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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 17:30 GMT
Analysis: Public silence, private influence
Baroness Thatcher
Baroness Thatcher's views will still be heard
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By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent
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There will, inevitably, be those who will be glad that Baroness Thatcher will never again make a public speech.

There will certainly be some in the Conservative Party who will be quietly relieved by the news.

It is absolutely the case that, like Sir Edward Heath before her - a comparison she will hate - she has cast a long shadow over the Tory party.

Her utterances are greeted by fellow Tories with either adulation or horror, but they are seldom ignored.

Rebuke

Successive leaders have attempted to move on from the Thatcher legacy but, thanks to her regular interventions, they have found it virtually impossible.

And, of course, there is still a large part of the Tory party that wishes she was still their leader and hang on her every word.

Only this week she embarrassed Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith with extracts from her latest book, which renews her assault on Europe.

That brought a stinging rebuke from shadow cabinet office minister Tim Collins who said it was time for her to bow out with a "thank you and good night".

Opinion divided

He may be regretting the timing of that comment now, but it echoed a widely held view in the upper ranks of the party.

There has always been a debate over whether, since her removal from office nearly 12 years ago, Lady Thatcher has been an asset or a liability to the party.

Opinion inside the party as a whole is clearly divided. It is less so in the leadership, which Mr Collins speaks for.

So there will be some relief that Mrs Thatcher's hold over the party is to be weakened.

None of her colleagues or her political enemies would wish to see her suffering ill health.

But there was always going to be a time when her influence finally waned, for whatever reason.

Motivated

And, it has to be said, many will think that, at 76, her retirement is long overdue.

Knowing Margaret Thatcher, however, it is safe to say that only something like a health scare was ever going to slow her down.

Equally, it is just not in her character to quietly disappear into the shadows. She is far too motivated for that to happen.

So, while there may be no more public speeches, there are any number of other ways the former prime minister will be able to make her views known.

It is still far too early to suggest this is the last we have heard from Margaret Thatcher.

See also:

22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher's famous speeches
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
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher cancels visits over illness
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher's Euro bombshell
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher rejects Falklands trip
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher urges 'retreat' from EU
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