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Lady Thatcher
says a huge majority will lead to an "elective dictatorship"
 real 56k

Friday, 1 June, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Thatcher storms back
Lady Thatcher in Romsey on Friday
Lady Thatcher in Romsey on Friday
Nick Assinder

Lady Thatcher has hit the election trail again with a fresh warning of the dangers of another Labour landslide.

Speaking in the former safe Tory seat of Romsey in Hampshire, she brushed aside claims that she had exaggerated in predicting that a big Labour win could lead to an elective dictatorship.


It is a well-known phrase that democracies can have elective dictatorships

Lady Thatcher
And she repeated her attack, which has dismayed some senior Tories, that another big Labour win could lead to an elected dictatorship.

Some party activists fear it suggests Lady Thatcher is resigned to another Labour victory. The former Tory prime minister denied that was her intention, insisting she believed that Tories under William Hague could win the election next Thursday.

And she went on to repeat her attacks on Tony Blair for treating the House of Commons with contempt by only holding one prime minister's question per week.

Huge draw

The scenes on Friday morning in the town square of Romsey - a once-safe Tory seat dramatically snapped by the Liberal Democrats in a by-election - proved what a huge draw Lady Thatcher still is among grassroots Tories.

Lady Thatcher refused to withdraw her claim in the Daily Telegraph that another Labour win could lead to an elective dictatorship.

"It is a well-known phrase that democracies can have elective dictatorships," she insisted.

She denied her language had been too strong or that she herself had been at the centre of a personality cult when she led Tory governments with large majorities.

"I went down to the House of Commons twice a week and answered questions.

Answerable

"I was answerable to people's representatives and was seen to be answerable." she said.

Lady Thatcher suggested that Tony Blair regularly avoided the Commons and was not happy at question time.

William Hague
Hague "can still win": Thatcher
Lady Thatcher also brushed aside allegations that she was suggesting the Tories stood no chance of winning the election.

"I think we have a very good chance in many, many seats and I am sure of a majority," she said.

Hague overshadowed

Her visit to Romsey has been a highlight of the election campaign for the Tories, despite the fact that she is often seen to overshadow William Hague and even disagree with some of his policies.

While in Romsey she also attended a Keep the Pound display.

She has previously embarrassed Mr Hague by suggesting she would never join the single European currency - a pledge Mr Hague will only make for the duration of the next parliament.

Lady Thatcher's visit started at the Tory campaign headquarters in the Romsey Working Men's Conservative Club - with its men-only bar area.

But, for the woman who rose to the very top in the male-dominated world of politics she was given a special privilege by being appointed "honorary gentleman" of the Romsey club.

Scores of supporters

Outside the club on a warm but overcast day, she was greeted by scores of supporters clearly desperate to get a sight of one of the most notable post-war prime ministers.

And it was clear in Romsey that the Thatcher effect can still work wonders despite one lone voice shouting "Vote Liberal" from the back of the crowd.

Lady Thatcher was confident that the town would be won back by the Tories.

If they fail it would suggest that William Hague has not managed to turn around his party's fortunes - and that would bode ill not only for the Conservatives but for Mr Hague himself.

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