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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 06:15 GMT 07:15 UK
Thatcher captures the headlines
UK newspapers
Love her, or loathe her, Lady Thatcher remains a star in the political sky.

But her reappearance on Tuesday receives what thespians would describe as "mixed reviews".

Reviewers work to tight deadlines - most will recycle tried and trusted material when originality proves elusive - and Tuesday night was no exception.

The Daily Telegraph gets out "handbagged" as the word to describe her entry into the campaign.

The Guardian talks of her using her elbows. "Electrifying", says the Daily Mail. "Vintage form."

But it's what the Telegraph calls "a joke at her own expense" that strikes a new note -- her reference to posters for the Hollywood film, "The Mummy Returns."

It's an idea with obvious appeal to the cartoonists. The Independent shows Lady Thatcher escaping her sarcophagus to menace a diminutive William Hague.

In the Times, she's seen as a frighteningly enthusiastic undertaker hammering "The Final Nail" into his coffin.

Both cartoons highlight the view that hers is not a legacy that comes free of cost, and Steve Bell of the Guardian underlines that with a drawing which shows Lady Thatcher licking William Hague's bald pate - like a scoop of ice cream.

A little more flatteringly, the Times describes Lady Thatcher as "a magnificent old battleship" -- but goes on to say her contribution risked making Mr Hague appear "a small, beleaguered vessel in some danger of being swamped".

For the Labour supporting Mirror, it was the crowning disaster for the Tories... "just when it seemed things couldn't get worse."

The Mirror thinks it would have been wiser had she spent the campaign "in the Sahara, Outer Mongolia or the Australian Outback. Anywhere with no TV camera or microphone".

But others give a different picture of the state of battle.

On tax, the Times talks of Labour fears that the Tories have "drawn blood". The Independent sees Labour "on the defensive."

The Guardian says Gordon Brown has been forced "on the back foot". "Labour wriggles," says the Telegraph.

Will any of it influence the outcome? The Sun doesn't think so. Declaring itself "four square behind Blair", the paper concedes that Mr Hague is "fighting bravely".

But it fears for the health of democracy, because some, at least, of the opinion polls are predicting "a total Tory wipeout" -- a Labour majority of more than three hundred and thirty seats.

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