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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 09:31 GMT
First 100 days: Margaret Thatcher
"Have the Tories boobed over Margaret Thatcher?" asked one tabloid newspaper in June 1975.

MARGARET THATCHER
Margaret Thatcher
Elected leader: Feb 1975
Age when elected: 49
Defeated rivals: Edward Heath, Hugh Fraser, William Whitelaw, Sir Geoffrey Howe, James Prior, John Peyton
The honeymoon period was certainly over by the time the Iron Lady notched up 100 days as Conservative leader.

Her election, in February 1975, had been greeted in all sections of the press with enthusiasm, - despite confusion in some quarters as to what she actually stood for ("The truth is that Mrs Thatcher is a totally unknown factor," wrote The Sunday Telegraph).

She was, after all, the first female leader of a British political party.

But after an initial burst of activity, which saw her touring the country attacking Labour's "Socialist bunglers", she was soon being attacked for being too low profile.

"On both sides of the House there is a feeling that the leader of the Opposition should be heard more frequently," said The Evening Standard.

Tough enough?

She was attacked for taking a back seat - and declaring an effective truce with Labour - during the referendum campaign on Britain's membership of the EEC.

Come alive, Mrs T. Exercise your lungs. Or at the next general election the people whose votes you want will ask: Margaret WHO?
The Sun

Despite enthusiastically supporting Britain's entry, on paper at least, she allowed her predecessor, Ted Heath, to take the lead on the issue - a decision she later confided to the Daily Mail's Anthony Shrimsley, that may have been an "error of judgement" on her part.

Asked by Shrimsley if she was being tough enough on Mr Wilson in general, she said: "You are up against two feelings. Some want blood and some complain that there is too much clash between party leaders."

It may have been shrewd politics for Mrs Thatcher to keep her powder dry during the European debate and avoid "Punch and Judy" combat in the Commons, but it did little to silence her critics. Labour MPs cried "Who is she?" as she stood up to speak in the Commons.

"The Lady Vanishes," grumbled The Sun, in an editorial.

"She has been driving a growing number of Tory MPs to quiet despair by her half-heartedness about taking up a frontline position in the economic war. First she dithered about doing her stuff in the Commons economic debate. Then she made a disappointing, utterly forgettable speech.

Now she has gone stone cold dead on the Market."

'Come alive'

The paper added: "Fortunately the leadership gap is being filled by Edward Heath and William Whitelaw, whose inspired campaigning on the Market puts their part-time boss to shame.

"Come alive, Mrs T. Exercise your lungs. Or at the next general election the people whose votes you want will ask: Margaret WHO?"

The Daily Telegraph took a more considered view, urging Tory MPs to stick with their new leader, hailing her efforts to halt the party's drift "away from the view that private competition and self-help are the norm".

Mrs Thatcher should be supported in her efforts to promote middle class values and end the "proletarialinising of the middle classes," it said.

"No one can deny that she has shown tolerance and breadth of outlook in choosing her Shadow Cabinet and has encouraged free debate within the party's ranks.

"But it is equally important that the new direction of party policy should be made boldly and unequivocally clear. Above all she is entitled to that personal loyalty which for years was so strongly claimed and on the whole given to Mr Heath."

What happened next: Margaret Thatcher went on to win three successive General Elections, transforming Britain. She never lost a General Election - she was forced to resign as prime minister in 1990 by Tory MPs.



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