ON THIS DAY    5 December      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1989: Thatcher beats off leadership rival

Margaret Thatcher has survived the first challenge to the leadership of the Conservative Party by beating backbencher Sir Anthony Meyer in a ballot at Westminster.

But it was not the outright win commentators expected as one in six MPs did not vote for her.

A total of 314 of the 374 Tory MPs eligible to vote endorsed Mrs Thatcher, while 33 voted for Sir Anthony.

Twenty-seven deliberately spoilt their ballot or abstained.

Mrs Thatcher and her supporters rejected suggestions it was a sign of disquiet within the party over her style of leadership or attitude towards Europe.


"The total result I think is rather better than I had expected"

Sir Anthony, challenger

Appearing outside Number 10 the Prime Minister made a public address but refused to answer any questions.

"I would like to say how very pleased I am with this result and how very pleased I am to have had the overwhelming support of my colleagues in the House and the people from the party in the country," she said.

She refused to comment any further saying it was business as usual.

Sir Anthony said he was delighted with the result.

"The total result I think is rather better than I had expected," he said.

Tory fall out

The challenge against Mrs Thatcher comes at the end of her worst six months in power.

Many Tories blame her anti-Europe stance for Labour's victory over the party in the European Parliament earlier this year - their first national election victory since 1974.

She also fell out with Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe during the European Summit in Madrid over British membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

But it was when Chancellor Nigel Lawson resigned over this and more fundamental issues concerning sterling that whispers of a leadership challenge began.

Tory party chairman Kenneth Baker has insisted Mrs Thatcher has widespread support.

"What the Conservative Party has decided today is that they want to be led into the 1990s and the next election by Margaret Thatcher," Mr Baker said.

In Context
A year later, Margaret Thatcher was out of office.

Her disputes with members of the Cabinet over Europe proved to be her downfall.

A scathing resignation speech in 1990 by Geoffrey Howe, a former Foreign Secretary, undermined her leadership and brought her under attack.

Michael Heseltine challenged her for the leadership.

After she failed to win the leadership contest outright on the first round close political friends told her she would lose.

She resigned on 22 November 1990 but has continued to be a dominant player in politics and now sits in the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher.

She withdrew from public speaking in March 2002 because of ill health.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |