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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 22:05 GMT
Thatcher told to quit public speaking
Lady Thatcher
Lady Thatcher complained of feeling ill earlier this week
Baroness Thatcher has been ordered by doctors to make no more public speeches on health grounds.

The former prime minister's office made the announcement on Friday afternoon after she suffered the latest of a series of small strokes on Tuesday.

Thatcher's soundbites
"You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."
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To read more:   Click here

It said the 76-year-old, who was resting at her home on Friday, would never again make any public speeches.

In a statement, her office said: "Over recent months, Lady Thatcher has suffered a number of small strokes.

"After thorough investigation, involving a number of tests, her doctors have told her that these can neither be predicted nor prevented.

'Undue strains'

"They have therefore told her to cut back her programme at once and in particular to avoid the undue strains that public speaking place on her.

"With great regret she has decided to abide by this advice and to cancel all her speaking engagements."

That meant there would be no more public speeches "ever", confirmed a spokesman.

Sir Denis Thatcher
Lady Thatcher said the Falklands trip was too much for Sir Denis
Her office said the move was a "precautionary measure" and that Lady Thatcher's speech had not been affected by the strokes, nor had she suffered paralysis or any other visible effects.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said he was "saddened" by the news but fully understood the reasons for the advice.

Mr Duncan Smith sent his party's best wishes for a "speedy recovery".

'Time to let go'

Former Conservative vice-chairman Michael Dobbs suggested the move could help Lady Thatcher, because it would allow a fairer assessment of her place in history.

I will always regard her as an excellent orator that has inspired me in life, both politically and personally
Mats Green, Sweden

To read more of your comments, click here
Some observers also believe it may help the current Tory leadership to escape claims that the former prime minister was still a "back seat driver".

Senior Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe praised Lady Thatcher's huge success and said the news was sad.

"At the same time, no matter how strong you are, no matter how significant your achievements there comes a time for everybody when you have to let go and hand over to new people," Miss Widdecombe told BBC News.

'Take things easy'

Earlier this week it was announced that Lady Thatcher had been told by doctors to cancel her forthcoming engagements after she complained of feeling ill on Tuesday morning.

Her office said then that the Conservative peer had been advised to "take things easy" but there was no question of her needing to go to hospital.

The news comes in the week the ex-premier stirred political controversy by urging a British retreat from parts of the European Union.

There were reports this month that Lady Thatcher is planning to withdraw from public life at the end of this year.

The Sunday Express newspaper said she had been experiencing problems with concentration, short-term memory and hearing.

Fall from power

Late last year, while on holiday in Madeira to celebrate her golden wedding anniversary with husband Sir Denis, Lady Thatcher suffered a minor stroke.

She had not been known to have suffered from any serious health problems before, although in 1994 she collapsed while making a speech in Chile due to a stomach upset.

She fell from power in 1990 after being the UK's prime minister for 11 years.

The peer recently turned down an invitation to go to the Falklands to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Falklands War because she did not think her husband, Sir Denis, was fit for the long trip.

Lady Thatcher's new book Statecraft has been serialised by the Times newspaper this week.

In it, she argues the UK should renegotiate its terms of EU membership.

She stops short of advocating withdrawal but says that option should not be dismissed.

The BBC's John Pienaar
"Failing health has forced her to retire into the background for good"
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"There is a great deal of sadness"
Lord Tebbit
"She so often said things which people knew were true"
See also:

22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher's famous speeches
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
A lifetime of public speaking
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Margaret Thatcher: Tory titan
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
In pictures: Years of power
22 Mar 02 | Health
Minor strokes
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