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1991: Thatcher to retire from Commons

Margaret Thatcher is to give up her seat in the House of Commons at the general election.

The former prime minister, who has held her Finchley seat for more than 30 years, said she intended to remain in politics and wanted to go to the House of Lords.

Mrs Thatcher's announcement comes seven months after she was ousted from Number 10 by Conservative Party colleagues.

"Making this decision now as far as national politics is concerned makes it quite clear that I have no desire or expectation to go back into Number 10," she said.

She said her decision to leave the Commons would give her more freedom to speak her mind, and made it clear she would fight any European integration that would threaten British sovereignty.

"One of her wiser judgements"

Labour leader Neil Kinnock

But she was careful to pledge her loyalty to Prime Minister John Major and his government.

Mrs Thatcher insisted there was no lingering bitterness over her departure from Downing Street, and said: "I had the marvellous privilege of being there for 11, nearly 12 years.

"That's nearly half as long again as any American president can be president of the United States."

Labour leader Neil Kinnock described Mrs Thatcher's decision to step down as "one of her wiser judgements".

Predicting a Labour victory at the general election, he said the former prime minister was leaving the Commons because "she doesn't want to face losing her seat or at best going on the opposition benches".

Mr Major said Mrs Thatcher's departure would be a sad loss to the Commons, but added he was sure it would not be the end of her contribution to political life.

In Context
Margaret Thatcher was elected MP for Finchley in 1959 and succeeded Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative party in 1975.

She became Britain's first woman prime minister in 1979, and by the time she was ousted by her own party in 1990 she was the longest serving premier of the 20th century.

Mrs Thatcher was awarded a seat in the House of Lords, where she continued to make herself heard, particularly on European issues.

Ill health forced her to abandon her regular public speaking engagements in 2002.

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