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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Thatcher takes election holiday
Baroness Thatcher
Lady Thatcher was a force to be reckoned with at the 2001 election
Former Conservative prime minister Baroness Thatcher has chosen to leave the country for a holiday in the final days of the election campaign.

Lady Thatcher, premier between 1979 and 1990, has flown to Venice for a short break with a close friend.

According to The Times newspaper, Lady Thatcher has not taken part in this election campaign, but will return before polling day on 5 May.

A friend is quoted as saying: "She is frustrated that we are not winning."

The friend added: "She wants to see a Conservative government again - she is frustrated that is not going to happen, despite the Labour Government's serious shortcomings and all Tony Blair's lies."

Frailty

Lady Thatcher, 79, carried out a series of high-profile constituency visits to rally voters during the 2001 election.

Such was the box office success of the Iron Lady's resurrection, she dubbed her campaign "The Mummy Returns".

I am sure Lady Thatcher will be frustrated if Labour wins a third election
Spokesman
Lady Thatcher's office

But a series of slight strokes has since forced her to bow out of her regular public speaking engagements.

The friend is quoted as saying that Lady Thatcher will not comment on Tory leader Michael Howard's strategy, and had decided not to take part in this campaign because of her frailty.

According to the paper, she has declined all attempts to persuade her to speak or go to constituencies to rally for her friends and supporters.

Frustration

"She is 80 this year - she knows that she has had her day and that it is for other people to fight the fight," a friend said.

A spokesman for Lady Thatcher's office told the BBC News Website her trip to Venice "was a long planned visit to stay with friends".

"She will be back in time for polling day, although members of the House of Lords cannot vote," he said.

Pressed on the comments from "friends" quoted in The Times, the spokesman said: "I don't know where these friends come from.

"I am sure Lady Thatcher will be frustrated if Labour wins a third election, but I don't think she's been going round talking about it."

Lords' appearance

During her 11 years as prime minister, the then Margaret Thatcher was infamous for only needing four hours' sleep a night.

She still makes appearances in the House of Lords, most recently during the marathon debate on Prevention of Terrorism legislation in March.

Her husband, Sir Denis, to whom she was married for more than 50 years, passed away in June 2003.



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