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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 16:17 GMT
Thatcher: Assassins and successors
Senior Tories
Some of the key players from the Thatcher era
By BBC News Online's Ben Davies

When 10 years ago this week Margaret Thatcher announced she would be resigning as prime minister, there were shockwaves around the country.

A coup by her own party and not the electorate pushed Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher from power.

A decade on, BBC News Online takes a look at what happened to some of her allies and enemies.

Michael Heseltine: The outgoing MP for Henley-upon-Thames will leave the Commons at the next general election in the knowledge that he will have achieved all his ambitions except one: the goal of prime minister.

Michael Heseltine
Heseltine never became PM
His key part in Lady Thatcher's downfall followed the body blow resignation speech of Geoffrey Howe who, somewhat incongruously, took the role of Brutus to the prime minister's Caesar.

Heseltine could well have become the next prime minister if Mrs Thatcher had not stepped down to clear the way so other candidates, including John Major, could run with her backing.

Although he lost to Mr Major, Michael Heseltine achieved great influence in his remaining years in government, becoming deputy prime minister and president of the board of trade as well as chairing various influential committees.

A heart attack and subsequent health problems meant that Mr Heseltine stepped back from a leadership bid in the wake of Mr Major's resignation after the 1997 election.

Geoffrey Howe: Margaret Thatcher's treatment of Geoffrey Howe was tantamount to contempt and would ultimately bring her down.

Lord Howe
Howe: unlikely Brutus
A former chancellor, then foreign secretary, Howe was a member of Lady Thatcher's first cabinet and was unceremoniously demoted to the role of leader of the House mainly because he disagreed with her over Europe.

Seen as a rather benign figure in British politics, Lord Howe proved to be a lethal enemy and ultimately one of Thatcher's political assassin's.

In his resignation speech, he compared being one of her cabinet ministers to opening the batting at cricket only to find his bat had been "broken ... by the team captain".

Lord Howe now sits in the upper chamber with Lady Thatcher on the Tory benches.

Norman Tebbit: He was the street-fighting politician of the Tory right whose anti-Europeanism and dislike of all things Labour was perhaps matched only by Thatcher herself.

Lord Tebbit
Tebbit: Thatcher loyalist
One former Tory MP, John Biffen, described Norman (now Lord) Tebbit as the "jackbooted Tory" and his reputation for speaking his mind, such as the time he told the unemployed to emulate his father and "get on their bikes" to look for work, is well founded.

Unforgiving of anyone whom he regards as disloyal to Thatcher, Lord Tebbit now writes robust newspaper columns and continues to speak his mind from the Tory benches in the Lords.

Under Thatcher he was a Tory party chairman and minister for aviation, industry and employment.

John Major: John Major's ascent to Number 10 will be seen as one of the more unlikely achievements in recent political history. In the dying days of her administration Lady Thatcher rapidly promoted Mr Major and then stepped down in favour of him to thwart Heseltine's chances of succession.

John Major
Major on the night he lost
His administration was dogged by constant rows over Europe, the UK's spectacular forced withdrawal from the European exchange rate mechanism and economic recession.

Mr Major clung on to power until the very last minute before being unceremoniously shown the door of Number 10 in a landslide election defeat at the hands of New Labour in 1997.

Lady Thatcher proved to be no friend to Mr Major during his premiership, most notably by failing to back him when his leadership was challenged by John Redwood.

In subsequent interviews he has expressed extreme unhappiness with her behaviour.

William Hague: In 1977 a long-haired 16-year-old boy wowed the Tory conference with a speech that had Thatcher on her feet and most political pundits predicting that here was a future Tory leader.

William Hague
Hague: destined for leadership
On this occasion they were right - Hague took over the Tory Party leadership from John Major after the last election just eight years after his election to parliament.

His arrival at the Commons in 1989 meant he was never destined to hold office when Thatcher was prime minister.

But before the 1997 election he had quickly climbed the ministerial ladder to a cabinet post as secretary of state for Wales.

Although Lady Thatcher is reputedly happy about many aspects of his leadership - particularly his line on Europe - she is believed to be concerned about his youthfulness.

But the fact remains that Lady Thatcher is much more at ease with William Hague as leader than she ever was with his predecessor, not least because of his Eurosceptism.

Peter Lilley: One of the young ideologues of Thatcherism who was briefly elevated to the cabinet during the death throes of the Thatcher premiership. His lack of support when she faced the revolt in her own party hurt Thatcher deeply as she thought of him as "one of the believers".

Peter Lilley
Lilley was a 'believer'
Under Major he was secretary of state for social security, presiding over a raft of reforms including the disastrous early years of the Child Support Agency. He lasted until Mr Major's government fell spectacularly from power in 1997.

He ran for the leadership with former education secretary Gillian Shepherd but their bid was something of a non-starter.

An injudicious speech that appeared to call for a break with the Thatcher legacy led to his unceremonious removal from the opposition benches by William Hague. He remains an MP.

Michael Portillo: His name used often to be mentioned in the same breath as Mr Lilley's as another heir to Thatcher, waiting only for the call to rise up and carry the Thatcherite banner. Employment then defence secretary under John Major, he was one of the casualties of the 1997 election, providing one of the iconic images of the night when he lost his north London seat to Labour's Stephen Twigg.

Michael Portillo
Portillo: leader in waiting?
After a brief stretch out of the Commons - as an oil executive doing a little TV presenting on the side - Mr Portillo mounted a parliamentary comeback in 1999, winning the seat of Kensington and Chelsea after it was left vacant by the death of Alan Clark.

His years away from Westminster were widely seen as a bid to recast himself as a compassionate conservative and rid himself of his hard-line image.

Neither that nor his admission to youthful homosexuality have endeared him to the Tory right in the shape of Lord Tebbit. Indeed, Lady Thatcher herself is said to have been disappointed by the way Mr Portillo turned out.

Mr Portillo is widely thought to have his eye on William Hague's job in the event that the Tories lose the next election.

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See also:

04 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Howe warns of more Tory defections
02 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Time to back the underdog - Lilley
02 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Portillo turns back on No Turning Back
07 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Heseltine: Bring back Clarke
21 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Thatcher puppet tops satire sale
01 May 00 | UK Politics
Heseltine gets Straw's vote
01 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Tebbit: Time has not softened him
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