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Thatcher Anniversary Monday, 26 April, 1999, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Thatcher: Après moi
Lady Thatcher retains the ability to upstage the Tory leader
Even among Baroness Thatcher's loyalist admirers, not everyone is convinced she has found a successful role since being driven from Number 10 Downing Street in 1990.

Her loyal former press secretary Bernard Ingham says bluntly: "I don't think she's had anything useful to do."

Bernard Ingham: Describes Lady Thatcher's life as "singularly empty existence"
He describes Lady Thatcher's present life as a "singularly empty existence compared to 11 years as prime minister to which she dedicated every waking moment".

She has adjusted in the past decade to the "enormous shock" of losing the Tory party leadership, but "certainly doesn't have a full life".

"She hasn't had a life which suited her nature, which was to work," he says. "She didn't have hobbies, she didn't have pass-times."

Daily grind

In the past decade, Lady Thatcher has relocated the centre of her workaholic lifestyle to Belgravia.

"She is in the office every day," says Mark Worthington of the Thatcher Foundation.

From her five-storey home in Chester Square, her chauffeur sets out for the foundation's headquarters in Chestham Place at 9.15am each morning; he never returns before 6.30pm.

Her evenings are frequently occupied by policy wonking sessions - regular attenders include Iain Duncan-Smith, the shadow social security spokesman, and Francis Maude, the shadow chancellor.

Outside her home with Silvio Berlusconi: Lady Thatcher receives a stream of influential visitors
"Her idea of relaxing remains a good political argument," a friend says.

Exercising influence

Her greatest political contribution now is probably in the influence she continues to wield.

Tony Blair, whom Lady Thatcher describes as "bossy", summoned her for advice ahead of former Labour Prime Minister Lord Callaghan after he moved into Downing Street - while William Hague must always bear in mind the reaction of the Thatcher faithful as he attempts to rebrand the Conservative Party.

Certainly, Margaret Hilda Thatcher has not lost her power to command public attention.

She rarely speaks in the Lords, but her unprecedented kind words for Sir Edward Heath recently overshadowed a key policy speech by Tory deputy leader Peter Lilley.

And her fervent support for General Augusto Pinochet, after moves began to have him extradited to face criminal charges in Spain, echoed around the world.

However, Oxford University Press is not including Lady Thatcher's recent remarks in its mammoth CD-Rom, originally billed as a collection of all Lady Thatcher's public utterances.

The editors have decided to include only occasional examples of her post-resignation speeches. "It's a token gesture," admits one staff member.

Overseas engagements

The CD-Rom is to be released by the end of May and will cost £250.

Lady Thatcher's support for General Pinochet has gained her greatest publicity since she left office
True devotees can still watch the Iron Lady speak in person, but they must travel to the United States or Asia and pay heavily for the privilege.

In those parts of the world, Lady Thatcher retains her idol status and can rake in as much as $50,000 from one speech.

"She still has a huge overseas travelling schedule," Mark Worthington says. "She is in the United States five or six times a year on lecture tours and the Far East about the same amount.

"There is an awful lot of preparation for her speeches and she is in continual meetings with people from here and overseas."

International stateswoman

The suspicion remains, though, among admirers and detractors alike that Lady Thatcher has become a revolutionary without a cause.

One commentator argues she has sought to become a international stateswoman, but failed because no such role exists.

The Daily Telegraph's Boris Johnson disagrees: "How old is she now? - 73," he says.

"Why should she have to be an international stateswoman?"

Lady Thatcher's views on such matters is uncertain, perhaps because few would dare to ask her.

In a recent review of Simon Heffer's biography of Enoch Powell, she writes: "Heffer quotes the famous dictum that 'all political lives ... end in failure'. Mr Heffer demurs, concluding: 'He did not fail.' And this is surely true."

History may have to judge whether the same can be said of the Iron Lady.

See also:

29 Apr 99 | Thatcher Anniversary
26 Apr 99 | Thatcher Anniversary
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