage she was causing. I never thought that five years later she would be pushing Heseltine, her chief enemy, through the door into No10. Lady Thatcher protests that she does not favour a leadership challenge this autumn, but she must know a challenge is likely and that the only possible political beneficiary of her promotional campaign is Mr Heseltine. Although she refuses to recognise it, she left John Major a damnable legacy: the poll tax, a mismanaged economy, a recession and bad relations with our European partners. She made Major her heir, but the estate was run down and heavily indebted. In such circumstances, decency demanded that she help, not sabotage, him, and the most effective way of doing so would have been to keep silent. Instead she has nosily undermined him.

Regrettably, her intellectual stance is no less vulnerable than her moral one. She thinks the Government has "not been Conservative enough". Anybody who thinks the Government is unpopular because it is not sufficiently right wing is suffering from a severe ideological sickness. We are already the most right-wing country in western Europe, which is something unique in our history. Thatcherism was and is a reversion to 19th-century Liberalism - Gladstonian Liberalism without the idealism - and Britain's retreat to the Victorian age is why we are so out of step with the rest of the EU. American society is dangerously shaky today, and few would wish to imitate it.

Yet in both foreign and domestic policy the burden of Lady Thatcher's current advertising jingle is that we should move closer to the United States. "The more we go into Europe," she says, "the more we are cutting ourselves off from this great Anglo-American friendship." When she was prime minister, the Anglo-American so-called "special relationship" was only a grandiloquent way of disguising British dependence on the US. Today, America looks like becoming isolationist, as it was in the Twenties, and even if it doesn't, men such as Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich give scarcely a fig for an alliance with Britain. Instead of rewriting history, Margaret Thatcher should learn some.

The writer was a cabinet minister under Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher.